Sunday, July 19, 2009

Florida, finally

The family journey to Florida was finally completed yesterday, but not without a few setbacks that had me clutching my cell phone in a frantic grip and instructing myself to breathe in and out, repeating as necessary.

First, they were a bit behind schedule because they -- my parents and the girls in the minivan and Pat, Angie and my nephews and niece in The Tank, an aged yet comfy Suburban belonging to Angie's parents -- got stopped three different times by road construction.

I didn't find that all too worrisome, however, because that's just the kind of thing that happens. Many's the childhood vacation I remember being stuck in traffic, usually in Georgia, which is the longest state ever in the world. Everything is 250 miles away: First you're in Tennessee and Atlanta is 250 miles away. Then you're in Atlanta and Savannah is 250 miles away. And then, panting, you get to the Savannah area, where the signs say that Macon is 250 miles away. After Macon, the signs assure you that Valdosta is 250 miles away. The Florida state line is 250 miles away from Valdosta and all those people who say that Texas is the biggest state are big fat liars.

One particular stuck-in-traffic family vacation from my youth is particularly memorable because it is the time when Pat and I had been so horrible to each other in the back seat -- I think a roll of masking tape stuck down the middle from the rear window down all the way to the drive train's hump in the middle of the floor had been employed to divide MY side from HIS side -- that my dad had insisted that we put our seat belts on. Because? That's how parent PUNISHED THEIR CHILDREN in the 1970s -- they made them wear seat belts.

"If you kids don't shut up, you are going to put on your seat belts until we get to the Florida state line," my father would growl. And then Pat and I would weigh those consequences up against the actions we hoped to take, which of course meant slapping at one another over the masking tape. If we were near Atlanta, we'd restrain ourselves and be content with just shooting each other hateful glances. But if we'd already passed Valdosta, WATCH OUT.

Pat and I both knew that our dad was a soft touch, exhibiting lots of bark with very limited bite. So, as our car rolled to a halt on the broiling interstate through the fine state of Georgia, my brother and I escalated to the point of open warfare, with Nancy Drew books and G.I. Joes and magic markers and the little pieces of one of those magnetic tic-tac-toe sets flying around like the first five minutes of Saving Private Ryan.

We suddenly became firm allies, however, because our mother, who is of a much more energetic and temperamental temperament than our father, made even more so by the fact that her two children were acting like jackals in the back seat of an otherwise staid and practical family sedan, driven to the breaking point, I say, by our pinching and hitting and yelling and kicking, suddenly emerged from the front seat with a scream of rage, brandishing a paperback Agatha Christie novel.

"I. HAVE. HAD. IT!" she shrieked. "HAD. IT! HAD IT!!!! HADDIT!!!!"

She leaned over the front seat, flailing around with her book, swiping at us with a ferocity unmatched by Santa Ana at the Alamo. She whacked us and thwacked us and smote us with such vigor, the book started coming to pieces, pages floating through the air and entire chunks plopping onto the seats and the floor. At one point, I looked out my window (arms up to protect my head) and saw a trucker in the next lane staring at us with wide eyes and open mouth: two kids crouching down in their seats trying to avoid being bludgeoned by a Penguin paperback, a very pretty, angry blonde woman windmilling around and the man at the wheel nonchalantly looking for a radio station and trying to pretend that nothing. Was happening.

Anyway, the vacationers made it through the road construction and decided to stop for the night south of Birmingham, as I related in my other post. But what I didn't know is that Nanny, Poppy and the girls ordered a Pizza Hut pizza to be delivered, and Pat, Angie and the kids went to Chick-fil-A. And I also didn't know that when Pat/Angie/kids returned from eating their chicken, Kiersi got into the shower and slipped, cutting her little chin badly enough that they had to take her to the emergency room.

See? This is the kind of stuff that keeps the manufacturers of my brand of hair color in business.

Kiersi got those new kind of stitches that are actually glue -- don't ask me, I didn't know about it either -- and was apparently okay, although Dayden was terribly upset that she was hurt and crying. But believe me, that's NOTHING compared to the hurt and crying I was experiencing, all by myself in the house back here in Indiana. Hearing about emergency room visits over the phone is just not good.

The next day, they sailed off in fine form and got over the Florida state line, traveling down the panhandle until they were a mere ninety minutes from their destination. And then guess what happened? Well, my phone rang.

"Hello?" I said breathlessly.

"Hi, Mommy," said Aisling in a disconsolate tone. "Guess where we are?"

"At the house? Is it nice?"

"No, we're still far away from the house. We're at a Hardee's. Because The Tank broke down and we can't find anyone to fix it."

That was the point at which I realized it was a good thing that I don't believe in solving problems with alcohol, although I have been known to try to solve them with the contents of the refrigerator.

"What's going on?" I whimpered.

"Nanny and Poppy are going to drive all the grandkids on to the house and then one of them will come back to get Uncle Pat and Aunt Angie and the luggage," she said in a small voice. "They're just going to sit and wait for the tow truck, and then Pop or Nan can pick them up."

This just didn't set well with me. Like, AT ALL. I wanted to get my father on the phone and imperiously tell him and all the rest of them to just STOP RIGHT THERE: I was going to go get in the van and start driving and I didn't want anyone to MOVE until I was there to sort this thing out. Unless, of course, they wished to order a sausage biscuit.

Honestly, I should have known not to accept this story verbatim from the lips of a disgruntled and travel-weary fourteen year old. As it turns out, the situation was not as dire as she'd portrayed it to be. My parents did set off with the grandkids and got to the beach house just fine; Triple A arrived at the Hardee's only twenty minutes after the call was made and a car repair person was enlisted to replace the alternator. He made quick work of that job and Pat and Angie set out and arrived at the beach house only an hour after the first wave got in.

The house, they tell me, is very nice, although Dayden thinks it has too many stairs. The bedroom the girls are sharing is right by the door that leads outside to the swimming pool, so everyone woke them up this morning, the girls being the only two late sleepers in the family.

The waters of the gulf beckoned today, and they spent the day in the sand and the sun, searching for shells and playing in the waves. There seemed to be surprisingly little sand castle building, which is always my favorite thing. Go figure.

Meelyn sent me an email and said that they're thinking about water parks, a different beach or maybe a trip to the piney woods for tomorrow. I wrote back, piney woods? Excuse me? If you want trees, you can have them all you want in Indiana, both evergreen and deciduous. But beaches? Those are a bit more hard to come by.

I vote beaches for them. And the pool for myself -- we're going to be experiecing a heat wave here tomorrow. It's going to be seventy-seven degrees outside. Woooooooeeeeee!!!!!

No comments: