The Clampetts at the Marriot (2)
Mom and Dad kept us in church and expected us to never miss a service unless there was vomit, watery stool, a very high fever, or possibly blood involved. However, said blood had to be shed from the ears as the result of a violent head injury, you had to be "puking" from both ends and that fever better be causing grand maul seizures or by crackies you were NOT missing the sermon taken from Romans and the choir special that would no doubt bring the congregation to their knees not only in worship but utter repentance. We rarely missed; if we did there was a phone call from a deacon asking if someone in the immediate family had passed on to Glory. My parents took the verse "Train up a child" to heart perhaps more than any other in the red lettered book....and I'm more than grateful to them for it.
Any extracurricular functions to be had by Chase and I were never missed. If they happened to occur at the same time, well, that's what two parents were for. And when they showed up, they pulled out all the stops.
I'll never forget my momma wearing that hideous "diamond" "GO INDIANS!" pin to every cotton pickin' football game for SIX HOCKIN' YEARS. She was always covered in Murray County green and her "spirit buttons" of Chase and me....from head to toe. My dad all but painted his bald head green and white. To this day I'm convinced that my momma screamed the loudest for her beloved number 82 Indian son and her band nerd Indian daughter. After every ballgame on football friday nights we'd congregate by the field house and wait on my football hero baby brother to appear, sweaty, worn out and back then, a Murray winner.
Chic-fil-a provided sandwiches for the team and their families; we'd eat, talk about the game and every now and again Chase and I would head to the post game dance then on home to hang out with our parents and usually bring spend the night company with us. It sounds lame, but some of the best memories of my life, if not all of them, are from just "hanging out" with my parents. They were awesome; everyone wanted parents like mine and everyone loved my parents.
As cool as we and our friends thought my parents were, they still had their quirks; why was I so surprised when they showed their true colors on this vacation to beat all vacations?
Being awarded only one night at the infamous Marriot Bay Point Resort for the rich (now monitoring who and what makes a reservation from then on) we had to pack it up and head to our new place of rest for the remainder of the week in Panama City Beach. Welcome to the Ramada Inn, complete with a lagoon setting of a pool (enjoy the waterfall but no jumping) and a roll away bed for the extra person in your party. That would be ME. Yes, we were no in a hotel room. No longer a suite with precious privacy, but a room....with two queen beds....and a trundle. The only place for that dern trundle was right beside the backdoor that led to the beach. This spot was also about a foot and a half away from the bed my brother and Kris would be occupying. Every night I would wake up with a large smelly foot in my face. I never knew if it was Kris' or Chase's, I just knew it was BIG....and GROSS....and how the heck did it get that far over to me? The snoring was insane. All four of them. I'm just glad my parents found something to do every day to wear us out.
We had been in Florida for a couple of days or so when Mom and Dad got a wild hair.
"Let's take the kids para sailing! They'll LOVE it!!!" I heard them saying. For those of you who don't know, I am terrified of heights. Para sailing was not on my list of things to do before I died, which I was pretty sure would happen if I participated in it.
"It's over the water, you won't crash," Chase had said. Really. Coming from the one who stood right beside me at Six Flags and watched while our daredevil parents rode the Ninja. Yeah. Right.
"You're just as afraid of heights as I am, goober," I retaliated. We stared each other down and without words, the duel was set.
OH, IT WAS SO ON.
"I betcha I can do it, dufus" he proclaimed.
"Go for it, butt head," I retorted. So we immediately began looking for the best deal on para sailing.......ALL of us.
As I said earlier, we were vacationing with three other families. First we had the Loves: Curtis and Vicky (the parents) and their two daughters Holly, who was Chase's age, and Kelsey who was five. They too had brought along a BFF: Melinda Peeples who coincidentally happened to be Chase's flavor of the month. Next were the Ridleys: Ralph and his wife (parents, but I can't remember Mrs. Ridley's name to save my life!) and their two sons. Joch was in mine and Kris' graduating class at school and Jeremiah was also Chase's age. Again, a friend, Aaron Osborne, tagged along. There was another family whose names I can't recall, however, I do remember the son's name: Tyler. I remember Tyler because he would be the lucky duck to parasail partner with me and make sure I didn't barf on the sea life miles below my flailing feet.
