Gosh, spring break is going by wayyy faster than I’d like it to–I can’t believe it’s already Wednesday. My goal is to finish editing the novel I’m pitching at the Writer’s Digest Conference this year by the end of break, and at the moment I’m about 90 pages in out of 358, so we’ll see how this goes.
Anyway, this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a memoir that I wrote a few years back for my AP English class. The prompt was to describe a place that has special meaning to you.
Warning: this has had no editing or updating since I first wrote it. (As in: this is first semester junior year stuff. A LOT has happened since then.)
I only had one week there, and I spent most of that week beyond its walls, but it came to symbolize everything about that trip and everything about happiness. It was an airy stucco house in a Floridian suburb just outside of Orlando. There was a swimming pool, game room, and kitchen decked out in the latest European decor. In all reality, it was just another vacation house rented out every other week to another group of indolent tourists. However, to me, it became home.
I used to go to Florida all the time when I was little. My great grandmother had resided there for as long as I could remember before finally moving to Michigan when she was around 98.
We were back in Florida, for the first time since then, because she died at 103.
Her husband was buried behind their church and she wanted her final resting place to be beside him. This should have put a damper on our vacation. The very first day back in Florida and we had to bury Grandma. A wildfire broke out across from the church while the funeral goers arrived and a midafternoon thunderstorm shook the windows and lashed the ground during the ceremony outdoors. Everyone slipped in the mud and managed to ruin their black dresses and suits in the stampede back inside.
However, something about beginning the trip like this – so depressingly (and messily) – made the rest of it seem even better, because of the contrast.
I remember everything in little snippets: picking my bedroom, going for a swim with my mom and uncle, beating my cousin at air hockey, and strumming my guitar while sprawled on the smaller of the two off-white couches with my feet resting on the coffee table covered in Disney and Universal pamphlets. Perhaps the best, and clearest, of all of the memories is that of waking up sometime around 9:30 one morning and leaving my room in shorts and a tank top to find the rest of my family lazily going about the combined kitchen and living room area. Uncle Greg was on the larger couch, watching television and drinking coffee, while my father did the same from the nearby armchair.
“Good morning, Julia,” Mom greeted me, smiling and looking well rested. My grandparents sat close together at the glass kitchen table and ate bowls of Cheerios and sliced bananas, smiling serenely.
“’Morning,” I replied, moving to the island and pulling out a bowl and spoon. I liked the feel of my feet against the smooth, cool floor.
“Remember to put on sunblock,” Mom called when I retreated to my bathroom for a shower a little while later.
“Yup!” I grinned, just imagining the day ahead.
It’s funny how fondly I look back on that house, because I was sick for a lot of the trip. I scratched my right eye and had to walk around with it closed and burning for an entire day. One evening, after dinner at Disney World, I got such bad cramps that I couldn’t stand and had to be pushed around Tomorrowland in a wheelchair for the next few hours before we returned to the house. I remember watching fireworks over Cinderella’s castle from where I sat doubled over in pain. For just a moment, I was brought back to summers when I was little, and the pain seemed a little less.
The entire thing was a rather nostalgic experience. I waited in line for nearly an hour, one day, among squealing five year olds, to ride Dumbo. While at Islands of Adventure, I spent the better part of the afternoon revisiting Camp Jurassic. I chased anoles, sucked down ice cream, and laughed freely for the first time in months. All of the tension that Grandma’s death, school, and everything else had heaped onto me sizzled out like a doused flame the moment I dove into the pool for the first time, splashing water nearly all the way to the grass.
When we pulled out of the driveway at the end of the week with our minivan packed to breaking point with food and possessions, I stared as the house disappeared beyond the rear windshield. Flash, blink, we went around a corner and it was gone. The others were relieved to go home, but sometime during that week, something had shifted within me.
I wasn’t going home. I was leaving.
By the way, if you ever find you have a sudden craving to like a Facebook page and you also want to make me immensely happy, feel free to take out all your liking-needs on my new page: www.facebook.com/juliabyersauthor Thanks!
See you tomorrow for a new chapter of This Is a Book!