They are just a pair of dots in the sky, as they hang beneath a tinier-by-the-moment yellow parachute. A boat moves through the water and pulls them across the bright blue sky. And I wonder… Why is it that the things that thrill my daughters the most are the same things that most terrify me?
“How about this one?” The man asks, holding up one of the many young alligators that he has fished out of the murky water.
“That one is too skinny,” the woman standing on the other side of the fence tells him. She points out another alligator. “What about that one?” She asks.
“I already showed you that one. You said it was too mean. You said it would pick on the others.”
She pauses, remembering. Then her eyes scan the enclosure. She points to one near the wall. “That one,” she says. “Can you get that one for me?”
He moves quickly through the water, grasps the animal by its tail, and pulls it from the water. “This one?” He holds it up for approval.
“Yes,” she tells him. “That one is good.”
He brings the alligator toward the front of the enclosure. And when he steps out of the water we realize that he is barefoot.
An open-air tour trolley slowly moves past our hotel as we lounge by the pool. We are just a bit too far away, and the hotel’s music is just a bit too loud, for us to hear what the tour guide is saying. My husband raises his hand and slowly waves at the tourists who stare back at us, not waving…only watching.
Several minutes later another trolley appears. We watch as it, too, stops to make an unheard commentary. “I wonder what they’re saying,” I say as the faces turn in unison to stare in our direction.
“Probably that our hotel has been the sight of several unsolved murders,” my twelve year old tells me. And, while I laugh, I can’t help but wonder…
“Florida!” We all call out as we cross the state line. We’ve arrived! But, really,we aren’t even half way through today’s drive.
“It just feels like vacation has actually started when you finally get to Florida,” I say, remembering the lengthy drives of my childhood vacations when we drove here from Kansas and, later, Colorado. My husband nods, remembering his own family drives to Florida from Ohio, a path we are following now. But, though our girls have been to Florida many times, we have always flown. They don’t have any memories of a long drive to Spring Break on Florida’s warm beaches Or, at least they didn’t. Until now…
I wonder how they will remember this year’s long drive. Will they remember the picturesque, rolling hills and farms of Indiana and Ohio, the breathtaking vistas of the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, the forests growing thicker as we headed south through the Carolinas and Georgia? Will they smile with the memory from last night when we couldn’t find an open gas station? Will they laugh at our firm (but untrue) announcement that we were going drive all night like we did when we were younger? Will they remember the way we all sang along to Meghan Trainor’s latest song, or the multiple searches for somewhere “fast, but not McDonalds” to eat?
I wonder if they will someday decide to drive their own children on vacation. But maybe they will only fly, leaving the farmlands, the mountains, the late-night rain, the changing landscapes, and the many, many memories to those who had the time to take the chance to enjoy them.
We were supposed to leave at three. But three became three-thirty. And then three-thirty became four. And now four has become four-thirty. A day with family lies behind us. An eight hour drive stretches out in front of us.
It’s time to go. Past time, really.
The kids take their places in the back seat. I close the trunk and walk to my door, calling one last goodbye to my parents. Shawn and I take our places in the front seats.
We back down the driveway, out into the street, and pull away. My parents wave from the front porch while we wave back to them.
And we are on our way. Again.
A day with family lies behind us. An eight hour drive stretches out in front of us.
There’s a lot of yelling at dinner tonight. No one is arguing. It’s just that half these people don’t hear very well. We are having dinner tonight with my parents and mother in law.
Today’s six hour drive will be the shortest of our trip.
The stream of screamed swear words coming from the basement draws me to the top of the stairs.
I pause before rushing down. “Do you need help?” I ask, and when there’s no answer I start down the stairs.
My husband comes into view and tells me: “I got it taken care of. That was a near disaster, though.”
I’m afraid of the answer, but I ask anyway. “What happened?”
“There’s a problem with the sink in the laundry room. The pipe or something. I just caught it before the laundry room flooded out into the other room. We’ll probably have to wait until after vacation to get a plumber here, though. So, you can’t do any laundry until we get back”
I think of the pile of laundry I need to wash before we leave on our epic spring break drive that I can’t believe we committed to but now we’ve made a million plans so there’s no backing out.
No, this isn’t a near disaster. Not a near one at all.
I don’t have a ninth period class. That means I don’t have to escort any students to the gym. It also means I can waltz into the gym at my leisure; I don’t have to “load” the gym and then sit in the bleachers with my class and wait for the show to start. Because today–in spite of the lack of blue skies and sunny hopefulness I usually associate with it–is the talent show day. This is the day that ushers in spring break. It is the very unofficial last day of winter in my own personal school year calendar.
I can hear them in the hallway now. I will check my travel plans one more time, organize the papers I’ll be taking with me over break, check the weather again and again. And then, when silence permeates, I will go down and watch the students perform. But my mind will not be in the gym. It will be miles and miles away from the rain and the clouds. Miles and miles away from the fluorescent lights and long, tiled hallways. Miles and miles away from all these tables and chairs.
As I watch the performers, as I enjoy the singing and dancing and instrument playing… my mind will already be in next week.
It came across my Facebook feed early this morning. My alma mater, Colorado State University, is having a snow day today. Today…near the end of March….after the official start of spring. According to one friend’s Facebook memory, the school also had a snow day exactly three years ago today. (Once again, the end of the March…after the official start of spring.) Yesterday, it was 72 degrees in Denver. The sun was shining. The grass was growing. Kids were riding bikes. Today, the airport has cancelled all its flights, the schools are closed, and kids are building snowmen. I’m “liking” pictures of friends who are shoveling snow and counting the inches (16 inches so far according to one post.)
I miss this wild unpredictability. Sort of. But when people talk about the craziness of Chicago weather, I want to laugh. Because, frankly, Chicago weather (and all it’s miserableness) is actually much more predictable than Denver in the spring.
My daughters aren’t getting traditional Easter baskets this year. We will be traveling over Easter, and the baskets we always use would take up too much space in the car. Besides that, I’m not too keen on supporting their candy habit, anyway. So, I picked up some cute burlap bags with bunnies on them and planned to fill the bags with clothes they can wear on spring break in Florida.
I know this will come as a shock to most people, but my daughters have begun to show a lack of appreciation for the clothes I pick out for them. Hoping they have short attention spans and will forget what they showed me by Sunday, I took them shopping last night to pick out some clothes they liked so I could buy things they will actually wear.
Which brings me to this moment….
I was driving along in my very cool (if I do say so myself) minivan with my radio tuned to Chicago’s hippest station (101.9, the Mix. All the moms over 40 listen to it!) when a favorite song came on the radio. Of course I turned up the volume and started singing along.
“Mom,” my 14-year-old said, “don’t you know what this song is about?”
“Yeah, it’s about going to the beach and eating cake.” And then I stopped. Because I realized it wasn’t about eating cake at all. “Oh,” I said. “I guess that’s not what it’s about.”
My daughter laughed. “No, mom. It’s about something else entirely…”
I thanked her for ruining the song for me. And I kind of hated the fact that she was old enough to know this stuff. But, you know what? I also kind of enjoyed laughing about it with her.