I would never admit it to Chase but I was beyond scared; however, nothing could have ever prepared me for what would take place on the hunt for the "best para sailing deal."
"Hey, check out this add for Club La Vela," Dad piped in while we were eating breakfast at the Shoney's. "They've got para sailing.....looks like they might have a good deal.....???"
The boys and I just looked at each other, our mouths stuffed with bacon. Crap. Everyone knew that Club La Vela was where we watched every teen in America party till they passed out on MTV's Spring Break. Hot bods and loud music. I really hoped that my parents were not going to go there. It was no use hoping. They sprang their idea onto the other parents, while my crew and I cringed at the thought of being caught on camera and broadcast to the world. Please, God....let there be editing.
We all hopped into our cars, the Pritchetts in the used vulva of course, and drove on down the Strip to the Club La Vela. I held my breath but not for long; thankfully when we arrived not many cars were in sight. The giant parking lot was almost empty. A desert asphalt island.
Everyone in our party was bathing suit and sandal clad, all carrying beach bags stuffed with towels and SPF 1-50 as we climbed out of our vehicles and headed toward the entrance.
The club wasn't at all like what I had pictured. It was more or less like an over-sized tiki hut only there were actual 2x4 planks which made up the "walls" and floors rather than straw. The entire place was open and quite inviting, if a club can be so. At first it was dark then an explosion of light burst through the bar area which was in essence the foyer of the club. Laughter and the sound of water splashing came rushing from outside in the pool area. The salty air clung to my skin as I breathed in the smell of it and the sweet damp aroma of wood. In no time at all we were inches from the pool and feet from a very chiseled and HUGE body builder in a Speedo. I couldn't believe my eyes.
That should not look like....well, what it....looks like.
I'll leave the rest to the imagination, but I will say this much: I was mortified, especially being that close to my dad. Ick. As I scanned the pool and tore my now blinded eyes from the steroid machine I caught Chase and Kris sprouting chin hair at the wondrous sight they beheld. A long leggy brunette made her way past them, clearly aware of their gaping mouths and bugged eyes. She just grinned, knowing they were lusting after her huge........personality. The hot pink thong she sported, if you can even call it a bathing suit, was enough to grab the attention of everyone in the place; however, it left nothing to the imagination much like the Speedo covered protein shake in the corner of the blue watered pool. As she rounded the corner, in slow motion, and we all watched her slink into the chilly water, I noticed that nothing on this woman moved. Nothing. She was all plastic and proud of it. And her hair and skin were perfect.
(Record scratch!) Okay, hold it! Why on God's beautiful green earth are we HERE?! Aren't we the "church" family? Aren't we now viewing what's NOT even allowed on daytime television?! Does my self esteem need to take a nose dive?!?! NO!!!
I'd had enough and I was ready to vacate the premises. Who cared about para sailing deals anymore, I would do whatever they all wanted me to do if we could just find a more family friendly atmosphere with NO half naked Barbies and GI Joes. I turned to my parents to express my opinion and the WORST sight I've ever witnessed stood right next to me. There, for all the world to witness and see, were my "cool" parents.
Mom stood at the entrance next to my dad holding the beach bag and shooting invisible daggers at the cheeky wonder in hot pink butt floss. She had a blazing white sun visor on her head and a pair of sunglasses covering her eyes. At this point in time, Mom was PRE lapband so she was still wearing the "granny" bathing suits with skirts. Lord, help us. It was black, "Because black is slenderizing," she always told me. The bodice was splashed with tropical flower designs and from the waist down was that "slenderizing" black skirt, gently blowing in the breeze. On her feet were a pair of rubber leather and bamboo design sandals that Melinda's mom had brought her from Hawaii only a few weeks before. Her toes were painted that never changing Cajun Shrimp by OPI Nail Laquer which matches every shade of pink, orange and red any female carries in her wardrobe. Heavenly Father, can this get ANY worse?! Yes. And it did. I leaned forward for sympathy from dad but he was of no help, and, God love him, was worse off than my mom.
