One of the highlights of my Florida trip was a brief get together with one of the three women I consider to be my true mothers. Our reunion was surprisingly emotional for me – you know I’m no crier, yet that’s exactly who I became in her embrace. I can’t help but wonder if the sense of comfort and safety I feel with her is what most people receive from their own mothers. I’ll never really know for sure unfortunately, but how blessed am I to find it with someone else? Very.
Growing up, Sandy was my mother’s friend. Our families spent holidays together, eating Italian and Jewish and German specialties and playing backgammon for Marlboros. I’d never known a family like Sandy’s – around the table at Christmas you’d find she and her husband and their daughter. Also present would her two children from her previous marriage, as well as her husband’s son from his first marriage. Often, the father of Sandy’s older children would be there, too, with his son from his second marriage. There were Italians and Jews and my own little German threesome and it was the most wonderful thing imaginable.
Maybe that’s where I learned that the word “family” defies definition. I grew to understand that people came together because of love and that love evolves, sometimes changing form, but unfailingly remaining a force. Love was powerful and unifying, not destructive nor isolating. Love trumped anger and envy and was to be respected. That being said, I always thought that Sandy’s older daughter wished her mom was more like mine – structured, reliable and consistent. Naturally, I wished for a mom who was like Sandy, emotional, inspired by passion and inclined to relaxing in a bathtub with bubbles and maybe a joint.
As I got older, Sandy provided me with what my own mother could not – a roof over my head when our house burned down, encouragement to end a stagnating relationship, the confidence to believe that I could do anything. She convinced me that I was beautiful and smart and good and the trill of her laughter remains one of my favorite sounds.
We’ve been separated by hundreds of miles for many years now. There have been occasions, including a Thanksgiving decades ago when Sandy prepared an entire traditional dinner, threw it into the car and served it on a picnic table at the beach, when we’ve gotten together, but this recent visit was the first in far too long. For the first time ever I was able to take care of her. I selected the hotel knowing that she would get a kick out of staying at the Hilton on the beach. There was lunch poolside and talk and more talk. We caught up and found we were, despite all the changes and challenges we’ve each faced, as always, family. She’s truly the mother of my heart.
Yesterday was a long day. I mean like really long. Quinn and I did a 12-hour marathon tour of Disney beginning with the Magic Kingdom, hopping over to Epcot and then finishing our night back at the Magic Kingdom. We had fun even though the unrelenting sun began to make me feel like I was literally being baked by about 4:00.
I think I’ve done the Disney thing about 5 or 6 times. The composition of each of those visits has been different – with a friend and her family, with one child, my husband and his mother, with two children and my husband, etc. I don’t think two trips have been the same.
It’s impossible to walk around the park without encountering memories from past visits. There was the time Liam melted down on It’s a Small World because the stimulation overwhelmed his senses and his Dad had to hold him down. A favorite family* story to retell is about Griffin’s freak out on Splash Mountain when I had to hold him with all of my might to prevent him from climbing out of the log flume in terror. When the ride came to a stop, the first thing he said in a normal tone was “Can we do that again?” I don’t think so.
Yesterday confirmed for me that Quinn really doesn’t like rides – and I’m okay with that. We stuck to the tame stuff, not venturing anywhere near Space Mountain or that runaway railroad. We rode the carousel together and in my mind’s eye, I saw one of the few photos of myself from a previous trip. The nearby Dumbo ride immediately conjured an image of Liam and his Dad aloft. Good memories.
Mid-afternoon we caught the monorail to Epcot and that’s where he really shined. We went directly to the World Showcase and Quinn traveled around collecting stamps for his passport. Liam had displayed the same enthusiasm during one of our times there and I could picture him, passport in hand. I could almost taste the margaritas in Mexico, remembered from a previous trip, along with England’s fish and chips. I finally indulged myself in Germany, or Deutschland as Quinn likes to say, with an incredibly refreshing wheat beer flavored with grapefruit. I won’t forget that taste soon.
Around 7:30, as the skies began to darken with an impending shower, we returned to the Magic Kingdom. We were traveling against the tide as people made a dash for their cars before the skies opened up. I remembered being caught in a downpour years ago and smiled knowing I had packed plastic bags to protect my camera, a lesson learned that long ago day. We got a little wet, but the last hours of our day were the most comfortable temperature-wise. The lines were short and we quickly hit three more attractions before the fireworks commenced. Naturally, one was the Haunted Mansion. Quinn loved it.
