Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Memories: Spring Break with Zelda and the Girls. Part I

The other day I was reminded of a long-ago trip to Florida I took with my best friend and her two little girls. The “little girl” who reminded me about it is now {mumble}30-something{mumble} and has children of her own. But when we drove down to Florida she was maybe nine or 10 and her younger sister was 4 or 5. I don’t remember their exact ages because, well, frankly, I’ve tried to block that particular vacation from my memory.

No, I kid. (Sort of.)

I was in my late 20s and still single and loving it while my friend was divorced with two little girls and living an entirely different lifestyle than I. Meaning that she was a responsible parent and I was still the carefree single girl. Well, except I was also working full-time and going to college full-time, so I suppose you could call me responsible, too – but in an entirely different way.

I definitely wasn’t responsible for raising children, other than an occasional overnight babysitting gig when a parent had to go out of town and recruited me for the job. But, heck, at that time in my life, I wasn’t even responsible for a pet – not a goldfish or a turtle or one of those other “pretend” pets that you don’t really have to do anything for except throw a little crumble of food their way now and again.

But, my friend – let’s call her Zelda to maintain her anonymity – decided we really needed to take a road trip to Palm Beach Gardens for spring break. It was expected to be a relatively inexpensive trip as we were driving (and gasoline prices were definitely not in the $3+ range back then). And we were staying at her father’s condo, so we wouldn’t have lodging costs to contend with. A little food, drink and gas money and we were good to go.

We decided to take my car as it was (a) only a year old and perhaps a little more “reliable” than hers, and most importantly (b) it had air conditioning and hers didn’t. So prior to our trip, I carefully cleaned the car inside and out, had the oil changed and fluids checked and even loaded up the seat pockets with coloring books, crayons and pencils and assorted little games, toys and treats to keep the girls occupied in the backseat for our long journey.

Smart, huh?

Yeah, not so much. Before we’d traveled beyond the outskirts of Columbus, all the games, toys, treats and coloring pencils were scattered all over the inside of the car – everywhere but stowed carefully inside the seat pockets. The little one (we’ll call her Noreen) was bored and alternated between kicking my seat and poking holes in the seat back with her carefully sharpened coloring pencil. And the older one – Agatha – was doing the classic kid thing and asking us if we were almost there yet and informing us every other minute that she was bored.

Egad, I thought to myself, I fear this is going to be a VERY long drive…

Only I probably didn’t use the word “Egad.”

And, boy oh boy, was it! I don’t think I’ve ever had such an arduous journey – and that includes the time my sister and I got stuck overnight in the Chicago airport after spending about eight cramped hours in an airplane returning from Paris.

I had no idea little girls needed only 3.2 minutes to go through a pocketful of games, toys, treats and coloring books before they were done playing with it all and would then be bored. Being bored is a major problem with little kids – did you know that? (Of course you did! You’re experienced at this sort of thing. I, on the other hand, was not.)

Plus, let’s be honest. It’s a L-O-N-G flippin’ drive to Palm Beach Gardens. When we finally arrived in the actual state of Florida and stopped near the border for the approximately 73rd potty break, I nearly wept with joy. Inside, I was screaming, WE MADE IT, WE MADE IT, WE MADE IT!! (Unbidden, but somewhere still in my subconscious, was the thought Thank goodness. Now I don’t have to strangle two little girls.

(Sorry, Agatha and Noreen. I feel ashamed of myself. I was young and inexperienced in the ways of little girls. In reality, you were most likely darling little angels and I just couldn’t tell. Forgive me?!)

Of course, once I realized we still had about five more hours of driving to go before we actually arrived at our destination, I nearly wept real tears. And they were not the joyful variety.

To this day, I clearly remember standing in line to use the bathroom at Zelda’s father’s condo (waiting for Agatha and Noreen to finish up first). I looked Zelda in the eye and said, “If I EVER again mention that I’m thinking of driving to Florida, would you – after you flick me in the forehead for being so dumb – PLEASE remind me of this very moment?” She looked at me with the mascara smeared under my eyes, my stringy hair, my none-too-daisy-fresh clothing and replied, “Why, Jane…whatever do you mean?!” And then she laughed and laughed.

Yeah. Agatha and Noreen weren’t the only ones in danger of being strangled.

But after a glass of wine or two, I was starting to recover and thinking I might actually enjoy this vacation.

Silly me. Because what happens after an enjoyable vacation? The. Long. Drive. Home.

(To be continued…)

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