Monday, April 25, 2011

Florida, Seven Ways

It's sometime after midnight and I hear a clunk and then a cry from the bedroom where the girls are sleeping, so I roll myself off the pull-out couch and run across the cold tile to find her, disoriented and on the floor next to her twin bed.  I pick her up, tuck her back in, try to rig pillows all around and shove blankets into corners before kissing her forehead and going back to the couch.  At 3:44 a.m. she falls out again, poor thing, so I pick her up and carry her to the couch, clutching her blankets and Dumbo and water bottle, and settle her in next to me, shove a chair from the dining room table up against her side of the sloping, lumpy mattress.  She turns her body perpendicular and thrashes her feet against my torso until I spoon her, stroke her forehead with my fingers, whisper shhhhhh.  At 7:30 a.m. I open my eyes.  My parents and Annie are staring at us and the sun is coming up.


It's Saturday morning going on noon and the girls and I have been in the pool since 9:00 a.m.  The ledge next to the pool is littered with our things:  iced coffee from the store down the street, goggles, blow-up floaties shaped like turtles, sunglasses, sunscreen, hats, water.  Annie is balancing on as many fun noodles as she can commandeer until the imbalanced flotation sends her tipping sideways and under the water.  The girls talk my dad into getting in the pool with them, and they spend an hour chasing him, making up games, stealing fun noodles and racing him to the other side.

"You know why they're called fun noodles?" Jemma asks me.

"Why?" I say.

"Because they're shaped like noodles and they're fun!" she says.  She kicks away from me, balancing on two of them, as the sun blazes down from above and the chameleons seek shade in the crevices of a palm tree.


We have just plopped all our things down at the edge of the ocean and already the girls are heading into the water.  "Wait!" I call helplessly after them, but they are already charging into the surf, so I take off my cover-up and follow them out, grabbing Jemma's hand when I catch her.  We are jumping the little waves when we see it:  a fin, slicing through the water just yards away from us.  I am pretty sure it is a dolphin, but I am not a hundred percent, and I haul those girls right back to the sand as fast as I can while they yell their protests and questions at me the whole way.

We stand at the shore and watch the fin cycle in and out of the waves.  We see a wide, flat tail flap the surface and a cute bottled nose and I breathe again, let the girls go back in to their knees, talk about how special it is to see a dolphin right up close like this, practically swimming with us.


"What can we set out for the Easter Bunny to eat?" Annie asks earnestly.  I look in the fridge and find a stray, leftover ear of corn on the cob, which my dad confirms that bunnies love to eat.  We set it on the dining room table and put the little felt baskets I have packed on either side.

Annie gets paper, a pencil, writes a note.  "Dear Easter Bunny, I hope you like the corn on the cob.  We did not have any carrots or celery.  Love, your friend Annie."

In the morning they cannot wait to emerge from their room to find the plastic eggs full of jelly beans and baskets full of bubbles and Zhu Zhu Pets.  The corn has bunny-sized bites out of it, too.


We walk down to the beach to watch the sunset, our bellies full of ice cream and our noses a little pink.  The girls race ahead, then turn around to run back to us, then race ahead again until they reach the edge of the shore.  The sun is almost dipping below the horizon and for one minute they stand still, struck by the orange beauty of it all or maybe just tired from all that running, and they reach for one another's hand.


Every time we enter or leave the condo, there is an elevator ride involved.  They fight and negotiate over whose turn it is to push the buttons.  Every.  Single.  Time.

They brush their teeth at night, watching their warm faces in the mirror.  Annie turns her toothbrush to a new angle, reaching her back teeth, and Jemma does, too.  "You're copying me!" Annie calls out.

On the beach, they craft villages out of drip castles and shells.  Jemma stomps hard on all the piles of sand when she tires of the project.  Tears ensue.


Our flight home takes off just after 7:00 at night.  Jemma takes pictures out the window of the sun setting through the clouds, of the airplane wing, of the palms and the ocean below.  They draw, eat pretzels, watch the beginning of Toy Story 3.  Soon, Annie is asleep with her head on my lap.  Jemma balls up her blankets, makes a pillow to put on Annie's butt, and lays her head down.  She reaches for my hand and drags my fingernails lightly across the underside of her forearm, then her cheek.  She falls asleep, too, and this is how we arrive home, happy to see Jason's face when he pulls up to get us at the curb late on an Easter Sunday night.

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