Friday, January 21, 2011

Half a Grapefruit

I'm down to my last half-grapefruit.

As I write, it's been exactly a week since I landed back in snowy Detroit after nearly a week away in Florida with my daughter, my sister and my parents. We brought only carry-on luggage and our bags were pretty full when we left home, and fuller still after we filled them with the fruits of our shopping labours, so it's actually pretty remarkable that I still have citrus fruit left a week later.

We bought the fruit at a roadside stand my parents discovered, a half-hour or so outside Orlando. I think the place was to the southwest, but really I'm not sure. For me, directional uncertainty is quite a novelty. Normally, I'm the person who sits in the passenger seat, with maps spread open on my lap, enjoying the fun of navigating. But on this trip, I sat in the back seat, behind the driver, looking for armadillos, egrets, orange-filled trucks and mouse-eared hydro towers.

It was a good perspective, I tell you.

There was so much to fill my week. While we waited for my parents to sign the papers for their rental car at the airport, my daughter and I sat outside on a bench where all the diesel fuel from buses couldn't smother the fragrant warm air. She saw her first palm tree and I saw green after months of brown and white.

We went straight from the airport to an all-you-can-eat buffet. Actually, there they called it "all you care to eat" - avoiding those for whom proving stomach capacity would be taken as a challenge, I think. We sat at a table next to a Spanish runner who had just completed the Disney marathon. We ate as much as we could and tried to think of foods that were not on the menu. There weren't many omissions.

We swam - oh did we swim! We swam before nine a.m. on our first morning - noted that this would normally be the time we were putting on boots to trudge off to school. We snickered at that. We swam for four hours that first day - two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon. We discovered the pool that played soothing New Age music and the one that played jazzy Big Band and Harry Connick Jr.

We shopped. My mom has been going to Florida for 20 years on a regular basis and she knew the good places to shop. I found a cashmere sweater for 70% off and had to choose between three glorious pairs of shoes (words I rarely put together). Megan bought toe socks, earrings, smelly pencils, hair bands, hair elastics, gummy centipedes, tee-shirts, and presents for a friend. We waited until late in the week to choose a Christmas ornament - we always try to bring back something we can hang on the tree to remind us where we have been - until we knew what we wanted to remember. We wanted to remember an alligator.

We did see alligators too at Gatorland, a breeding place for prehistoric-looking creatures. The highlight for both of us there was the aviary of rescued parakeets: we were able to stand among the hundreds of brightly-coloured birds, holding a birdseed-encrusted popsicle stick and letting the little creatures alight on our hands and heads. It was surprisingly wonder-full.

We spent a day - just the two of us - at Sea World. I admit I had been nervous about taking Megan, on my own, to a theme park. They seemed like prime loitering spots for pedophiles, and who would hold my purse when I went on a ride? The reality was very simple and I didn't see a single pervert in the crowd. I got tears in my eyes when I watched the orcas and Megan whispered, as we walked out after the dolphin show, that maybe someday in her vet career, she'd like to work with dolphins.

My mother planned and cooked every meal - from banana and blueberry pancakes to a ham dinner. We only ate out a few times - including a memorable meal of chicken-fried steak at The Pie Restaurant.

We did the crossword puzzle together every morning, we played word games in the evening and taught Megan to play euchre.

Megan and I shared a room and I found her as delightful at the end of the trip as I did at the beginning.

As I say, I rode in the back seat. Both literally and, as it turned out, metaphorically. By metaphor, I mean that my life was so full and so fun for the week and there was so little time alone, that for once, I had no time or space to think.

Which is why where I found myself at the end of the week surprised me. There were three changes I made as we returned, every one of them instinctive.

First, when I finally got computer access to print my return boarding pass, I checked in on Facebook for the first time all week. My reaction: meh. I'm not quitting it 100%, but I'm going to acknowledge the social void I let it fill and look for other, better ways to meet that void.

Second, I got mad at my husband. My sweet husband who looked after our boys beautifully all week and then drove all day to pick us up. I was less mad at him and more mad at the way we have let ourselves fall into ruts that involve Not Enough Fun.

Finally, I spent an afternoon culling my wardrobe. I'm generally aware of colours and textures, but our shopping trips and a television show my mom watches had alerted me to the importance of shape and fit. I squinted as I tried on all my clothes, looking for the ones that actually fit, that actually suited who I am.

I sat in the back seat and we drove to the citrus fruit stand. We sampled fresh squeezed orange juice and carried away bags of fresh fruit, jugs of juice and even a small bottle of orange blossom perfume.

We're down to that last half-grapefuit now. But it's half-full and I'm even more than that.


  1. Susan, I think clothes are important--the shape and fit. I've noticed that since I started taking care to source and wear clothes that actually fit my body, I've gained confidence and assurance. At first glance, it seems like a superficial consideration, but I think it actually reflects the greater care than I am taking to tend to my inner self, too.

  2. What a great trip, what excellent perspectives and what honest reflections! They're valuable to those of us who sometimes mindlessly continued the daily grind...
    I'm heading away for a solo vacation Feb 3rd and wonder what kinds of stories, perspectives and reflections I'll have when I return? That's probably the most valuable result I can hope for!