June brings with it certain things every year.  The start of pool season.  The end of the school year.  The promise of days at the lake and late nights with the neighbors.

It also brings the annual summer regional meeting for BrightSide’s company, an event that’s only gotten better as the kids have gotten older.

While we’ve gathered in the mountains for two of these long weekends, the majority have been held in Myrtle Beach.  My kids adore the beach.  Can’t get enough of it.  T-man’s first major trip was to the summer regional, a visit during which he plunked down on the beach and ate sand. Good times.

Between the ocean, sand castles, and pool time, Myrtle Beach ranks as one of my kids’ favorite destinations.  Favorite or not, though, there are certain aspects of this summer tradition that are particularly unforgettable for me.

For one, the car ride is interminable.  Okay, so it’s not literally never-ending, but it sure feels that way.  I’m good for a couple of hours tops, but once we pass 120 minutes all bets are off and I get a little squirrelly.

Travel has changed over the years, too.  When we were young and poor we’d drive down the first day, leaving at the crack of dawn so BrightSide would be on time for the new advisor meeting.  We’d leave before actual daybreak the years when he’d play golf beforehand, leaving me to kill time at the hotel until a room was ready.  Either way, we’d always find ourselves rushing to unpack and clean up before getting to the general meeting on time.  I knew we’d finally made it when we could afford to drive down the day before the regional started.

The 4:00pm meeting on the first day is for everyone, advisors and spouses alike, and has traditions of its own.  Such as introductions, a time when every single advisor in the room stands to introduce him- or herself (and spouse) to the room at large.  BrightSide and I discovered a few years back that bringing a drink to this made listening to fifty spiels a lot more entertaining, so red Solo cups became a permanent accessory.

We also had a streak of horrifying introductions, years when BrightSide and his friends almost seemed to compete to see who could stumble into making the most embarrassing comment. This group is like family, but still…there were years when certain things were said in a room with ninety or so folks, things that made me wish a hole would open and swallow me up.  And I wasn’t the only one.

The advisors gather for business meetings until noon, so the tradition of mornings by the pool has always been in place.  I moved through stages of my own as the years went by.  Being solo meant a lovely morning sleeping in or reading by the pool.  T-man’s arrival cranked up the stress level a little but nothing too unmanageable, though I remember checking my watch a lot during that last hour, wondering when reinforcements would arrive.

The year newborn Bear and toddler T-man came to the regional was, for lack of a better description, utterly overwhelming.  T-man would want to go to the pool but Bear was far too young to spend time in the sun, so I’d have to grab a shady spot for us.  But it’s not like I could send T-man off to swim on his own, which meant either being within sprinting distance of the baby pool or running back and forth, wondering if Bear would end up having heatstroke.

By the time I had two toddlers I spent the majority of my mornings just waiting.  When are they getting out of that meeting?! was a common refrain among moms chasing kids around the pool. But the toddler years were nothing compared to when my children were young – old enough to be fearless, but young enough to still be at risk.  They’d spend their mornings run-run-running; I’d spend mine praying to the good Lord above that no one would drown and trying not to call BrightSide to ask For The Love Of All Things Holy, WHEN WILL YOU GET HERE?

We have group dinners in the evenings, and we’ve moved through stages with that, too. BrightSide and I had those grownup years, times when we’d watch parents wrangling kids and wonder how on earth they did it.  The years with babies brought stressed out meal times, and as toddlers all our kids wanted to do was move.  Food was a battle when T-man and Bear were young; if they felt particularly spunky they’d refuse to eat so they could run off and play with the other kids.  BrightSide and I almost did a happy dance when they were finally old enough to move to a kids’ table, and now we’re back to eating with the adults.

We have an awards dinner on the last night.  BrightSide and I get dressed up like, you know, grownups and have delicious food and drinks with the other adults.  (The kids enjoy pizza and movies together and stay up way too late.)  We have traditionally sat at the rowdy table since I go by the motto “If you’re gonna listen to a bunch of people’s accomplishments, you might as well whoop and holler about it.”  It ups the entertainment factor.  The rowdy table thing became a running joke, but this was the first year I realized something startling: we are now the rowdy-but-old table.  There’s a new table of young people in the region, and I really have no idea when that happened.

Among our many kid traditions at regional is way too much excitement, getting worn out from the sun, and far too many late nights for youngsters who keep a regular schedule at the house.  We end up with kids who are snappish on the drive home, and they always take a few days to bounce back.  We love seeing everyone, though, and wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Only eleven and a half months until 2017’s summer regional.  Woo hoo!