I took Aden and Eli to West Palm Beach last week to see their grandparents at the posh gated community where they live for six months of the year. It’s an annual tradition that’s always fun and relaxing.
It’s also pretty predictable. Visiting their community– which shall remain nameless so I don’t sully my mother’s good name and reputation, perhaps resulting in her losing the best tennis court on Round Robin days– is like Groundhog Day meets Edward Scissorhands.
After so many years of visiting I’ve gathered some notes on life in the land of roses and retirees…
The grounds are stunning, but all the same. There’s not a blade of grass out of turn. The roads are perfectly paved (potholes probably filled under the cover of night when all residents are tucked into their 1500 threadcount Egyptian cotton sheets)…the landscaping is rich with palm trees, exotic plants and animals, and lush ever-blooming flowers compliment meticulously manicured lawns.
But every street in the property of 1600 homes looks basically the same. They aren’t permitted to personalize their homes or landscaping. On the plus side, no one has to think about upkeep or aesthetics, and it looks beautiful and feels calmingly familiar. But after a week, I find myself longing for my overgrown bushes, chipping window panes, and cracked driveway.
—There’s always something to do. I can’t imagine anyone ever suffering a moment of boredom, especially if they’re seeking activities. In the week we were there, the boys played basketball, swam in the pool, soaked in the hot tub, hunted alligators on the golf course, rode bikes, and played pickle ball. They could have also played tennis, golf, bridge, canasta, or Mah jongg. There are book clubs, charity events and wine tastings. It’s like college with no homework. Not a bad way to live.
—So. Many.Rules. It’s probably most apparent to parents of young children– especially mine– who enjoy testing boundaries and resisting anything that restricts a good time.
Within the week, there were kids kicked out of the hot tub for being too young, turned away from the clubhouse dining room for wearing jeans or short shorts, and scolded for climbing on a waterfall in the pool.
The pool takes strict to the extreme.
You can’t throw a ball, float on a raft, or give your kid a snack on the lounges. I heard someone call it the “no fun” pool! Though my kids stayed in the water til the sun went down so there is fun to be had.
— More food than an Elizabethan banquet. It’s a constant feast– like cruise ship amounts.
My kids love the overflowing bread baskets they bring at every meal and indulging in the buffet, where you can eat yourself silly. Hot gourmet, cold sandwiches, a salad bar with someone to chop it up if you like. Desserts are plentiful– the most popular being piles of large fresh-baked cookies and all you can eat soft serve yogurt with sundae toppings. Heaven!
—No need unmet. On a bike ride with Eli, he got very overheated and tired and we were far from home. Within 2 minutes I found a water station near the golf course that not only had ice-cold water but a fridge packed with cold wet neck towels. Eli had an instant recovery. There are several water and “free” Gatorade stations near the tennis and golf club. Every locker room is stocked with every imaginable amenity and plastic bags for your wet clothes. Many afternoons there’s an ice cream freezer by the pool loaded with tempting treats. (Of course you can’t eat them by the pool, but still!)
We took a tour of the card rooms and there was a counter full of snacks, including M&M’s, and yogurt covered raisins and filling their fists with free goodies may have been the highlight of the boys’ trip.
—No shortage of competition. Besides the aforementioned sports and card games, my boys discovered Baci– allegedly the fastest growing sport in America– shuffleboard and Pickle Ball–
— a combination of tennis and ping-pong played on a hard court with small wooden paddles and a wiffle ball. We got hooked.
It has its own subculture. There are certain customs you learn when spending time at grandma’s gated community. Seats at the clubhouse pool are coveted, but can only be saved for an hour, so don’t linger at lunch!
It’s ok to cram as many bodies as possible into a golf cart with no seat belts because you’re only going 20 mph with little traffic.
You need to stop and say hello to every one of your mother’s acquaintances because she’s been telling them intimate details of your life over coffee all season. The friends need to check you out and mom needs to show you off. It’s a grandparent’s sacred rite!
I tease because it’s fun but in all honesty it’s a pretty fabulous place to vacation with kids and we are lucky to be invited every year.
Thanks Nan and Papa Pat! Can’t wait til next year…..