ImageOn Friday (around seven in the morning), I found myself marching on the beach next to three pirates—all of them under the age of eleven and all of them related to me. They pumped a bottle with a secret message into the air, and pretended to get drunk off sand. To the side of me, three enchanting sirens splashed through the froth on the ocean, collecting sand dollars—these sirens happen to be a few of my beautiful nieces (who I feel might get older than me someday if I don’t keep a close enough eye on things).

It started with a fifteen hour road trip to the Oregon Coast (courtesy of my niece Carissa’s ‘speedy’ car), arriving at 4:30 in the morning to spend a two day vacation with my family (and their spouses and kids and all that). Newport Beach is beautiful! And cold. It has great shopping (since I’m always scrambling to buy hats and gloves and jackets there). But as we perused an antique shop, my niece Kirsten (7) informed me of her plan…TO TRICK HER COUSIN TYLER (11)! The two had been up to all manner of hijinks all week without  me, and this would top off the pranks. But first she needed a bottle. So Kirsten and I searched the old antique store until we found an old bottle and (of course) a cork to put in it.

Then Baby Louie (10) went to work. Baby Louie—who has the unfortunate name of baby because she is named after my sister Louie (whose real name also isn’t Louie, but we dubbed her that because it makes her seem more like a gangster: not sure why that’s important to us)—threw lots of sand inside the bottle to make the message inside seem more legit. You see, Kirsten decided that Tyler was going to find a message in a bottle from pirates. She wrote the pirate letter revealing the whereabouts of the treasure—that we forgot to buy (which is another adventurous story involving my sister Jessica). So that night, a few of my nieces Natasha, Shannon, and Carily made up a story of waking up early to collect shells at low tide…the story which I swallowed hook and bait. I wished them luck, since I had cherished dreams of sleeping-in after my night driving, but after a guilt trip from my brother Scott for encouraging the children’s plan and making him go through with it, I found myself knocking on their trailer door early that morning and stomping around in the cold while the kids went to their various tents to get ready to go.

And that’s how I ended up shuffling through the wet sands on the beach under a cold grey sky. Kirsten stuffed the bottle in her coat, looking pregnant, which Tyler (being an eleven year old boy) didn’t seem to notice at all. As soon as I realized this was more than just a shell collecting trip, I immediately jerked awake. But first we had to make sure Tyler bought the trick. We stuck the bottle in a lazy lagoon and made all sorts of distressed sounds because we couldn’t get it out of the water. Tyler rushed forward to help us weak girls and pulled out the bottle. We oohed and ahhed and wondered aloud where such a treasure could come from. Perhaps even from pirates from long ago? But try as he might, Tyler couldn’t get the message out of the bottle. The sand that Baby Louie had liberally applied inside the bottle had stuck the message tight in there…WHICH MEANT, we were stuck with the mystery of what the message was…and that maybe…just maybe, THIS WAS ALL REAL…

So, of course, Tyler had to pump the bottle in the air and chant, “Message in a bottle.” Baby Louie threw in an eerie tune. Kirsten sang boopidy boopidy, which meant that I was duty-bound to give them a bass line. It had to happen. We marched through the sand singing ‘Message in a bottle’ while Tyler swung the bottle like a baton and passed it around so all the kids could get a fake drink and stagger around drunkenly (very naughty, but…). We marched past Shannon, who added a hum here and there, but wasn’t quite sure where we were going with this. Natasha threw her hands in her pockets and rolled her eyes with an embarrassed smile (but eventually gave in). And Carily casually gathered sand dollars as if used to pirate singers.

And that’s how I found myself surrounded by these roguish pirates and these beautiful siren girls; as we waded ankle deep in the sparkling waves of the ocean, singing for an hour or more.

I desperately wished I could get a picture or video of this, but…it was early and Jacqueline (our resident paparazzi) was asleep in a tent and Ashley (our brilliant photographer) was battling a sore throat that she would eventually give to me. I guess that means that some of the best things can’t get caught on camera.