We hit the road this weekend to getaway to the Washington coast with my folks for a couple days. Growing up, my whole extended family on my dad's side spent many weekends at my grandparents' two bedroom, kit built cabin in Ocean Shores.
The cabin is gone, but my mom found a cute, rustic, pet-friendly vacation rental on Craigslist just three blocks from the few blocks that make up "downtown" Long Beach and a short walk to the beach.
Saturday opened up sunny, bright and cold but soon warmed up to a balmy 57(!) as Ava and I hit the beach for her first ever view of the Pacific Ocean. She took it all in but was more enthralled with the seagulls than the unfathomable expanse of water just yards away. Toddlers these days: so jaded already.
My dad wanted to take Ava to the carnival rides and some of the places we used to go when I was a kid. Most of them are long gone or were boarded up for the off-season, but Marsh's Free Museum - home of the petrified remains of the half-gator, half-human Jake, among other screwball and wacky things - is still there.
I used to climb on this Native American statue and the cowboy and other counterparts when I was little.
Inside, the place is chock-a-block with all kinds of eye candy that's irresistible to someone under two feet tall. Here's Ava touching the type of
crap tchotchkes you'll never find at our house unless someone climbs over my dead body to put them there.
Although it's still fun to wander the aisles and Ava had a blast running down the aisles alternately calling out for me, my mom or dad, I'm not sure of the "theme" of Marsh's. Besides theHere's my mom and Ava scoping out a stuffed... um, oxen-like thing and a baby... um, calf-thing. Sorry. I'm a city girl. Outside of cows, horses and similar large farm animals populating the Puyallup Fair each year, I'm at a bit of a loss unless I've seen it on the National Geographic channel.
cheap dreck geegaws and doodads, keychains, painted shells, vintage dishes, wacky beach t-shirts, wind chimes and such, it kind of looks like a mad taxidermist's workshop, which is a bit creepy for adults, let alone kids.
And of course, the infamous Jake the alligator boy. As if a life as a sideshow attraction wasn't punishment enough, in death he's become little more than a quirky mannequin to be dressed up by store staff like Alligator Boy Barbie. Strangely, Ava is less freaked out by him than she was by the taxidermied animals.
Ava loved fiddling with all of the things in Marsh's and the store staffers were very friendly and seemed accustomed to having kids bobbing about. One of them had just finished chatting with her and showing her yet another kid-proof thing to poke, prod or accidentally drop-kick when she was stopped in her tracks at the sound coming from the windchime-apalooza rack. She beelined for it as if to say, "Yee gads, what is the melodious resonance?!"
She stood transfixed as each sea shell and shiny metal-encrusted version tinkled and rang with each bat of her tiny fingers. I'm quite sure she would have stood there for an hour if the sound hadn't been like nails on a chalkboard for most of the adults nearby. I used the parental magic known as distraction to coax her over to something else tantalizingly shiny but less noisy.
After checking out every single item and oddity Marsh's had to offer, we finally tore ourselves away having spent all of 15 minutes inside. The sunshine and wind chime-induced sensory overload kicked in, along with Ava's afternoon nap just as we set out for nearby Cape Disappointment State Park (formerly Fort Canby State Park). It was an incredible view from every section of the park.Afterwards, we headed home, finished Ava's nap, then walked a couple blocks to "town" to get some ice cream before settling in to cook up some seafood gumbo. Because if you're going to be that close to the ocean, it's kind of a rule that you have to eat something that once swam.
Ava kept us company as we cut up and prepped the ingredients, then served as our official mini-taste tester, taking over the job I've held since I was young. She's getting better at working a kid spoon on her own and although she ended up wearing some rice and gumbo, she got most of her tiny bowl's contents into her mouth.
We all slept like logs that night and Ava and I hit the beach with the dog one last time before heading home the next morning.
We met a couple packing up their horses and miniature donkey just as we pulled up.
Returning to my childhood stomping grounds with my daughter in tow was a wonderful walk down memory lane while making new memories for her. Yet another perk of parenthood.