WHAT SHOULD we have for dinner next Thursday night? Maybe we should order ribs? Pizza?
The Prince and I are headed to Florida next week along with Baby, her Personal Prince Pete and Grandbaby Wesley. Friday is my sister Jeanie’s birthday and we’ve rented a little house that the owner says is just “two football fields down the beach” from her condo.
It will be more bustle than we need, shopping and cooking our first night, and thanks to the anti-vax lunatics in Florida, we won’t want to go out.
Also, thanks to Covid, it will be the first time Wesley, who’s now 1½, will meet Jeanie and his other great aunt, Bonnie, and her daughter’s family, who live nearby. We didn’t expect everything to boomarang as it has, with Plague Part II. But Jeanie’s been ailing, the plan has been made, and we’re going.
Itchiness for this trip has been building all summer, along with the fear of hurricanes. Baby and I trade messages.
“I can’t wait,” she says.
Waiting makes the trip that much sweeter. The heart beats faster at the thought.
When I was a kid, we took a lot of short vacations throughout the winter—long weekends spent in Nassau, St. Thomas, Barbados, Puerto Rico. Dad loved the Caribbean—the white sand, the clear water—but could rarely tear himself away from his office for more than a few days at a time.
As wonderful as these trips were, they always felt like they were over before they began. Mom would get a call on Friday morning: “Pack the bags, we’re leaving tonight.” And poof, we’d be back.
He did dictate our lives, even if it was in often fabulous ways.
I was thinking of those trips the other day, how nice it would be to just up and jet off to a magical place on a whim. But then I reconsidered.
What was always missing was anticipation: the weeks I now spend waiting in a happy trance, floating in a scented tub, eyes closed, lost in blue-water daydreams, which will make the eventual vacation seem that much longer and more enjoyable.
We do know pretty much exactly what to expect (even hurricanes, we’ve lived through several) so there’s little possibility of disappointment.
It’s a fine beach Jeanie lives on. Juno is just north of Palm Beach and south of Jupiter, a long narrow strip along the ocean, too narrow for much building. There’s a sprinkling of condos, and hidden covens of private homes that line the bewitching oceanfront. Days can go by in the off-season, summer months, when not a soul can be seen. Winters are a tad livelier, though not by much. Sea turtles famously nest here, undisturbed. They’ll start hatching in the next few weeks and if we’re lucky we’ll see hatchlings stagger on new legs across the sand to the ocean.
Baby will go diving. My Prince will pick up rocks to take home; he always does. “They’re thousands of years old,” he’ll marvel, eyes as wide as an 8-year-old’s.
“Yes, honey,” I’ll say (thinking them ugly). We could build a rubble wall around our house with the bags of rocks and shells he’s brought home over the years.
When I’m not wallowing in the water, I’ll find plants. There’s always something. Sometimes it’s at Lowes or Home Depot, a tiny tropical you can’t find around Washington. Or I’ll pinch plants as I walk about, wrapping them in a wet bathing suit and a plastic bag for the trip back.
They’ll be little sprigs for a long time (if they live at all), like the key lime bought at the airport newsstand five years ago that refuses to either grow or die. As with everything else in the flower borders, much of the pleasure is in the watching, waiting, hoping.
The summer garden, planted out with carefully nurtured, nursery-bred flowers and shrubs, is certainly lovely. But how much sweeter is the coaxing, and occasional satisfaction, of growing something a little risky or rare. Something plucked and brought home, that has no business being here. The staring at the top of a (potentially) fabulously scented plumeria and wondering whether the damn stick will finally bloom this year.
Waiting is such a pleasant torture.
And Baby says: “Ma, would you stop ending articles like this. You just run out of words and stop.”