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Burying my head in the sand - Gerry Yandel

Barring any unforseen events, and God willing, by the time you read this, I will have returned from yet another seasonal spring break adventure to the beach.

Usually I take my daughters, Emily and Jane, to St. George Island, down on the north Gulf coast, in the middle of nowhere, where the clock seems to have stopped sometime in the late 50s.

There are a couple of reasons we choose SGI, not the least of which is that my dad owns a great house down there and he lets us stay for free.

I started taking Emily years ago, back when Jane was still too little to go, and our trips down to Weezbo's Beach House (don't ask), have evolved into one of those family traditions that we'll carry with us throughout our lives.

I actually was trying to create a tradition when we first started going, though it has turned out to be much more of a treasure of memories than I had ever anticipated.

I have been going with just my daughters, ever since the disastrous visit Fourth of July weekend in 1997, six months after Jane was born. It was also the last time their mom, Fauve, went, too.

There were two things that marked that visit to the beach: HUGE annoying flying and biting bugs of various sorts and appetites combined, and temperatures that ranged between 104 and 104. Of course, our attempt at taking Jane out to the beach for the fresh sea air was a near-medical trauma, even under a beach umbrella in the shade. The "breeze" was more like walking into a dry heat sauna, the kind that dries your nasal passages all the way up to your eyeballs.

It didn't help matters that when the sun finally relented every evening, all kinds of flying things took to the skies, searching for bare flesh to cannibalize in the dark.

Although the fireworks on the causeway were great to watch from the deck, Fauve has since declined further opportunities to go back down there. Emily, Jane and I, however, visit several times a year, if possible.

Our tradition of going to the beach house has evolved into several sub-traditions, all of which are beautiful in their simplicity and richly rewarding in entertainment value and overall happiness.

For instance, we have the nightly ritual of going up to Aunt Ebby's for ice cream and the contented feeling of having no responsibility beyond keeping the cone from dripping onto your hand. The ice cream ritual even has its own mini ritual, wherein Emily and Jane discuss the various merits of each and every other flavor before always choosing "Superman."

Going out to the sand bar is another favorite - and required - beach pastime. It's also a tradition that carries a sense of history, marked by Jane's first swim with me across the deep water between the sandbars, when I saw her face change from uncertainty and doubt to pure confidence and self-awareness.

Our longest-standing tradition at the beach would have to be hunting for ghost crabs at night. It's like watching for shooting stars, you catch some movement out of the corner of your eye, and, if you turn quickly enough, you might see a nearly translucent crab scuttling along the fringes of visual perception. It is comforting, too, to see other families walking along the surf at night and looking for ghost crabs.

We also do the regular things - like play putt-putt, fly kites, eat shrimp - that don't seem traditional, but they are, because we do them regularly, and usually only, when we are at the beach.

The absolutely best thing about our annual spring break tradition, though, is sitting on the beach and realizing that my two little girls are bigger to me than the entire ocean.

Gerry Yandel is the city editor for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or gyandel@henryherald.com .