It’s just eight weeks and counting until my daughters and I leave Orange County — my home for the last 23 years — and move back to my original home, Sacramento (or Sack-Of-Tomatoes, depending on how you feel about the place). It’s funny when I tell people where I’m moving. They give me this incredulous look like, “Are you CRAZY? Why would you leave Southern California for THAT place?”  But what they usually end up saying instead, being careful not to offend me, is, “Aren’t you going to miss the beach?”

Yes, I’ll miss the beach.  Or at least I’ll miss knowing that it’s there, just a short drive away.  It won’t be a heartbreaking loss, though, because I wasn’t much of a beach-bum, anyway.  I drive alongside the beach on Pacific Coast Highway more often than I’ve walked or sunbathed on it.  I’m not a swimmer, I’m not a surfer and I’m certainly not a teenager anymore who can spend the entire day at the beach walking around un-self-consciously in a bikini. (Those were the days, weren’t they?)

The ocean has always been a beautiful mystery to me:  You never know what’s swimming out there in its depths at any given moment. I’d FREAK OUT if I felt something brushing up against me while I was body surfing. Jellyfish, stingrays or everyone’s nightmare – sharks!  For me, “Jaws” was more of a documentary than a motion picture.  So I treat the ocean with great respect by keeping my distance and admiring it from afar.  On rare occasions, I’ll get my feet wet.

My daughters have never been big beach fans, either.  I used to take them on outings to Huntington Beach when they were little.  But they always complained about the sand getting in their bathing suit bottoms and peanut butter sandwiches. And it was no fun for mom, either.  I’d stand nervously at the water’s edge the entire time they were splashing around, ready to jump in and rescue my babies from a toppling wave or undertow.  There’s no such thing as a relaxing day at the beach when you have little ones.

I must say, though, that my 15-year-old is developing a new appreciation for the beach, now that her hormones are in full bloom and the little surfer boys are growing up. I will confess to being slightly titillated myself a few times while driving through the parking lot down by the strand and seeing soaking-wet surfer dudes peeling off their wet suits and stepping out in broad daylight in nothing but little skivvies.  I didn’t realize that surfing was such a body-building sport. YOWZA! 

Okay, THAT I will miss!

Bonfires are kind of cool, too — if you can ever snag a firepit.  In the summertime, they are in HOT demand. You have to stake out one early in the morning and lord over it all day if you want to enjoy a few smoked hot dogs on a bent hangar and roasted marshmallows later that night. It’s usually worth the wait.  But it’s no fun when you get home. Not only do you have to unload the car of food containers, blankets and all the beach crap at 10:00 at night, but there’s a lot of body-cleaning to do, too.

Your feet are usually charcoal-black from standing in the sand that’s laced with soot from the firepit, and your hair and clothes are infused with that smoky campfire smell that seems out of place standing in your living room.  Then it’s a race against other family members to one of two showers where the last of the day’s sand that was hiding in spots we can’t even talk about washes down the drain.

Then while everyone is winding down and talking about what a great day it was at the beach, I throw in the first of three loads of laundry (wet towels, soiled blankets, sandy bathing suits and smoky-smelling clothes), load the day’s sticky food containers in the dishwasher and then wheel out the vacuum to suck up the leftover sand piles in nearly every room.

Yeah, I’ll miss the beach, alright.  But I’m moving to Sacramento because I miss my family more. And I can’t even believe I’m saying this, but they’re a lot less work!