All Corsa vacations are preceded by a moderate disaster.
One time we had to rush our French Bulldog to the emergency vet for a costly, time-consuming overnight visit that resulted in a diagnosis of “bad gas.”
Another night before leaving on a trip, my husband’s car stopped working.
Stomach bugs, pink eye, even a massive “bomb” dropping onto the hood of my car from the monkey puzzle tree in front of our old bungalow. It never fails.
This time, I take the dogs to get their vaccines so they will be up to date for a week at “camp” and the vet notices my Boston Terrier has a hematoma on his ear that will need to be drained.
Tack on 300 more bucks to what was already a hefty bill and my last day before vacation will be spent rushing him to and from the vet. (not to mention he will be wearing the cone of shame while being humped by strange dogs. Double shame.)
That night I also get ridiculously sick. So sick I call in to work at 3am. Yet, my boss text messages me at 6 in the morning and basically begs me to come in anyway.
I am miserable.
I haven’t washed my hair.
I can’t speak.
I end up leaving early to go to an after-hours clinic for a Z-pack.
While in recovery, I somehow develop a massive swollen gum in the space where my 4th wisdom tooth would’ve been… if I had one there. (but, I don’t) Now, I am kicking off my vacation with wicked jaw pain.
We’re on Cuban time, so my husband and I race around packing and dressing the kids (no small feat) (they have small feet) but then have to sit around wasting time for hours until the rest of the clan is ready to go.
Even then, we must depart in a group.
We’re going in separate cars, but it’s the soldier’s creed. No man left behind.
Anna Maria Island is beautiful and quaint, the vacation house ideal.
There’s a lagoon-like pool with a sometimes operable waterfall and a minimal amount of beach sand collected on the bottom.
We are two blocks from the beach.
This should be a great vacation, except for my aching jaw, endless stream of snot and the sensation I have plummeted instantaneously into the 1950’s.
I end up trapped in a bedroom with two insane children hopped up on VACATION, jumping around the bed we’re all expected to share while my husband is downstairs watching the World Cup.
Maybe it was the fear that this was going to become the anticipated routine.
Maybe it was the burgeoning revelation that the entire trip was secretly orchestrated to coincide with the World Cup in order to torture me.
Maybe it was all I could do to keep myself from racing through the home with a burning bra, but I stormed downstairs and demanded the keys to the car to go for a drive.
The next morning after being pummeled all night long by bony elbows and knees, awoken by the sound of my son grinding his teeth in his sleep and the pain in my whole face… I’m still ready to tackle my pre-women’s suffrage duties and help cook breakfast for the house of 12. (My family, my in-laws, my sister-in-law and her boyfriend, her two kids, his two kids and one teenage friend of her son)
I remember that they cook their scrambled eggs with oil while I opt for butter or butter spray so they’ll probably find mine bland and inedible. I decide to go for the bacon and start to get the pan when my mother-in-law says, “You need to put it in the microwave first.”
I mentally throw my hands up and avoid cooking bacon for the rest of the trip.
The next day at the beach, Mother Nature valiantly came to my rescue.
I am obsessed with sharks. Terrified of them, adore them, secretly hope and dread for encounters with them.
The very first time I am watching my mother-in-law wade in the water with my daughter on her hip, I spot something unusual a couple of yards behind them. It looked like something pointy and dark sticking up out of the water.
Then there were two.
They were moving.
I walked toward abuela Corsa and made a hand motion for her to come toward me.
I could see clearly now there were at least two, possibly three sharks in the water.
I didn’t want to be “that guy” that shouts “SHARK!” and terrifies everyone at the beach. But, then again my mother-in-law is embracing my precious cargo and this scenario is like an unimaginable nightmare.
I remain calm even as my mother-in-law continues to demand to know why I am telling her to come to shore.
Other people see them too, so I have confirmation. These were not dolphins. I know what dolphins are. In fact, we saw some of those later in the day. Completely different swimming behavior.
The same day, we also watched a manatee lumbering along in the shallows.
Late afternoon, the summer storms roll in and I am watching them from our balcony. Billowing, fast-moving, dark clouds. Swirling, hinting at circulation. Palm trees whipping around like witches on broomsticks.
God bless you Mother Nature, you have shaken me from my stress-induced stupor.
The days that followed were filled with moments of joy, stress, hilarity and a healthy dose of awkward.
Perfect example of the latter: One of the said extraneous children along for the trip is about 9 years old.
He’s soft-spoken to the point of being irritating and even more bizarre than I was as a child.
He’s also a bit sneaky.
He and his sister appear to have some kind of arrangement that allows them to cheat and win at card games, hide each others’ crimes and possibly bury bodies in the backyard unnoticed.
At one point, my mother-in-law shouted that she saved me a piece of cheesecake.
Within a matter of seconds, I watched the boy grab the last piece and stick it inside an orange Dixie Cup so nobody would know he did it.
The night before I watched him go for some cheesecake in the freezer and when he saw me watching him, he rushed to open the freezer and put it back but his chicken-like arms were too weak to open the door.
He squeaked out a strange animalistic cry of frustration, like someone squeezed a rabbit REALLY hard.
To add insult to injury, a short while after he purloined MY piece of cheesecake, he shit it back out in the bathroom ATTACHED to our bedroom.
He is a Junior, so they call him “Tito.”
He shall henceforth be known as Cheesecake Tito to me.
Here’s another good one: In the afternoon, my husband was on the beach mercilessly teasing my sister-in-law and mother-in-law because they have decided they believe mermaids exist. Their scientific proof was viewed on a television show.
That night we’re playing Apples to Apples with the whole family with the exception of my sister-in-law’s boyfriend. He’s apparently holding some kind of grudge because he lost a game years ago to me over the definition of “The Big Bang Theory.”
So, while we’re playing we hear the sound of harmonious singing pouring from the open door to his room. It was like the bewitching melodies belted out by sirens, the ones who lure sailors to their deaths. The mermaids!
So, my husband says “He’s in there, unfurling his mermaid tail.”
I don’t know why, but this made me laugh so hard I almost peed my pants.
I am a chortler. Maybe the occasional guffaw slips out. I NEVER laugh that hard.
I was crying, I was speaking in tongues, I was HAVING FUN.
Then there was the moment we were waiting for the trolley near a church and the truly Cuban members of the family decided to pose for a picture.
We ended up in Downtown Anna Maria Island, which for the record, does not exist. We were meandering down neighborhood streets looking like lost Okies drenched in sweat.
But, there were magical moments.
I watched my daughter discover the joy of being slammed by waves, overcoming her perpetual fear of the ocean.
I saw my son kick around a soccer ball with the big boys until sweat was dripping off his little melon head.
I saw sharks, I laughed until I cried and I drank more beer than seems humanly possible.
Yes, I was impaled nightly by little kid limbs. I spent much time trapped in bed watching PBS kid shows on the lousy cable while everyone else screamed about the World Cup downstairs.
I got a sun rash and gained five pounds. (my weird tooth issue resolved itself after days of gargling salt water)
But, it’s still the best vacation we’ve had with the kids since they were born. Good enough that my poor son is still grieving.
I am too.