Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Summers

It's my first week doing the IndieInk challenge. Prompt follows the post.

"Summers"

Does anyone else measure their life by their summers?

When I was eight years old my family started going to Nagshead for a week every summer... just like every other family in the Richmond metro area.

It was always either Nagshead or Myrtle Beach, am I right, kids?

Anyway, we went with the McNallys who had a son, Steven, who was my age. His parents were great friends with mine and at night I would fall asleep on the trundle bed downstairs with cool sheets wrapped around my brown legs, listening to them laughing upstairs, playing spades. My parents really loved spades. They were a dynamic duo when it came to cards. No one could beat them. No one even came close.

They were very proud of this.

Those were great summers. We would go to the beach all day... I remember driving by the incredible dunes the outer banks are so famous for and being in awe of all that sand. We'd wake up early to hot donuts on the kitchen table that my dad had picked up. At night we'd ride bumper boats, go-carts, play miniature golf. Eat. Eat. Eat. Sleep the kind of sleep you can only get on vacation... the kind you can only get when you're eight years old and have no idea what you're in for.

Before you know that being good at cards is not enough.

**************************

When I was twenty two years old I was spending my summers at a completely different beach.

Oh, Panama City Beach, how I miss you! Days spent sleeping in until noon after nights of easy intoxication with beautiful southern boys from places like Altoona, Valdosta, Birmingham, Troy, Mobile. They were as disingenuous as any other boys in any other state but they looked and sounded so much better when they were lying to you.

My friend Karri and I would drive down the strip in my Jeep Cherokee and just wait to see who would be the first to approach us. That was how it was there and still is today to the best of my knowledge. (At least I HOPE SO) You didn't have to look for the good times. They walked right up to your car and they were usually wearing a ball cap and khaki shorts. My kryptonite at the time.

I lived in a little white house with blue trim on the west end of the beach. Worked in a cheap beach motel that had been around since the 1950's. The Fiesta Motel. The furniture was Golden Girls wicker, the comforters were moldy. People always complained about the palmetto bugs that were everywhere. The place was a dump and a half. But it was on a beautiful stretch of white sand beach so people complained but never left. It was worth the cockroach infestation for the view alone.

I worked with a woman named Kris who had fibromyalgia and loved crystal meth. We would put the "Be Back in 15 Minutes" sign up for three hours while we went down to the beach to drink left over hunch punch and stare at the tourists wearing bathing suits they shouldn't have been. Bless their hearts. Kris would get high in the bathroom while I did the daily audits. We made a great team.

I worked the swing shift so the night was always when I felt alive. It was my happy hour. Hunch punch! Boys! Skinny dipping with both! Peeing in the sea oats just because we could! I was twenty two years old and I had the entire world to throw away if I wanted to.

It was one of the best summers of my life.

********************************************

July is my mom leaving. I was 13 years old the night my dad found out about The Other One.

I'll let your own imaginations run with that. I don't have the stomach to even write the details of that unfortunate night. Poor Dad.

My memory tends to be fuzzy regarding that month in general. It was a very strange month for me. Sure, my parents split. Big deal I guess. Sure it was a catalyst of sorts. It defined my adolescence. Perhaps my life. I remember being in church either before or after The Incident and being itchy just to do SOMETHING to just get this shit UNDER CONTROL.

So I ended up practically lurching myself forward out of my pew and getting saved. My grandma was really happy that although I was "going through hell on earth I would at least be on my way to heaven." I remember standing next to Pastor Frakes as he asked the congregation if they were happy about my leap of faith and listening to their choruses of "AMEN!" and feeling happy I did it. That I had something under control.

I was going to heaven, y'all!

Afterwards we had Ukrops chicken salad and White House Rolls washed down by caffeine free Pepsi. I remember floating on my back in my grandma's pool hoping that maybe me being saved would save my parents' marriage. That it could save my father.

I would love to say that it did.

***************************************************

My first summer in Las Vegas was hell.

I still had my Jeep but the Jeep did not have its air conditioning. I would roll down the windows for some sort of relief and all I would get was what felt like a blow dryer hitting my face. On high. That was manufactured in hell. By Satan's Daddy.

It was horrible. I wanted to die every time I had to drive anywhere. I couldn't touch my steering wheel half the time. I don't know if you know this... but the steering wheel is important to be able to touch while you're driving.

July is also meeting my first husband. I still hate the fact I have to say "first husband." I truly am white trash. I met him in a bar which makes this story even worse. He had on khakis (KRYPTONITE) and had dark hair and dark eyes. He was also sober, a condition I would not see him in often.

I guess I mention that because its important. Its important I had a first husband, I guess. I don't remember much else from that summer besides being with Chris and swimming with Steve and Nikaela. That was the summer they fell in love as well.

I guess my point is that summer is a great time to fall in love with the wrong people. Summer is a tricky bitch like that. Especially the Vegas summer.

************************************************

The first time I ever got drunk was in the summer time. So was my first make out session (hello, Brian Taylor!) Actually, both happened the same summer. The summer of 1999. The summer after high school graduation. The summer of firsts and lasts.

Wow. How cheesetastic was that last line?

