I’m on a flight to South Carolina. Today is Friday. Our articles are due on Thursdays. It’s not easy to come up with a story every month. I guess that’s why writers walk around in over-sized gray sweaters brooding.
I boarded the plane, stared blankly at my laptop, had a dry granola bar and …
We took off for our 35th annual Orange Beach trip this past last weekend in July. We like to go when it couldn’t be hotter with 100 percent humidity and at the height of mosquito and beach fly and flea and jellyfish season. The trips are changing though from what they began like in the eighties with a Daddy, a Mama, and two children under eight. We went in a white Chrysler minivan with faux wood panels that had captain’s seats for us with the kids in the back-back playing I Spy while the middle seat held a tiny bit of luggage and monogrammed beach towels that are still used today. It was comfortable and exciting and we played the same music every year on a cassette tape. It was a mix tape with Bette Midler’s Do You Want To Dance, The Judd’s rendition of Elvis’s Don’t Be Cruel, and Connie Francis’s V-A-C-A-T-I-O-N. Thirty-five year old Jacques recently asked what the other songs were. That’s how great it was, and now we can’t remember. I cooked round steak and white beans for supper and our tradition of spaghetti and meatballs on Wednesdays while their Daddy took them to the pool at night. Nothing like a pool at night. Nothing like swimming up to those lights. The condo was new and spic and span because I vacuumed and mopped and washed clothes everyday and cooked every night and delivered chili dogs and quesadillas to the beach in the evening after which they showered and watched movies we toted with us. Over the years the movies went from cartoons to Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte, Blue Hawaii, Dial M for Murder, Jailhouse Rock, Rear Window and Barefoot in the Park. We weren’t annoyed with the birds sailing in for scraps, the kids were fascinated with the hermit crabs, and the beach was quiet and mostly empty. The trip there was just as much fun, holding their breath through the tunnel, checking out the USS Battleship Alabama, stopping at the Burris Fruit Stand in Loxley for tomatoes and corn and melon, and their very first glimpse of the gulf. It was a little slice of heaven, those weeks were.
A few years back we added on a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law this past July, a granddaughter, a grandson, and my niece and her family. We can’t all travel together anymore which I miss. Emily and family fly in from Chicago and my niece and family fly in from Dallas and I ride with Jacques and Courtney. My captain’s seat is history now. It’s been replaced with a spot smaller than a pin cushion where I rest my feet inside my fifteen quart Magnalite surrounded by beach toys, floaties, rafts, a potty seat, beach bags and towels, black iron pots, the rice pot, wooden spoons, cutting boards, a blender, Community Coffee, Evangeline Maid Bread, take and bake pizza from Deano’s, boudin from Legnon’s, crawfish tails, chicken patties from Breaux’s Mart in Lafayette, shrimp, a baseball and gloves, our knives and a spatula. Condos never have good spatulas. Jacques drives now and we listen to Paul Simon’s Graceland the entire way there and back whether we like it or not. He also does most of the shopping and cooking now with Courtney’s help and my wise-to-me but probably annoying-to-them two cents. I’m still allowed to make my chicken salad and our famous mud pie all by myself, though, and we still watch the same movies and have spaghetti on a Wednesday night. It’s more hectic now for sure but so much more fun having a larger family under our tent that’s mostly occupied with ice chests full of exotic blender concoctions, and I marvel at the fact that little Eve and George bring me back to those trips in the eighties with my two little ones donned in Donald Duck bathing suits dusted with sand and seaweed and stained grape juice lips and remnants of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. I’m grateful for this splendidly quirky, always fun, always hilarious family I’ve been given. It was a little slice of heaven that week was.
The plane arrived as I ended this article. I might have to start flying every month.
PHYLLIS BELANGER MATA was born at the old Dauterive Hospital and grew up on Wayne Street. She is a 1974 graduate of Mt. Carmel Academy and is a chili dog “without the wiener” aficionado.