Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I’ve struggled lately with the idea of whether to take Kensie to the beach in the wake of the Gulf Oil disaster, but this past weekend, the universe finally intervened. I had called a family friend hoping to take K to their house to swim on her birthday (before I started back to work, we went swimming in their pool on Mondays and Fridays as often as we could), but when I found out their whole family was going to the beach for the holiday weekend, I took it as a sign. I had to get K down there! So within 24 hours, my mother, Kensie, and I were headed to the beach. P.C.-bound baby!
Growing up, I’d always vacationed in Destin, about 60 miles away from Panama City, and had migrated over there only a couple of times (once with my softball team when I was in middle school, and once to watch my Jayhawks lose in the Sweet 16 in a bar packed with KU students on spring break). I was excited to try something new and different, even though that “new and different” place was nicknamed “The Redneck Riviera.”
So we headed out on our voyage into the unknown with GPS in one hand and portable DVD player in the other (an absolute necessity when driving more than an hour with K in tow). We had expected that the trip might take a little extra time being it was Fourth of July weekend, and everyone and their brother and all 22 of his cousins headed down to the Gulf during summer holidays. A normal driving time to Panama City would be about four-and-a-half hours, but we expected it to take a bit longer, and we were OK with that. We’d get there when we got there, and we’d enjoy every minute of the drive in the meantime.
So with Giselle singing “True Love’s Kiss” in the background (Kensie’s new obsession, “Enchanted”), my mom and I chatted excitedly about everything from Kensie (a near-constant topic in my household) to our impending move to Kansas to the most recent rerun of “The West Wing.” And we drove. And drove. And drove. Finally, we began to notice that not only was there no (and I do mean no) traffic, but we were driving on back country roads (not just back roads, mind you, back country roads) and, on occasion, being led down dirt roads with names like “Daisy Duke Drive” and “Opie Taylor Trail.” It had quickly become apparent that our GPS was taking us the “short” route rather than the “right” route, and we seemed to be smack-dab in the middle of Deliverance country. Everyone who grows up in the Deep South knows that the path to Destin is Highway 331, and the path to Panama City is Highway 231. Well, we were on neither. But we decided that since we’d come this far following GPS Lady’s advice (and seemed to have made really great time), we might as well keep going.
So after five hours of driving, at about 8 p.m., we seemed to be on track (what track, I’m not sure, but GPS lady seemed to think we were almost there). We were headed right into Panama City, and we were making good time! At some point, GPS Lady tried to get us on the beachfront road, but I remembered the last time I drove that road (heading to watch the ’Hawks in college), and if I recalled correctly, it took us a good hour to go just one mile. This is Fourth of July weekend: Ain’t no way I’m gonna take the beachfront road! Finally, not knowing exactly how close we were to the condo but assuming we had to be pretty close at this point (and knowing at some point we had head toward the beachfront to get to the condo), I hesitantly hopped onto the beachfront road. Immediately, I knew it was a mistake.
Two hours (and about 10 miles) later (we had left at 3 p.m., mind you), we arrived at the condo. I was completely frazzled and almost in tears, and Kensie had taken to asking me over and over again, “Mommy, are you mad?” My response: “No baby, I’m not mad, I’m frustrated!!!” Wait, now I know where she gets that line!
After a 20-minute search for a cart, we headed to our room. Immediately, I noticed an odd smell, but with so many other things going on at the time, I chocked it up to the ocean (you all know the ocean can throw out some pretty unpleasant smells at times). We began to unpack and get settled. Kensie was excited (so much so that bedtime was pushed back to about midnight), and I was beginning to return to my normal, happy-go-lucky self (aided by a much-needed glass of red). But that smell lingered. After a couple glasses of wine on our balcony (which overlooked the Gulf and a poolside filled with karaoke-ers belting out “Sweet Home Alabama”), we went to bed.
The next morning, K woke bright and early (before 6, if I recall correctly) on her third birthday, and we began our day. (At this point, I had begun almost unknowingly looking around the place for the source of that foul odor.) We took K out to breakfast, hit Starbuck’s, Target, and the grocery store, and four hours later, headed back to the condo (as early as K wakes on most days, four hours is nothing in the morning, as we were back by 11 a.m.). Immediately, it became apparent that I was not going to rest until I found and extracted whatever was causing our condo to smell like a Port-O-Let at a rain-soaked Drivin N Cryin concert (can you tell I’ve actually experienced this?)! My mother, noticing my unrest, calmly suggested, “Maybe it’s the rug.” The rug!! That’s it! Unfortunately (or fortunately, I should say), that was it. The extremely heavy, not-too-cheap area rug was, apparently, soaked with urine. URINE! (Just FYI: This condo was nice. Granite countertops, stainless-steel appliances. There was no reason for it to have a urine-soaked rug right in the middle of the living room!)
After adiosing the rank rug and having a stern talk with the front desk people, we went on to have a fabulous time in Panama City, Florida. Kensie had a great birthday party with our oldest family friends. I got to see a college buddy I hadn’t seen in 15 years and meet her husband and adorable kids (who were older than K but wonderful with her, even though she grabbed them by their hands and dragged them all over the condo showing them her new toys). We swam in the pool and the ocean. Kensie playfully jumped waves as they crashed into her body. We got to see what had to be the most amazing fireworks show on the beach (I swear we could see for miles and miles!). And Kensie got to stay up until nearly midnight three nights in a row! (I paid for that later, by the way.) Most importantly, I got to share with my daughter a place that I have visited and treasured since I was five years old.
All in all, we had a fabulous weekend with some of my favorite people in one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. My now three-year-old little girl is one lucky kid.
PS: Thanks, Mom, for your acceptance of my fanciful whims and your spontaneity. Kensie and I love you!