Cousin Craig is back to share how he spent his summer vacation!
Growing up in our house included the obligatory summer vacation. My parents hoped our vacation time would bring us closer together, like the television Walton family. But John Boy and Mary Ellen were not my siblings, and Ma and Pa were not my parents.
One of my favorite vacation memories is the year my parents announced that we were going to Venice. After years of long car trips, with my siblings almost killing each other over who saw the Alabama license plate first and my Mom threatening not only to “come back there” but also “to rip off our arms and beat us to death with them,” I was beyond excited to escape the car for the friendly skies. My family unit would spend the summer in an exotic land! Oh, Venice! We’d float down canals, find romance, and eat pizza!
When the big day arrived, my parents packed our bags into the car, and we headed southwest towards the airport. However, disappointment and dismay set in when they didn’t merge towards airport departures. We were not on our way to the jewel of Italy; we were on our way to Venice, the retirement community south of Tampa, Florida. Oh, Venice. Residents average age, 63. “Oh well, maybe a piece of pizza is still in my future,” I thought, ever the optimist.
No family car trip is complete without singing. Our family favorites included a song about a man named Johnny Verbeck, who turns all the neighbors’ cats and dogs into sausages. Ultimately, his wife kills him. Another favorite was a song about a cat that wouldn’t die, no matter how many time the owner tried to kill him. And of course, we never missed singing about the goat tied to the railroad track. Along with not being the Walton family, we were not the Von Trapp family either. Nevertheless, we put our hearts and voices into every verse. I can still hear us belting out, “She gave the thing a heck of a crank, and Johnny Verbeck was meat!”
Our final destination was the Venice La Quinta Inn, which is listed as a must stay. Looking back, I’m certain that, when the 5 of us arrived, Venice lost the last tiny scrap of culture and refinement it was hanging on to.
I love a digression, so here’s a good one. My family unit consisted of five people: my mother, who has since transitioned into a grandmother and is now known as Granny; my father, who has passed away and has since transitioned into not being here at all; my brother, the first born and favorite son; and my sister, the first-born daughter and mom’s baby girl; and me. I was born a few years after my sister, no doubt a happy surprise and blessing.
Back to Venice—Venice, Florida. All five of us settled into our room at the La Quinta (family vacations are all about spending time together). We decided we would go fishing while on vacation so I made sure to visit outdoorempire.com and get some new fishing gear that we needed. The next morning was beautiful; the sun came out to greet us, like it does 365 days a year. In Florida, a day without sunshine seldom happens, and when it does, it’s called a hurricane. Then my sister and family head to Disneyworld . . . wait, I’m digressing again. Anyway, the day before us was vacation perfect. If I had known better, I would have taken this as an ominous sign. Instead, happy-go-lucky me grabbed my beach towel and followed my family to the beach to search for shark’s teeth and shells.
Shark tooth hunting is hard work. I began to get thirsty (keep in mind that this was in the day before parents followed their kids around with water bottles). This meant that I would have to trudge uphill (both ways) to and from the hotel room for a drink. Then, I came up with a better idea! Always thinking, I began to satisfy my thirst with great gulps of water from the Gulf of Mexico. Mmm, warm, salty water—what could be better? I had a great time, for about another forty-five minutes. Then, I started to feel a bit queasy. I will protect you from the details here, Odd reader. Suffice to say that the sheer volume I ejected and the distance I sent it were both prodigious.
As my luck would have it, pizza was on the menu that night for dinner. It was a rare treat, and my mouth watered for some, but my stomach was firm in its resolve to stay empty for at least 12 more hours. Left-over pizza the next morning would have to be good enough. That night, I feel asleep dreaming of my morning pizza and how great it would be to not have to taste it twice (once going down . . .. Well, you know what I mean).
The next day, the sun again rose, but I did not. I slept in and rested up, all the while my mouth watering as the faint smell of pizza lingered in our room. Finally, I couldn’t stand it any longer and jumped out of bed to grab my slice of pepperoni heaven. The pizza was gone! I immediately let out a blood curdling “MOM!,” found her on the beach, and rushed to tell her that someone had stolen my pizza. Calmly, she replied, “We ate it this morning while you slept.” I tried not to cry, but after all, I’m only human. I wanted my pizza.
My mom was a master at inventing water games for us to play at the beach. One favorite was a game she played with my sister called Nemo, which was named after the Disney classic about the submariner who rammed his victims with a ship. Can you see where this is going? My mom and sister would ride their raft across the waves looking for any unsuspecting old farts that dared to invade the gulf shore that day. Once a senior fart was in sight, they would position themselves behind the target and wait for the waves to push them into a collision. Just before impact, they would scream out “NEMO!” and then take out their prey. My dad kept score, and my brother and I were the cheering section. “If an Old Person Can’t Stay on Their Floaty, They Should Stay off the Beach” was our family vacation motto.
We celebrated our last night of vacation by once again going out to dinner (not pizza). While we waited for our dinner, my brother (somewhat of a shit disturber) pointed out that my sister never ate what she ordered and that she always left food on her plate. A wager followed—if my sister ate everything on her plate, my brother would make the beds in the morning; if not, my sister would do it. The food arrived, and my sister dug in. She ate and ate, until even the picture on her plate was half scraped off. Looking up triumphantly, she cried out, “Done!,” but my brother pointed out that the garnish still remained. Was that food or not? My mother said that it was edible, and for my sister to complete the meal and win the bet, she had to eat the garnish. My sister is not a quitter. Filled with determination, she grabbed the garnish and shoved it in her mouth. Chewing furiously, she swallowed the last bit of greenery and shouted, “Hah! I beat you! I win!”
“You’re an idiot,” my brother said. “We’re staying at a motel. The maid makes the bed!”
On the car ride home, I reflected on what each of us had learned during our family time together. I was wise for my years. I learned that salt water is not for drinking and that you should never trust your family when it comes to food. My sister learned that garnishes are edible and that maids made the beds in motels. My brother learned that he could still outsmart both of us (at least on that trip). My parents learned that we are not the Walton Family. But then again, there was always next year’s vacation.
This post is mostly true. I am certain of it. Cousin Craig forgot to share that Venice, Florida is the shark tooth capital of the world! I wonder if he found one? Wait, wouldn’t the shark have to be pretty close to shore to lose a tooth in order for you to find it???
Stay tune–next post is about our new set of wheels and then Craig will be back!
Odd Loves Company,