Wednesday, July 29, 2009

DESTINation: Florida

It started out simple enough: Mom and I decided to take Makensie to the beach and have a relaxing few days together in the sun and sand before I start my new job. Yes, it was a bit of a spontaneous decision (one made directly after I got the job offer), but spontaneity is the spice of life in my opinion, and I’m not one to turn down a trip to the beautiful, white-sandy beaches of the Gulf Coast. Plus, I need some new work clothes, and there’s a huge outlet mall right in the middle of Destin, our chosen location (a spot we’ve gone to at least two to three times a year since I was five). Perfection!

The first decision to make was which car to take, and my young, low-mileage Hyundai was trumped by my mother’s aged, high-mileage Jeep because it had new tires and a recent oil change. Works for me! We chose a little one-room motel we used to stay in when I was a child because it was cheap, right on the beach, and, frankly, one of our only options in the mid-July tourist season. No worries there! I’m sure K will nap whilst we putter about the room. And we chose to go mid-week and be back on Friday because we had committed to being part of a neighborhood yard sale on Saturday, and we needed time to get the garage and sale items in order the night before. Plus, my mom and I had decided that the money we made on the yard sale would pay for the cost of the motel, and that was even more enticing. A paid-for place to stay at the beach: I’m totally in!

The drive down was not bad. We had decided not to worry about a timeframe, and we got on the road just before noon, which was good. Of course, I forgot the camera and Kensie’s toothbrush, so we had to go back for those. But luckily we hadn’t gotten far, and we were still in good spirits. We decided to follow the GPS directions instead of going our old faithful route to make things interesting, and so we got a fabulous glimpse at rural living in Alabama and Florida—complete with vegetable and fruit stands popping up in the middle of nowhere, fields of cows, horses, and goats (and one mule), and the occasional down-home café called something like Millie’s Pie House or Jed’s BBQ—all of which we really enjoyed. K slept most of the way down since it was her naptime, and we got to Destin on a beautifully sunny day early enough to get groceries, check into the motel, and still have time to hit the beach—which is exactly what we did.

Before we left Birmingham (but already on the road), I’d asked my mom if she had remembered to bring a razor. I forgot to pack one, and, as an unemployed single mom who hasn’t dated in at least three years (or really even been out with friends or males of any kind for months), shaving my legs had not been a priority lately. But as a single woman who would like to meet a great guy sometime down the road, lying on the beach with the possibility of males seeing me looking like an overweight bigfoot in a black mommy tankini with a skirt didn’t sit well. But Mom assured me she had a razor, and there was really not much I could do about the swimsuit at this point, last-minute as this trip was. However, when got there and I prepared to shave, no razor. Yes, Mommy Bigfoot would have to appear on the beach this day, especially since the adorable two-year-old in a cute pink polka dotted swimsuit at my feet was begging me to go “svim with da fishies.” So we headed to the beach, and I prayed to meet no one interesting. K took to the water like the fishies she so loves, and we had a great evening splashing and running on the beach. And lucky for me, there wasn’t a cute, unmarried guy in sight!

The next day was dedicated strictly to relaxing on the beach, getting some sun, wading in the lukewarm ocean water, possibly reading a book—the usual beach stuff. But I should have checked the manual I got at the hospital after having K entitled “Parenting 101”. Chapter 13: “Going to the Beach with a Two-Year-Old as a Single Parent: Don’t Do It!” might have been helpful. Needless to say, being on the beach with Kensie was not relaxing. She wanted to be in the water the whole time, and of course that can’t happen without me holding onto her, especially with her love of the water and lack of fear. But then, after being in the ocean, she wanted to be in the “little water” (i.e. the pool), then back to the ocean, then back to the pool, and on and on and on. My mom has bad knees, so she really couldn’t help much in this department, as walking in the sand is kind of tough. So it was all me, back and forth, all morning, until lunch and naptime, then all afternoon until dinnertime. I don’t think I sat on the beach a total of 10 minutes the entire three days we were in Destin!

It didn’t take us long to realize that the motel we used to stay in when I was a child had not changed much since the early 80s—it had simply aged. I think they may have painted it, but that was about it. Our porch had wires hanging from the ceiling where the light should have been and birds living in the walls. In the evenings we watched Momma and Daddy bird feed the babies, which was terribly exciting to K, and Mom and I actually kind of got into that, as well. There were exposed wires behind one of the beds, the phone didn’t work, and the outside grills were those old-fashioned ones you see at campgrounds. The décor left much to the imagination, and the window-unit air-conditioner kept the place merely tepid. I’m guessing I lost about 10 pounds of weight from the amount I sweated in those three days (now that’s a positive!).

