Well, I’ve returned from my vacation feeling refreshed and renewed. It actually was the kind of trip that I’d been hoping to take for a long time in that it was revealing and genuinely rejuvenating. Okay, I promise to stop using descriptors with the pre-fix, “re”.
I traveled with my sister, FloraV who managed to coordinate her vacation time with mine (which was no small feat). I arranged the flights (with a connection in Charlotte), hotel and rental car with barely a two-week advance but still had no trouble booking it all online. Although nerve-wracking, the rest of the trip proved pretty seamless.
This Message is For You, Dad
My sister and I had gone on this trip with specific intentions in mind. Rather than have hurt feelings and messy arrangements which would have put a damper on our time constraints, I lied. My Dad lives almost five hours away and has his own agenda on family gatherings that involve more than what I could stomach for this “relaxing” vacation. Besides, I really planned this impromptu trip as a result of my niece’s sudden non-traditional wedding invitation. I knew that because of her age and her involvement with her extended family, there would be enough potential for high drama antics that I certainly didn’t want to add to. In addition, my sister just isn’t ready to reconnect on the level that my Dad wants to connect on. Out of respect for her and my last trip to Florida (which ended badly) I didn’t want to revisit those old bones.
Here’s what we did instead: we went to the beach. It was our first trip as full-fledged adults with no time constraints, rules, issues, family baggage. It was just us relying on our wits, handy-dandy little Droid with GPS, and a rental car. It was so satisfying and for the first time, I felt as though we had finally accomplished something that I had wanted to accomplish all the years of my life: peace.
To explain this appropriately, you have to understand how our family trips always went. They began with lots and lots of needless packing to make sure that we could cover every scenario known to man. There were the usual summer items: bathing suits, beach towels, flip-flops, shorts & T-shirts. But then there were other items: sandwiches, chips, coolers (just in case we got hungry) Panama Jack lotion, straw hats, & Noxema skin cream (just in case we got sunburned), a heat-resistant jacket and makeshift canoe (just in case there was a fire or flood). Okay, I’m exaggerating about the last two…or AM I?!
Then of course there were the creative ways with which we had to make our
escape exit. My Dad, a policeman, was convinced–perhaps justifiably so–that our neighbors would take advantage of our leave-of-absence and commit all sorts of crimes. So, my paranoid Dad would require that our family would organize different escape routes exit strategies like taking our luggage piecemeal to the car, parking at unfamiliar locations away from the house, and leaving at ungodly hours to reduce the risk of being noticed. I don’t know if all of these precautions really helped prevent crimes from occurring in our neighborhood or whether it only served to appease my Dad. Either way, it was inconvenient and annoying.
Next, were the inevitable arguments that were a family staple. My parents liked to argue about the directions and the stops along the way. God forbid either my sister, my mother, or I would have to pee. My father never scheduled our bodily functions into his driving plans. Like most men, he was just eager to “get there”, wherever “there” was. One time, we took a trip to Washington, D.C. only to turn right back around an hour later because it was raining. My mother attempted to convince him to check us all into a local hotel so that we could see everything in the morning, but my father refused. All I saw of that trip was the lobby of the Smithsonian.
There were many fights about money. But these spats were always confusing because they weren’t always about not having enough. Sometimes, it was about having too much and finding better ways of spending it. When the arguments reached their crescendo, they ended in blowups like “gimme two of everything you have here” or splitting up camp (based on which parent took off in a huff and left the other with the kids).
As adults, my sister and I were free of all that. We were the ones getting us where we wanted to go. And although life is not without its disappointments or worries, we did everything we wanted to do.
Apropos of our first official outing, we managed to go to a private beach that serves as a wildlife preserve for tortoises and manatees. This suited my sister’s aims: privacy and my aims: getting at one with nature. The beach was a long, winding drive through the most beautiful exclusive-looking neighborhood filled with sprawling mansions and the occasional Mexican landscaper. My sister gave me one of those panicky looks as we drove further toward the shore. She exacerbated her mood with comments like, “I think we don’t belong here.” To which I replied, “What’s the worst they can do? Turn us away?”
We ended up parking (only $8!) at the last lot to be nearest the beach. When we arrived, there was no one save for an elderly couple so far down the beach that we could hardly make them out. After a few minutes, others managed to arrive, but they kept to themselves and were less enthusiastic than my sister and I who couldn’t stop laughing and marvelling at the tortoises, the ambience, the waves, the clean sand, the seashells. Basically, everything amused us because we felt free.
The ocean was not calm, but we didn’t care. We missed photographing the tortoises, but we didn’t care. Eli’s hair got extremely witchy, but we didn’t care. It rained some, but we didn’t care. I burned a little, but we didn’t care. The only thing that bothered me was our mini-nature walk which resulted in some mosquito bites and were the only negative of the day. We even built mini-forts in the sand and waged a friendly war (which Eli won, thanks to a battering ram made out of a twig).
The day was perfect and went off without a hitch. We even managed to retrieve some items: a large leaf from a tropical tree, some seashells. In keeping with tradition, however, we did manage to retrieve one unnecessary item to pack for our return flight: a golf ball (just in case Tiger Woods asks us out for tee). Guess some things will never change.