*I say “family” because that’s what we’ll always be. Divorce changes it, but certainly doesn’t end it.
The first time I went to Florida was in 1983. I was 17 and we drove in a Winnebago, leaving New York on Christmas Day. I think we were in Maryland before the ice on the driver’s window thawed enough for the driver, my friend’s dad, to be able pay tolls without having to open the door.
The drive south was all new to me – the slow pace of the fast food workers, the miles and miles of hype for South of the Border, palm trees and the gin we dipped into after we drank all of George’s Heinekens. While the weather was a bit of a disappointment, I saw so many new things it might as well have been spring. My world grew.
The flight to Florida which Quinn and I took was not his first plane trip, but it has been a few years since his last flight. The awe on his face when the plane took off was unforgettable to me and worth every penny I will spend on our Mom & me adventure. Once we landed, he was a great helper as we made our way to baggage claim and the correct carousel, retrieved our luggage, located the car rental company with whom we had reservations, checked in using their kiosk and picked a car.
Despite the map app I used taking us a bit out of our way once we were on the highway, he remained excited and in good spirits. We decided to stop for a bite to eat, a couple of miles before we reached our hotel, and Quinn gave no argument about respecting my “no chain restaurants” policy. We came across a joint that looked promising and he had no hesitation at venturing into Andy’s Drive-in. It was classic and he soaked in the turquoise Naugahyde booths and squeeze bottle condiments along with his hot dog and milkshake. When we found ourselves needing a late afternoon pick me up the next day, Andy’s was his request.
Our hotel breakfast was buffet style and he happily made his own waffle. I encouraged him to start with only one waffle because he could always have more, but couldn’t put things back. We talked about not being wasteful and about other hotels he’d been to, the Embassy Suites in Alexandria with its fish pond being a favorite. We planned our day.
Often we return from vacation feeling heavy, like we’ve gained weight because we’ve overindulged. I’d like to think that at least some of that weightiness is the result of information and knowledge we’ve learned from our travels. Skills like navigating through an airport and along new highways, how to spot a place where the locals have been eating for almost 60 years and knowing how much is enough. As Mohammad said: “Don’t tell me how educated you are, tell me how much you traveled.”
Every year when it is time to drive west from wherever we happen to be on Cape Cod, I don’t want to leave. It doesn’t matter how much I miss my own home or that I already have a place booked for the following summer – I don’t want my beach time to be finished. As I approach the Sagamore Bridge I reliably feel my eyes fill with tears, which I don’t release, of course. I don’t need to further convince my kids that I’m getting soft in my middle years.
Each and every time I run through my neighborhood I witness cars running red lights. I’m not even talking about lights that are stale yellow, I mean lights that changed to red while the approaching car was at least a half block away. Red light cameras? Yes, please! People need to learn how to stop.
I am at the point in parenting when I very soon will have a household of boys who no longer indulge me by believing in any of the wonders of childhood. No tooth fairy, no Easter rabbit, no Santa Claus. All done. I’m taking a final shot later this month when my youngest and I head to a most magical place – Disney World. I’m hopeful that Quinn will be impressed by something there – the rides, the fireworks, the characters, and decide that believing is sometimes worth the suspension of reality. Dreams can still come true, right?
Image: hear the sounds
One of the things I most miss about being on vacation are the sounds – the remarkable buzz of the hummingbirds, the rhythmic pounding of the waves, the echo of my running feet on the sandy road. Each of those noises reminded me that I no longer was home in the DelSo and I grew relaxed by the music created by nature.
On one of my first days back, I walked down Delaware Avenue to meet a friend near Lark Street. As I made my way past familiar storefronts and homes, there were different sounds than those of which I had recently become accustomed. Music, aggressively booming from cars, the din of traffic, teenaged girls in loudly colored skinnies talking in Spanish, and the lilt of Burmese women speaking softly to their children. The stimulation and energy caused my feet to move a bit faster as I adjusted my pace to keep up with everything going on around me.
