A year earlier . . .
July 9. Ashford, Georgia. Ninetyâ€"four degrees. Ninetyâ€"seven percent humidity.
It gets crazy hot in the South in the summer, but itâ€™s worth it to have such short, mild winters. I like most all seasons and climes. I can get into an overcast drizzly autumn dayâ€"great for curling up with a good bookâ€"every bit as much as a cloudless blue summer sky, but Iâ€™ve never cared much for snow and ice. I donâ€™t know how northerners put up with it. Or why. But I guess itâ€™s a good thing they do, otherwise theyâ€™d all be down here crowding us out.
Native to the sultry southern heat, I was lounging by the pool in the backyard of my parentsâ€™ house, wearing my favorite pink polkaâ€"dotted bikini that went perfectly with my new Iâ€™m-not-really-a-waitress-pink manicure and pedicure. I was sprawled in a cushion-topped chaise soaking up the sun, my long blonde hair twisted up in a spiky knot on top of my head in one of those hairdos you really hope nobody ever catches you wearing. Mom and Dad were away on vacation, celebrating their thirtieth wedding anniversary with a twenty-one day island-hopping cruise through the tropics, which had begun two weeks ago in Maui and ended next weekend in Miami.
Iâ€™d been working devotedly on my tan in their absence, taking quick dips in the cool sparkling blue, then stretching out to let the sun toast drops of water from my skin, wishing my sister Alina was around to hang out with, and maybe invite a few friends over.
My iPod was tucked into my dadâ€™s Bose sound dock on the patio table next to me, bopping cheerily through a playlist Iâ€™d put together specifically for poolside sunning, comprised of the top one hundred one-hit wonders from the past few decades, plus a few others that make me smileâ€"happy mindless music to pass happy mindless time. It was currently playing an old Louis Armstrong songâ€"â€œWhat a Wonderful World.â€ Born in a generation that thinks cynical and disenchanted is cool, sometimes Iâ€™m a little off the beaten track. Oh well.
A tall glass of chilled sweet tea was at hand, and the phone was nearby in case Mom and Dad made ground sooner than expected. They werenâ€™t due ashore the next island until tomorrow, but twice now theyâ€™d landed sooner than scheduled. Since Iâ€™d accidentally dropped my cell phone in the pool a few days ago, Iâ€™d been toting the cordless around so I wouldnâ€™t miss a call.
Fact was, I missed my parents like crazy.
At first, when they left, Iâ€™d been elated by the prospect of time alone. I live at home and when my parents are there the house sometimes feels annoyingly like Grand Central Station, with Momâ€™s friends, Dadâ€™s golf buddies, and ladies from the church popping in, punctuated by neighborhood kids stopping over with one excuse or another, conveniently clad in their swim trunksâ€"gee, could they be angling for an invitation?
But after two weeks of much longed for solitude, Iâ€™d begun choking on it. The rambling house seemed achingly quiet, especially in the evenings. Around supper time Iâ€™d been feeling downright lost. Hungry, too. Momâ€™s an amazing cook and Iâ€™d burned out fast on pizza, potato chips, and mac-â€™nâ€™-cheese. I couldnâ€™t wait for one of her fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh turnip greens, and peach pie with homemade whipped-cream dinners. Iâ€™d even done the grocery shopping in anticipation, stocking up on everything she needed.
I love to eat. Fortunately, it doesnâ€™t show. Iâ€™m healthy through the bust and bottom, but slim through the waist and thighs. I have good metabolism, though Mom says, Ha, wait until youâ€™re thirty. Then forty, then fifty. Dad says, More to love, Rainey and gives Mom a look that makes me concentrate really hard on something else. Anything else. I adore my parents, but thereâ€™s such a thing as TMI. Too much information.
All in all, I have a great life, short of missing my parents and counting the days until Alina g