There are seven days in a week, which equals out to 168 hours. It was the last day of vacation, and only about five hours remained of the original 168 we’d planned to be gone until we would pass back through our door at home. I believe vacations were designed for sticking your head in the sand for a period of time to forget about everything going on in your life around you. Then, when you emerge above the sand, you can gain an appreciation for the fine element of oxygen flowing through your lungs once again. Our recent vacation was very much like that.
Prior to our return to the land of oxygen, we swam for seven days straight at the condo we stayed in. I remember many a trip to the lake or some such water hole as a kid in which my sister and I would splash about and enjoy ourselves while Mom and Dad spectated from the water’s edge. I never quite understood that growing up, but I understand it immensely now. Something about getting older makes me not relish the hassle of peeling off clothes, putting on a swimsuit, and dumping loads of sunscreen all over my very pale body just for the sake of getting cool and damp. Air conditioning does the trick for me.
We were on vacation, therefore, we swam. I use the word “we” collectively, because on many of our three-swims-a-day vacation days I was merely the lifeguard. The kids would swim their life away while I guarded a good book under an umbrella at the pool’s edge. After all, I wanted to do what I could to spare lookers-on from overexposure to my white flesh. I must confess, though, that I did hop in the pool with the kids a number of times, and after getting over being a grown-up, I had a good time flopping around in the water a bit.
Fun in the sun was the theme, and after several days of it you would think that Katrina and the kids would tire of it like I did. They did not. On every vacation there’s always the push to get that last little dip in the water, and this trip was no exception. On the night before departure, Katrina and the kids did a valiant job of making sure that we were mostly packed up and ready to leave so that they could all go for an early swim on the morning we were to check out of our condo.
At 8:00 am sharp, pool opening time, Katrina walked across the street to the pool to get a few laps in before she gathered the kids to have them join her. She returned promptly, dry as when she’d left, with a disgusted look on her face. She reported that they had closed the pool for the next three hours because a raccoon had decided to have a swim sometime in the night. Needless to say, the raccoon had not heeded the “No Lifeguard on Duty” signs and suffered the consequences, thus requiring the pool guy to treat the water for coon contamination.
Katrina’s coon news shot a hole in the swim plans so we had to come up with an alternate plan for the bathing suit clad crowd standing in the doorway. We decided that we would load everything in the van, check out of our room, and then drive to one of the other pools in the resort that we had been swimming at earlier in the week. This would put us getting home later, but it would sure make for a much happier group of travelers in the van all the way home. After all, we had only been to the pool about twenty times in the past week, so what was one more plunge going to hurt, right?
By the time we had loaded everything in the van and made our way up to the check-out desk at 10:00 am the sun was beating down on us relentlessly, reminding us that although we had had some very cool mornings that week, summer was not over. We then headed across the resort to the other pool and poured out of the van for a swim. A few other folks must have had the same idea as us on this fine morning and beat us (me) to the only shaded umbrella around the entire pool. Katrina and the kids didn’t seem to care since they had planned to swim, but that left me sitting out baking in the bright sunshine. I didn’t sit there long before I drug out the bottle of sunscreen, dabbing it on to protect my frying flesh.
After about an hour of roasting in the sun we brought the swim to a close and began the process of changing all of the kids into dry clothes and emptying their bladders for the three-hour plus journey home. Little Miss Olivia grew weary of all of our preparation, requiring us to offer her a steady supply of graham crackers and vanilla wafers to extinguish her fiery whining.
With the hour-and-a-half raccoon delay behind us and the last swim of the trip a memory, we loaded into the van and careened out of the parking lot. Although we had gotten away much later than I had desired, if we made good time we would still get home in the middle of the afternoon which would allow for plenty of time to recuperate at home before we all had to start our new week the following day.
The resort was in the rear-view mirror and everyone was getting settled in to where they would be shackled for the next several hours. The kids were watching a movie in the back and the only delay between us and home would be a brief stop at the Wendy’s drive-thru for a quick lunch on the way. Then came the overflow.
We couldn’t have been more than ten or fifteen minutes down the road when over my right shoulder I could hear Olivia gurgling. Katrina leaped into action, grabbed the roll of paper towels that I had brought for this purpose, and attempted to catch Olivia’s vanilla wafer river. As I said to myself in my mind “This can’t be happening” I began looking for a place to pull over. Ah, what better place to stop for a puke cleanup than at the nicest hotel in the area, The Chateau on the Lake.
Olivia waited patiently with her mid-morning snack in her lap as I pulled into the parking lot overlooking a breathtaking view of the lake. Katrina sprung into action and pulled Olivia from her car seat. Under the pleasant shade of a mimosa tree Katrina peeled the goopy clothes off of Olivia, I pitched in and began wiping cookie goo out of her car seat, and the remaining kids sat back watching their movie, unaffected by the event.
After a few short minutes we had wrapped up the cleanup effort with the skill and speed of a NASCAR pit crew. With Olivia strapped back in, Katrina managed to take a few seconds to admire the view of the lake while I was scanning the parking lot for a trashcan to dispose of our cookie collection. No trashcan was found in the immediate vicinity so we pulled a little closer up the hill to the hotel entrance and discovered a fancy little trashcan made especially for dog walkers. As Katrina hopped out to dump the goods I suggested that she grab a couple of the doggie-poop bags in case we had another incident in the van. She paused for second, looked at me as if she didn’t like the idea of one of our kids putting a dog poop bag to their face, and got back in the van empty handed.
Free at last, we left the grand hotel on the hillside, relieved that this short delay was over and hopefully our last. Two minutes down the road Katrina began looking for her sunglasses to no avail. As she rummaged through all the stuff in the van in her near vicinity I rummaged through my mind wondering else could go wrong on this trip. The farther away I drove from our last stop where she had misplaced her sunglasses, the closer I came to turning around and going back to the hotel parking lot where we thought she may have dropped them on the ground.
As she scrambled frantically looking I gave up and made a U-turn. Back to the hotel I headed. Then, the best news I had heard all day sounded sweetly in my ears as I gunned the van in the opposite direction from home. “I found them!” Katrina exclaimed.
Not far down the road I made my second U-turn in sixty seconds, glad once again to be headed for home. Needless to say, that was the last delay on the trip since the curse of the coon had set us back earlier that morning. Not long into the journey, after having stopped to fill our mobile bellies with some grease from Wendy’s, I donned my headphones, ignored crying and screaming, and raced us homeward.
Written by David Steen, with God Smiling, August 29-30, 2010