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The Smith-Keith beach vacation is in the books, which means Facebook and a reporter’s notebook, where I wrote memories at the end of every day.

The trip exceeded my expectations. To be honest, there was a little trepidation going with a large group — 10 other family members, including three kids — my nephews, 7 and 3, and my granddaughter, 13 months.

The drive to Florida didn’t bode well for the rest of the week. We got in traffic like I’ve never seen in all our years. When my husband tried to go around the congestion, he hit dead-end streets and construction. The expected nine-hour trip took 12 hours.

My older son and daughter-in-law had spent the night to break up the trip, and my granddaughter, Kennedy, was sick for the first time in her life with a cough and congestion and didn’t want to sleep.

Meanwhile, my brother and his family had left earlier and were having a Disney-esque drive, laughing and playing the license-plate game.

The week went well, though. The guys played golf, my sister-in-law rented a kayak, and we had a wonderful bonfire on the beach, where we roasted hot dogs and made s’mores. My 7-year-old nephew boogie-boarded to his heart’s content with his daddy and Uncle Scott, and the Smith family went crabbing nightly. In a rare moment when my brother took a break to sit under the umbrella, Seb walked up, looking forlorn, and said: “Daddy, I did not come to the beach just so you could rest.”

The night we took pictures on the beach was magical. Kennedy was absolutely giddy and adorable, and the dark storm clouds added a dramatic backdrop for the photos.

Thinking over the week, here are some of my “award” nominations:

Best food — This is a tough one. Shrimp and grits, cornmeal-dusted grouper pecan and key-lime pie are nominees. What I keep thinking about, though, are the three bites of someone’s leftover peanut-butter pie I had for breakfast one day, washed down with a mimosa.

Most embarrassing moment — It’s a tie between Kennedy pulling open the front of my dress during pictures on the beach, unbeknownst to me until a photo had been snapped (henceforth called my Janet Jackson moment), and the wedding party who got mad when I stopped to take a Snapchat of them. “GET OUT OF THE PICTURE!” a man yelled. I didn’t notice they were taking a photo at that moment, and when I apologized and explained, I got an incredulous look from a woman in the wedding party, who threw up her hands in exasperation. Hint: Next time you want a private wedding, don’t get married on a crowded PUBLIC beach.

A young couple on the beach the next night asked me to take a photo of them with their old phone. I offered to take it on my nicer iPhone and text it to them. They were grateful. I think that canceled out the earlier faux pas.

Funniest moment — My Janet Jackson moment was one. We also had fun trying to stuff ourselves with all the leftovers the night before we checked out, after a big dinner.

My contribution was eating two ice cream bars, the last hunk of Nutella bread and a glass of milk.

Best beach boy — OK, so Kyle was a man, although younger than I am, but I like the alliteration. He had a big beard and beefy biceps. Hefting those chairs and beach umbrellas keeps you in shape. My 7-year-old nephew, Seb, told Kyle he could “be part of our family,” because Kyle is the middle name of Seb’s little brother and their uncle. Kyle perfected the placement of our beach umbrellas and chairs and gave Seb a ride on the four-wheeler after the bonfire.

Best compliment — While waiting on a prescription for Kennedy, my doctor brother and I chitchatted and joked with the pharmacist, Chris. When I went back to pick up the prescription, the pharmacist said, “You guys are refreshing. You’re the nicest tourists I’ve ever met.” He said tourists are usually mad when they have to wait. I told him we have an awesome family, and I proceeded to talk until he said, politely, “You’re good to go.” I might be the most talkative tourist he’s run into, too.

The long-anticipated vacation is over. I am unpacked, the 1,601.6 miles of bugs have been washed off the grill of my car, and I’m back to eating normal food. My body is here, but my mind keeps drifting back to the beach and that peanut-butter pie.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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