We rented a small house by the beach, me and my teenage children – and their smart phones.
It was a long quiet week of sunshine and social media.
An elderly caretaker checked in occasionally to see how we were doing. It was maybe the best time I had the entire week – another adult (!) and one who definitely did not have an Instagram, Snapchat or Facebook account (!!) – plus he was clearly the geriatric version of Encyclopedia Brown, smart and inventive but retired and bored.
And I had loved Encyclopedia Brown mysteries as a girl.
It was perfect.
Near the end of our week, he stopped by and desperate for adult companionship, I pointed out some puzzling issues I had been observing at the house.
He hypothesized that the grill cover was being blown off at night by the winds from the ocean gusting up against the alley behind the house. I questioned him carefully before deducing that he might be right. It certainly sounded like a better theory than mine, which was that a stranger was sneaking around town at night to make hamburgers in the dark.
He also inspected the garbage cans that had been tipped over nightly and examined the strewn trash before diagnosing the probable cause as very hungry squirrels. Frankly, I felt certain that the hamburger-eating stranger was also just extremely clumsy, but my Mr. Brown knew far too much about the trash-rummaging habits of local squirrels to be dissuaded from his conclusion, and I was forced to concede that, once again, he was likely right.
The elderly Encyclopedia later returned from the hardware store with several items – bungee cords for the grill cover, a metal garbage can and a bottle of ammonia. His errand gave me enough time to refill my coffee cup so when he came back, I could join him outside and loiter around while he muttered and repaired and experimented.
Though it was a gorgeous day and nearly noon, my teenage children were inside – only having recently emerged from sleep and busy checking all the various internet postings that occurred during the few hours they were asleep.
I needed this time under the sun, my hands wrapped around this cup of coffee, this conversation with a kind stranger going over simple mysteries that could be simply solved – aka “vacation”.