The winds of the Outer Banks, which made Kitty Hawk perfect for Orville and Wilbur Wright, provided two uplifting experiences as well. Emma and I noticed folks parasailing when we were out one morning on the town's hike-and-bike trail. We returned later that day with the whole party for what turned out to be not a scary thrill ride, but an exciting, yet peaceful, flight for everyone. My little nephews went up together, and the look on their faces when they came back down was almost as good as seeing the gorgeous coastal views from 1,000 feet up myself, seated beside my husband, who leaned over for a midair kiss.

The other perfect thing was flying kites at Jockey's Ridge State Park, which contains the highest-standing sand dunes on the East Coast and is spectacular at sunset. A crowd gathered there nightly to watch both nature's display and the spectacle of scores of zooming, soaring, floating scraps of color, many of them purchased at Kitty Hawk Kites across the road.

There seemed to be dozens of terrific restaurants, but we never really explored the possibilities. With a group as large as ours and somebody who loves to cook (me again), staying home for meals was as much fun. We did do takeout barbecue and pizza a couple of times, and made a bakery run for Key lime pie and cheesecake. After dinner, we went crazy for board games like Cranium and other artistic and mental activities.

So what was the secret of this perfect vacation? It really all comes down to the house, which gave us both wonderful ways to be together and plenty of space to be apart. (Someone, who shall remain nameless despite his marital affiliation to the author, watched the Democratic Convention almost the whole time, but since there were four TVs, nobody really minded.) The house was light-filled and summery, and equipped for our needs with what seemed like almost uncanny foresight.