If that summer had a taste it would taste like Miller High Life and pickles. It would smell like wet grass. I remember every night being an adventure. Because when you grow up in a place like Mechanicsville you DO have to make and choose your own adventures. I have never lived a summer like I did the summer I was 18. Walking down the road next to my house at night past the cornfields. Driving to Tappahannock with Jessica Weiss at 1 am because we were too bored and sober to think of anything else to do. Sitting on a sweaty bar stool at the cash register at ServiStar Hardware talking to old men about lawnmower sparkplugs and how pretty they thought I was. OBVIOUSLY two of my favorite topics of discussion

Swimming in my grandma's pool at night. Driving around in Whitney Beck and/or Jamie Baughan's mustang listening to pop music and laughing. LOUD. Going to Friday Cheers and feeling SO COOL for being there. Falling in love with three different boys at the same time... none of whom knew who the hell I was... or worse, they did know. And they didn't love me back.

Being 18 and thinking you were going to be alone the rest of your life.

I miss that kind of melodrama.EVERY.THING. MATTERED. And meant something. Every day was soapy and beautiful and full.

But the hell if I would ever go back there for anything. It was all too very... much.

**********************************************

The tail end of last summer my Dad and I drove cross country together in my brother's Mitsubishi Eclipse.

I would love to tell you it was four days of daughter/Dad bonding with a beginning, a middle, and heart warming end. But this is reality. We went without fighting all the way to Kingman, AZ. But then I wanted to stop at Cracker Barrel and Dad thought he would be able to get to AMARILLO, TEXAS by that night. Um... unrealistic much? When we had to stop in Gallup, NM he was all pouty. He was in such a hurry to get from here to there... which, of course, is understandable. He was ready to see my brother. My brother had been in Iraq for almost a year. Dad was ready to stop jumping every time the cell phone rang. He was ready to see his son.

It wasn't all bad though. We sang a lot. When we could agree on the radio station. We argued over routes a lot. He finally handed me three Tylenol PM and begged me to take them, "at least so I can get through Texas, Alison. I mean FUCK." We had a heated political debate near Texarkana and at one point I was positive he was going to leave me behind outside of Memphis.

But we made it. In a little less than 4 days we made it to the Old Dominion.

The next day my Dad got to see his son. It was, if not the best, one of the most memorable and vivid days of my life. There is something to be said about seeing one of the top three people you love in the world come off a plane after being away in a dangerous place for almost a year.

I remember Dad saying "He's home now. We're all here. We're all alive and life can move forward. My son is home!" Its like my Dad had been holding his breath for 12 months and was now finally exhaling.

If I had known that day that a year from now my Dad wouldn't be with us any more I don't think I could have taken it. Some days, even now, I still can't take it. Shit, its why I am writing this bullshit now. It's like my life is now spinning around the day he died, spinning and twirling around that event. I would do anything, pay any amount of money, give any organ or limb, to have that horrible road trip back... to have that summer back.

Anything. That is the personal hell I live with. That as much as I want to relive these events, to warn the people in them what's heading their way: I can' t. No one can.

******************************

So anyway thanks for reading if you made it this far. My prompt was from Lazidaisical (her blog is awesome.) It was "What would your own personal hell be like?" I wanted to be funny and talk about the DMV but this is what came out. I sent my own prompt to Blackbird who did an awesome job with the quote, "It's Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been."

12 comments:

  1. Wow... Welcome to the challenge. Powerful piece. You're a great writer. It's hard for me to write about my family; but Indie Ink brought it out of me my first week, too! Funny we both wrote about summers, also; and I've spent summers in both Texas and Vegas so I was really drawn in and feeling your words here. Great, great job.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You have such a way of putting the reader right smack dab in the middle of your scenes. Great job.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Soulful, direct, and guts on the page- God I love this piece.
    Each scene builds to the next open window in the narrative.
    Leading me to missing my Dad and feeling sweaty summers of my past.
    Thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Your stories are so vivid! I'm glad you are taking part in something that will cause you to write more often...so I can read more.

    Looking back I always think of high school as carefree, but that is hindsight speaking. You are so accurate in saying at the time EVERYTHING MATTERED. I didn't drink until after graduation too.

    I'm glad you have your memories of your Dad to get you through the hard spots. I can't imagine how it feels losing a parent.

    ReplyDelete
  5. what a lovely way to take us on your journey. you write so well. great response to the challenge. stick around!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you! I plan to, this was really fun! And I am a new fan of your blog!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thank you, Sarah. Yeah, I think people forget that although high school might have been a little more care free- we didn't have the knowledge to even realize that at the time. Thank you for such kind words!

    ReplyDelete
  8. Wow, thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Thank you so much, Caroline. Dads leave such an empty hole once they're gone, don't they?

    ReplyDelete
  10. Oh my gosh, thank you!! I am so glad fate gave me your prompt! What a compliment coming from you! I LOVE your blog, and your piece this week had me in stiches, I even made my boyfriend read it. (Although of course he couldn't appreciate it as much as a gal could but he laughed too!)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Relax. I talked about the DMV on your behalf :)

    This was amazing and ridiculously well written.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thank you!!! Hahahaha, you had your boyfriend read it?! Haha! I, too, am so glad fate gave me you to prompt! I'ma keep checking in with ya, you seem cool! And you're a great writer!

    ReplyDelete