I so don't want to be home. But we are. We arrived back from my favorite vacation since, well, ever, on Saturday night. Usually I look forward to coming home on the last day of vacation. Heck, last year we drove straight through from Orlando to roll into our driveway at 1:30am just so we could sleep in our own beds. I thought sending Ainsley off to visit Jason's mom all afternoon yesterday while I fell into a coma on the couch would break the depression, but it's worse today. Here I sit, with the temperature a disturbing 70 degrees outside at 3pm (can you say "Global Climate Change"?), drizzle falling, and all I can think of is what the weather's like down on Hilton Head Island. I know for damn sure it ain't 70 degrees and rainy.
It was heaven on earth. It really was. We had a few evening thunderstorms, and the high temp reached the mid-90s every day, but it was perfect down on the beach. And in the pool. Not a cloud in the sky, a couple of days.
And the food...my God, the food.
I love shrimp. Grilled shrimp, broiled shrimp, fried shrimp, shrimp kabob, shrimp stew, whatever else Bubba rattled off to Forest. And Hilton Head's seafood restaurants are all about the shrimp, which are hauled in by the boats every day. I don't know if I can go back to the frozen shrimp we are relegated to here in coastless Kentucky. I ate them every night for dinner, and Ainsley discovered that she, too, loves them. She had fried shrimp 3 nights in a row, one night begging for more after she had cleaned her plate, causing me to give her half of mine. Oh, the sacrifices we moms make.
We have decided that we're going to do the Hilton Head thing every other year, finances pending. It was by far my favorite beach I've ever been to; there wasn't a t-shirt shop on every corner. It was peaceful. It was clean. It felt natural and not over-developed. I felt at home there. I think I might want to live there someday. And this is heady talk for a profound homebody like me who's living in the same zip code I grew up in.
It wouldn't have been a Cranky family vacation without some bumps in the road, though. Here are the highlights of the more, um, interesting things that happened.
1. But First, An "Out of the Mouth of Ains."
This happened the night before we left. I was in a bad mood that Friday night, having run into a problem with the SUV we rented. When I should have been packing up and getting us all to bed, I was on the phone for an hour trying to reach a solution that didn't involve us driving all the frickin' way back to the airport. (Karen, this is why I didn't get back to you, and why we didn't try to arrange a trip to Atlanta--we weren't sure the car we rented was going to get us out of the state or not.) When I finally got some "closure", I wrestled Ains through a bath.
One thing you need to know about Ains (and this will so embarrass her to read in about 10 years) is that she suffers from occasional irregularity. Well, not really occasional. She has poo issues almost all the time. Chalk it up to us rushing the potty-training thing, I guess. She is very particular about when and where she does number 2, and on any trip out of town, she is liable to hold it all in rather than use a strange toilet and make us and herself pretty miserable. A pretty common occurrence in our house for any road trip that takes us away from home for longer than, say, 2 hours, is a conversation that goes like this (usually sparked by me picking up on her signs that she really needs to go but just doesn't know it yet):
Me: "Are you passing gas? Do you need to go poop?"
Ains, turning red in the face, clearly withholding information: "No." And then hopefully 5 minutes later she disappears and we hear from the bathroom, "I poo-ooped!" And then we act surprised.
So it occurred to me on Friday after the rental debacle that Ainsley hadn't pooped in 2 days. And we were about to drive 10 1/2 hours away.
While I got her into her pajamas, I began to smell something that confirmed her need to go before we all got cooped up in a car on a long trip with not that many rest areas.
I looked at her and had just opened my mouth when she rolled her eyes at me and said,
"I know what you're going to say, and yes, I did, but no, I don't."
Damn kid's got me figured out.
But for the record, she did poop a few minutes later.
2. Tears In My Hoecakes
If you know me very well, you know that I worship at the altar of all things Paula Deen. I credit her food with saving me when I had chemo-stomach. I love this woman, and for five years now I have dreamed of going to Savannah and eating in her restaurant.
Sunday night, after looking at Hilton Head's forecast for the week, we decided that Monday might be our best day to get away from the beach and do a day trip in Savannah; HHI had its highest chance for rain on Monday. I had heard from the condo owners that you have to get to The Lady and Sons early in the morning to get a spot to eat there that day, and that the best thing to do was to roll in in the morning, wait in the line at the front of the restaurant, and then go sightseeing. So that's what we did.
Being us, and having a not-morning-person child, we got out the door a few minutes later than I wanted to. It's a 45-minute drive from the island to Savannah, and the last five minutes take you over a bridge that makes height-fearing people wet themselves. The bridge made me nervous, but I knew my best chances for fried chicken lay at the other end, so as soon as we rolled down Congress I threw open the car door, sprinted for the long line in front of The Lady, and let Jason and Ainsley go park and meet back up with me.