Dad, who doesn't tan very well, stood there white as a ghost, with sunburned pink forearms and the video camera in hand taping the famous Club La Vela. The place known for it's seaside location, sand and surf, overflowing alcohol, and beautiful people was now going to be known as the place where parents showed up to cramp everyone's style and kill their buzz. I don't drink and I never have but I would've given my right arm for a shot of whatever was on tap at that moment. I raked him over. He was wearing a straw hat, the kind that retirees wear on the golf course so they can avoid sun stroke. On his nose he bore the shame of all beach goers: a bright white stripe of SPF 50. On his back he wore the dreaded tropical button down short sleeve shirt, complete with flowers and his red swim trunks. It was almost as if he and my mom were trying to match. His albino looking feet were strapped with a pair of brown leather Birkenstocks, a gift I'd brought back from Germany for him three years earlier. To complete this walking fashion faux pas was a fanny pack wrapped around his waist.
They were both a tourist cliche right out of the "worst dressed" section of the Enquirer; the only thing missing was a scrunchy and a road atlas.
I don't know if it was the club, the blistering heat from the sun or the fact that I was in the presence of Zeus and Aphrodite, but I had never in all my days been so utterly humiliated. It was a live sitcom. The real National Lampoon's Vacation was my family, my story, my life. I stood and stared at the two fashion wonders and pondered how to kill myself should anyone ever see me or find out. Chase and Kris had already jumped into the pool and were plotting a way to make "friends."
I took a deep breath and turned to face my parents and express my need to leave. They looked back at me and smiled with sheer unadulterated happiness. I stared into their faces and in an instant I couldn't have been prouder of my two incredibly cool parents. There we were on a real family vacation for the first time since I was in the 5th grade. They were proud to be my mom and dad and overjoyed to see their babies so happy. Gosh, how they wanted the world for us, and just to see us free as birds that week was enough to make their hearts soar higher than any cloud in the sky. It had always been about us; "us four and no more." My family was intact, happy and we loved each other unconditionally and regardless. Regardless of fashion dos and don'ts, regardless of differences in opinions and attitudes. In an instant I saw just how blessed I really was and I was already para sailing.
I put my arm around my daddy. "What?" he said, a half smile stretched across his sun kissed face.
"Thanks for bringing us here, Daddy. I love you."
He squeezed me back with one arm because the other was still holding the camera. Mom smiled and said, "Let's head to that place down from our hotel; they're cheaper." So, we packed it up, against groans of longing from Chase and Kris, and headed back down the Strip. It was the third day before we went para sailing, but we had so much fun that second day we didn't really care. And yes, Chase and I both did it and lived to tell the tale. It was one of the best experiences of my life and I can't wait to do it again.
My family's always been very vocal and passionate; as much as we loved each other we argued from time to time. But that week we didn't argue a bit. I watched as my parents stood in the surf together or laid on the beach side by side, holding hands. They would always take time to look at each other in the eyes as if to say, "I love you and I'm having the time of my life with you" even if they couldn't vocalize it right then.
We took pictures and we ate out. Bacon was its own food group every morning at breakfast that week. Chase and Kris would literally pile one plate six inches high with nothing but bacon. We played, all of us, until we couldn't play anymore. We gooney golfed, road the banana boat, swam, ran, went sky coasting, had chicken fights in the pool, rode go-carts, and even went to a haunted house....you name it, we did it. There were more activities that we took part in than any family could have fit into a week, but we somehow did it.
While playing gooney golf one night my dad was videoing and narrating as he always did. He zoomed in on Curtis Love's face and asked the question "What do you have to say to the folks at home, Curtis?" as if he were a reporter hitting hard on the story of a lifetime. As cliched, as tourist corny and as southern as he could possibly sound, Curtis replied with two thumbs up on either side of his hearty red cheeks and summed it up better than any of us ever could, "We're having a great time here in Panama City Beach!!!"
At night we'd lie in our beds and the whole family would talk in the dark....well, Chase and Kris would fart and we'd all laugh until our sides hurt and tears of joy stained our pillows. As busy as we stayed, every single night before my eyes looked their last at the evening sky my mom and dad's voices would ring out, "We love you, kids. Hope you had fun today." The three of us would smile and fall asleep to this last thought before we'd awaken the next morning. Oh, the excitement of wondering what blessings the sunrise of a new day with these wonderful and amazing people would bring.
|(L-R) Curtis(who was unaware of the photo op), Tyler, Kris, Chase, Jeremiah, Me, Melinda, Holly, Aaron and in front: Kelsey|