Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Cat and Mouse

In the sixties and seventies we were known as being a small family who got to alleviate their cabin fever every late winter with a trip to warmer climes.

Not to say that we were wealthy, we weren't. There was, in the way of offspring, only me, and I was ordered to order off the children's menu well after the age of six. Plus, being short for my age, which I still am, hoping that once fifty rolls around, I'll partake of that latent growth spurt, I was commanded to respond in the positive to "under six?" which of course meant a free extra body in the hotel room.

Also not to say that we were blessed with an abundance of leisure time. The old man was a workaholic. But he was an imported European workaholic. That meant he showed up on the continent with the requisite French-style take the month of August off vacation calendar. Not that he ever did. But he could have.

Which got us to the annual trek to Florida. On my mom's insistence, the old man would peel off two of the six weeks he was entitled to, we'd pack the car up and haul down to the sunshine state. Somewhere around 1964 we had found a small motel/efficiency that was clean, had low rates and allowed Mom to save a few dollars a day making breakfast in the room before we hit the beach. We'd have sandwiches at lunch, saving another buck or two and splurge at an all you can eat cafeteria in the evening.

If that sounds squalid, it wasn't. At least to a seven something year old who got dragged out of the Arctic circle (and school, provided I kept a page a day travel journal to pacify my teachers) every March to watch color TV in hotel rooms, swim in pools and scream hysterically when dragged into the ocean (that hasn't changed) by his confused folks. We thought he'd like the ocean.

Ah well.

Things changed. Money got tight and while the old man kept piling on vacation he also piled on a new boss who didn't appreciate time away. Finally the old man got a new assignment with a member of the family as boss and things eased up. He felt he should celebrate. Just like the old days, take the family to Florida for a few weeks. Soak up the sun.

That was all fine with me as I was now slogging through my last year of high school. But what I didn't realize was that, while my mom got it; a last family vacation before dimwit wandered off to college and we finally got the guest room we've deserved all these years, the old man thought we were going to re-live the past in all its glory. He hadn't quite wrapped his brain around my being eighteen.

Off we went. Two and a half days in the car to get to the hotel where I got my own room and got to follow the old man to the beach every morning. Then I'd lay on a towel, walk to the edge of the water a few times, swim in the pool and wind up at the bar before dinner. These were the eighties, I was eighteen if anybody's counting.

I'm sure Dad had a splendid time. We drove past the old motel we used to stay in. We ate at the buffet cafeteria (once) we used to eat in. He reminisced about all the things we used to do. Mom stayed quiet, I silently willed myself to get to the next day.

Not to be ungrateful, but my interests had changed somewhat. In Dad's worldview, I could still be placated with a toy car, bucket and shovel and beach. In my world, hand me a bucket of cold beers, shovel off and lend me the car.

After dinner, the folks would fire up the TV, I'd head off on a long walk until they were good and tired and then go to my room, allowing myself to lock the room to room door.

A couple of days into the last big family vacation, I took off on one of my late evening walks and started to circle the hotel we were staying at. I walked past a teen something talking to her mother, then circled back through the parking lot and ten minutes later passed the teen something still talking to her mother and then hit the beach and fifteen minutes later passed the teen something hanging out on the lanai alone and inquiring if I was going to say "hi" or something or keep passing.

Hi.

Her name was Katherine. She asked me to call her "Kitty" like all her friends did. She was from Chicago. She joined me walking.

I was enthralled. Kitty and I walked. We walked out to the beach, we talked, we went out for coffee and at last this last forced family vacation march looked like it had some promise. I had someone to hang with. Moreover, that someone was a girl!

Kitty and I exchanged room numbers and promised to get a hold of each other the next morning. Then we went home. I'm sure Kitty told her mom about the interesting but unusual fellow she had met the night before. I know I opened my mouth at breakfast just before the old man announced:

"We've never gone to Disneyworld, lets check out today and go."

It would have been impolite to spew pancake and melon in season, but I almost did.

Are you kidding me?

Disneyworld?

Did I tell you who I met last night? I'm not going to Disneyworld, I'm staying here in Kittyland. 'Cause God knows what magic kingdoms that will lead to.

No dice. Teen hormones shunted to the trunk, we struck out for Disneyworld. I got to tell Kitty and hoped against hope that we would return that evening but I knew I was deluding myself.
Not only that, but we took the only rest-stop-free highway in Florida. My over-riding memory of Disneyworld is pissing for five full minutes while the old man bought the economy pak of tickets.

Thanks Dad. We saw Disneyworld, Epcot, Land of tomorrow. I was kinda hoping for Kittyland, Tittieworld, Pussycountry, but THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN WRONG.

Kitty, I hope you're well. Console yourself. You ducked one hell of a bullet.

Bunny on.

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