The foodie gods were on my side...I got THE LAST SPOT FOR LUNCH THAT DAY! This meant we were eating at 2:30, which left us over 4 hours to kill, but I knew there was no way we were going to be able to brave the heat with a five-year-old until dinner.
We did a trolley tour of Savannah (having just finished Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil I appreciated all the book-related places we saw) and geeked out in our Catholicism by walking through the gorgeous St. John the Baptist cathedral and made it back to The Lady and Sons by a little after 2 .We were early, but they seated us.
We all chose the buffet (I am not usually a big fan of all-you-can-eat, but in the case of Paula Deen, I am more than willing to make a pig of myself) and I let Jason and Ains hit the line first because I wanted to soak up the atmosphere and sip my sweet tea with the mint sprig in it just like I've seen pictured on the cover of her cookbooks. I was already emotionally overwhelmed by the beauty of the city and the feeling of "I can't believe I'm here" when the server came around with hoecakes and cheese biscuits.
I didn't wait for my family. I tried a hoecake. And then, like the loon that I am, I started crying a little bit. Over a hoecake.
It wasn't just that it was one of the most simply awesome things I've ever eaten.
I tasted that hoecake, and looked at the ivy pattern on her walls, and I went back in time five years to a Saturday morning when I was trying to get my chemically-twisted stomach over itself long enough to pretend life was normal and go out to lunch with my family. I remember watching Paula make her famous The Lady's Mac and Cheese on that first episode I saw, and the next night for dinner I cooked that as part of the first meal I dragged my butt into the kitchen to make after I started chemo. I dreamed then that I would get well, and that I would someday get to Savannah and meet this wonderful woman who was starving me to death in spite of myself with her southern food. And there I was, not meeting the woman, but eating in the house her hoecakes built. It was really emotional for me, y'all.
And then I had some of her collard greens, and my eyes rolled back in my head with delight, and it was nothin' but giggles from me the rest of that meal.
3. Transporting The Local Wildlife
Not only did we eat at Paula's, we also shopped at her store. When we went to our car, I went to put our bags in the back so that we could make our last Savannah stop, Bonaventure Cemetery.
I opened the back hatch door and saw a little sticker of a small, green frog on the inside of the door, the part around the seal. That's a weird place for a Peace Frog sticker, I thought.
Then the sticker moved. And I screamed. I'm not afraid of frogs per se, but when something you thought was not a living thing moves and it's in a place you don't expect, it's not cool, bro.
Jason came around the back to check out the situation. He wanted me to close the door to seal the frog in, but in its current position that would mean that I would crush him, so I resisted. I mean, I knew that the frog is a goner anyway, 'cause a hot parking garage in the middle of Savannah was clearly not his natural habitat. But seeing as how he survived the space between the door seal for no telling how long, I figured he was a hardy specimen, and far be it from me to willingly kill it.
So we chased, trying to get him to hop out.
No luck. The dumbass leaped and crawled into a pocket on the back of Ainsley's seat.
I got the giggles at that point, because it was just so absurd. How in the world did we end up transporting a frog from Hilton Head Island to Savannah, Georgia, without it jumping into one of our laps, causing instant death and much screaming?
Jason was not amused.
"I hope it jumps out of there and right on you," he said. He really wanted me to close it up. He can be such a killjoy sometimes. Why in the world would he not want the fun and excitement that comes with driving 45 minutes with a real live, frightened frog hiding in the back of your car?
Ainsley was surpisingly cool about having a frog in the pocket behind her seat. Oh, to be five.
We journeyed on to Bonaventure Cemetery, which we didn't tour so much as drive by, and then we headed back to to condo.
Our plan was to leave windows cracked, hoping he would figure a way out since he figured a way in (and the how of that still baffles us, as we had left everything shut tight.) But then the storms rolled in, and we had to leave all windows up. We just knew the sucker was going to die in the car. And Jason was not happy that he would probably crawl somewhere unreachable to die and we'd be smelling rotting frog corpse the rest of our vacation.
The next morning we stopped down at the car on the way to the pool. Through the windows, we could not see him anywhere. When he was hiding in the pocket, we could see his wee little head poking out.
On a whim, I asked Jason to open the hatch door. That's where we found him in Savannah, no doubt trapped trying to get in or out, so instinct told me that's maybe where he had gone again.
And when we opened the back door, his tiny lifeless body tumbled out. He had been so close to freedom, but instead died a miserable death.
I felt terrible. I should have shut the door on him in Savannah and squished him quick. My own soft spot for non-spider animals caused him to suffer.
But of course every other time we rode in that car, we looked out for attacking tree frogs.
That's all I have to report about Vacation, 2008. We came, we saw, we swam, we got a little bit sunburned (my poor little toes aren't going to be the same after missing them with my sunscreen one fateful morning at the beach.) Someday we'll get back. Someday I will eat fresh shrimp and Paula's collard greens again.
Someday soon, I'd like to think.