Last night’s violent storm, complete with powerful wind, hail and driving rain, prompted a completely different symphony of sounds. There were sirens as emergency vehicles rushed to various locations, the voices of neighbors checking in on each other and sharing the conditions of their basements and the steady drone of machines pumping water into the street. That last noise was what ultimately lulled me to sleep after a soggy run through the neighborhood surveying the storm’s impact.
Sight and smell seem to be the most frequently remarked upon senses, but random sounds and noises are equally powerful reminders of where we are and where we’ve been. Are there noises that particularly resonant for you? How did Tuesday evening’s storm sound out your way?
One, okay two, of the best things I put in my mouth while on vacation this year was pie from the Scottish Bakehouse in Tisbury. I think I’ve mentioned this place before and am happy to report that, like some favorite books from years gone by, this special bakery continues to satisfy.
When I rolled in to their parking lot in the late afternoon midweek, I was worried about what the remaining selection might be. Come to find out that the limited choices available for me were perfect – key lime and blueberry. Naturally, I took both, along with 2 peanut butter cookies, 2 chocolate chip cookies and a hunk of cardamom cinnamon coffee cake. Total: $54.00. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.
While my order was being put together, my attention was attracted by a woman wearing kitchen clothes. Turns out she is the chef (owner?) of the Art Cliff Diner at the Bakehouse to pick up their order of baked goods. See how it works? Good places source from good places, a truism always nice to see.
How were the pies? The blueberry pie with an intriguing hint of cinnamon was a simple pleasure. The fruit was tender and sweet and I thoroughly enjoyed the single slice to which I laid claim. I focused on the key lime, one of my all-time favorite flavors and one which they do a great job. It’s tart and tasty, sitting up tall on a graham cracker crumb crust. I’ve singlehandedly eaten almost the entire thing. I’m not sorry.
Now, let’s talk about the prices. When I first was presented with the total, I was a little taken aback. I don’t really buy a lot of baked goods, but it seemed a little pricey. I’ve been thinking about, though, and have decided that I’m really okay with the expense of my splurge. The quality of the items certainly justified the price and when you consider the brevity of the season, it seems fair. I highly doubt that anyone at the Scottish Bakehouse is getting rich off pie, you know what I mean?
I’ve got one slice of that key lime pie left. I’m calling it breakfast.
During the two weeks we spend at the beach each summer, we eat dinner out maybe a handful of times. Part of that decision is based upon practicalities – kids, expense, day drinking and driving, but the fact that we’ve been disappointed with pricy meals in restaurants with menus that attempt to satisfy adults and children, is the biggest factor in choosing either take out (less expensive than dining in with tip/adult beverages) or cooking at home.
All that said, there’s a place in Vineyard Haven I’d been wanting to try for a few years – the Art Cliff Diner. Sunday the stars aligned and the guys and I finally got there and we couldn’t have been happier. The Art Cliff is both a food truck and a stationary restaurant. We pulled into their shared parking lot at what seemed to be the ideal time, about 5:15. The restaurant wasn’t open for business, but the truck’s menu more than sufficed for us.
There were maybe a dozen options and we were able to find something for each of us – Liam chose the cheesesteak sandwich ($14?) which was as fine an example of that item as I’ve ever enjoyed. The meat was thinly sliced, maybe even shaved, with sweet onions and the perfect amount of cheese. The portion was more than generous.
For Griffin it was the pig on a roll ($8?), a moist pulled pork sandwich with cole slaw. He declined the chipotle mayo, but I’m sure it would have added a terrific kick to the tender and overstuffed sandwich. I also went with pork in the form of spicy pork taco. The soft flour tortilla ($8?) was complete with juicy pork, greens, a sour cream based sauce and green salsa. It was really, really delicious.
Quinn went with a
ho-hum hotdog ($4) which he thoroughly enjoyed and we rounded out things with two generous orders of fries – one plain and one dusted with grated Parmesan. The fries were fantastic and would make an awesome and satisfying snack solo at only $6.
Our total for a really high quality and nicely presented meal, with soft drinks was a fair and reasonable $57 before tip. I imagine their offerings change regularly, but can’t imagine ever being disappointed by their food. Have you been there? Tell me about it! If you haven’t yet, try it and let me know.