We did meet some pretty interesting people. Being that we had noticed the very first hour after check-in that we had chosen to stay in the “Redneck Motel on the Gulf,” we had to try to adjust our attitudes and keep in mind that we were at the beach, directly on the beach, and it was absolutely beautiful weather despite the interesting clientele: smoking lady and her "odd" son, the old couple who wouldn't shut up about their grandkids, the other grandparents who adopted their 16-month-old grandchild because the mother (their son's girlfriend at the time) already had five kids and couldn't afford another (and who knows where their son is), and the bride and groom who actually chose this place to have their wedding (though the beach ceremony, viewed by every single person in our motel, was quite lovely, minus the hooting and hollering from many of the motel guests at its end).

Besides getting very little sleep or relaxation, being forced onto a 3 by 6 deck with the “Bird” family at 8 p.m. every night so K could go to bed, eating pizza and popcorn for dinner and turkey sandwiches everyday for lunch, only watching animated DVDs while in the motel room (which was quite a lot in the afternoons trying to get Kensie to nap), eating out only one night out of three at a place that usually is pretty good but chose this night to be less than stellar, having sand everywhere, including in the sheets, because there was no maid service, and continuous sweating both indoors and out, we managed to have a pretty good time bonding as three generations of Trenary women. However . . .

The day before we left, after a great breakfast at The Donut Hole, we noticed the A/C wasn’t working in Mom’s car. Because it was so hot and the fact that we had to drive home the next day, we decided to get it checked, and the news wasn’t good. The radiator had to be replaced. $500 and the car wouldn’t be ready until the next afternoon, the earliest by 4 p.m. (and we had to be out of the motel by 10 a.m.). Not only that, our afternoon of shopping and dinner at a nice restaurant was now history. It was sweltering out, we were stuck in a hot, one-room motel with an exhausted two-year-old and no car, and all I could think about was a cold beer! Since the closest “store” was a gas station a mile away and I refused to walk there in what looked to be a looming thunderstorm, I called a cab. When a girl needs a beer, a girl needs a beer! The gas station selection wasn’t great, so I settled for Corona without lime (being they didn’t sell lime). With this purchase, I was happy. It was worth the $10 cab ride, to say the least. That evening while pondering what we would do the next day after being ousted from the “Redneck Motel on the Gulf,” I drank my Corona, and we watched the wedding ceremony set up right outside our room on the beach. Boy are those two brave.

The next day, Kensie was over the beach and refused to go out, so we got packed up, called a cab, and headed to a friend’s house to wait out the car repair. Luckily, one of my mother’s friends has a house in town, and she told us where to get the key so we had a place to crash for a few hours. Thanks Jane! So we called a cab, loaded up our stuff (you don’t pack light with a two-year-old, so this wasn’t an easy task), and headed to the house. I’d have to say, this was probably the highlight of the trip. Finally, we could relax in a place that was up to our (I hate to say high, but much higher than what we’d been in the past few days) standards. In this lovely, air-conditioned home off the beach, we ate lunch, watched a couple of K’s DVDs, and just vegged. It was heavenly!

Our car arrived at the house about 4 (they were nice enough to drive it over because of everything we’d been through), and we headed out. The GPS took us an entirely different way than how we had come (I don’t get why GPSs do that!), but again, we had a relatively relaxing drive through the Florida and Alabama countryside, and since K slept a bit, we got to listen to “normal” music, which, out that far, you’re lucky to get one country music channel. As we neared Birmingham, we began to get the radio stations of our area, and the highlight of the evening was realizing that one of those stations was celebrating “Christmas in July.” For the last hour of the trip, we happily sang Christmas music and relaxed—finally.

You’d think that was the end of the story, right? Wrong. After a long and sweltering Saturday of peddling “valuables” that had been packed away in the garage for years and years, and only making half the cost of the motel we’d stayed in at the beach, Mom’s car died—for good. After a few tears shed saying good-bye to her Jeep, Mom’s now driving a new car she purchased yesterday. I don’t know that there’s a moral to this story, but I do know that when you allow the darkness to seep in (which I definitely did a few times on this trip), it begins to permeate your soul and perpetuate negativity. So the positives I take from this experience include the fact that we’re safe and sound at home (the car didn’t blow up with us in it and lived long enough to deliver us home safely), Kensie had a blast on the beach and was unaware of the stress involved for my mom and me, and we three girls spent quality time together while being tested to our unique limits. I also learned to never, ever stay in a one-room motel with my mother and daughter—beach or no beach.