Friday, October 8, 2010

We ain't from around those parts

I recently found this saved on my computer. I wrote it last December--it made me laugh, so I figured it was worth sharing.

We (my mom, dad, sisters and I) went to Chestertown for a few days; sort of a wedding anniversary trip for my parents...with the 3 kids along as a bonus present. I know they found it incredibly romantic. "What are we doing next?" "Where are we going now?" "I'm cold." "I'm hot." "My feet are cold." "Get your feet off of me! God!" "Where are we going now?" "Do you have any lotion?" "I'm thirsty." "Does anyone have a mint?" "I need to go to the bathroom again." "Where are we?" Yes, the 3 kids ARE all over 16. And yes, we (meaning my two younger sisters, not me of course), still sound like that.

Oh, you've never heard of Chestertown? How about Betterton? No? Umm...does Still Pond ring a bell? Rock Hall? No? That's okay, too. I saw a t-shirt once that read "Where the hell is Betterton?" on the front. On the back it said "It's 12 miles from Still Pond." That's a knee slapper.

Ever seen the movie "Runaway Bride"? You know the town in that movie? That's about half an hour away from Chestertown. Don't worry, it's not like the town in the movie. It's smaller. We used to go there a lot because my grandparents had a condo in Betterton. It's fun in the summer: deserted beaches, swimming in the Chesapeake Bay, swimming in deserted swimming pools, hunting for sea glass, long walks around a tiny little town while whistling the theme song from Andy Griffith...those were the days. In the winter, however, it's a little different. Or rather, it's the same, which is the problem. Deserted beaches, walking along the Chesapeake Bay, looking at deserted swimming pools, hunting for sea glass, long walks around a little town while whistling the theme song from Andy Griffith...all while it's 30 degrees and windy and damp and occasionally raining.

My Grandfather doesn't have the condo anymore, so we were staying in a Holiday Inn with all the duck hunters that come down 'round those parts this time of year. They started the continental breakfast at 4 AM so those men could get out early and shoot them some nice mallards. I've never seen so many men in camo, and I've never heard anybody so loud, either. Some of the duck killers must have stayed above us, because around 4 AM, we heard them tramping back and forth across the floor. They must have walked back and forth at least 20 times in their mud boots, probably banging the butt of their gun along the floor as they walked. It's always nice to get in an elevator with 2 men in camoflauge holding rifles that come to their waist. Kind of makes you want to either a) wait for the next elevator or b)flatten yourself against the opposite wall of the elevator. As the men were friendly and I didn't want to appear rude, I opted for the latter. I thought I was doing pretty well in hiding my anxiety: I didn't stare at the guns and I managed to smile, I just also had myself flattened to the wall. My mom gave it away when she said, "We'll ride with you so long as you're careful not to shoot us." With 4 women flattened to the opposite wall and falling over one another to get as far away from them as possible, I bet they had no idea we were a little nervous.

The best time, however, was when we went into the country store/liquor store/restaurant. There aren't many places left where you can buy a six pack of beer, a cheeseburger, a piece of coconut cake, handpainted oyster shell Santa Clause ornaments, and greeting cards all in the same place. We didn't initially go there for lunch, we went to go to the bathroom. See, we had already stopped at the country store in Betterton--the one with the green ham slabs sitting out, but they didn't have a bathroom. So my mom asked "Is there anyplace you know of that we can use a bathroom between here and Rock Hall?"

"Between here and Rock Hall?" the woman thought, clearly puzzled. "Here...and know, I don't think there is. There's really not much between here and there, and I don't think there's any place that would have a public restroom.'m pretty sure there isn't anything between here and Rock Hall. Sorry girls!" she said cheerily. "It's too bad the corn's been cut, you could've just used a corn field. That's what I have my grandkids do."

*Please keep in mind that all of this is true. I kid you not. This actually happened. Go ask the lady in Betterton; she probably remembers us.*

So we started driving to Rock Hall, and about half way, we ran into this country store place and decided it was worth a shot. Whatever possessed my dad to send 4 women into the country store during hunting season by themselves, I have no idea. We were greeted by about 12 pairs of elevator eyes dressed in full camouflage. They took one look at us--and I mean ALL of us, and you could tell they knew we weren't from 'round those parts. My mom asked if there was a bathroom, and there was, around back behind the kitchen, through a door on one hinge, up a slight incline and tilted to the left, with a toilet that shifted to the right when you sat down. There was no toilet paper or paper towels, but there was a nice prayer you could read as you went to the bathroom, and another to read as you washed your hands. Strangely, they had nothing to do with asking God to prevent you from chapping.

We ended up getting lunch from there because, well, you never know when you're going to come up on a place like THAT again, and no one died of salmonella or ptomaine poisoning. It was actually a pretty good tuna fish sandwich, I have to say (but of course it was was Betty and Joe, and they've been there since they were kids and their parents owned the store, or something like that).

It really was a nice vacation, all in all. We all even managed to get along most of the time. At least, everyone still has all the body parts they left with. A change of scenery does everyone good. It was freezing cold and windy and wet, but my mom loves looking for seaglass, so we did. For hours. On three different beaches. And then we went in an antique store and my mom shopped. For hours. Talked to the man who owned the store about Ironstone somethingorother plates forever. Then we had dinner, came back to our hotel room around 7, and my mom flipped channels on the TV for about 3 hours until we went to bed, only to be woken up at 4 by the hunters upstairs. I guess they were saving their soft walking and stalking skills for the birds.

One night, we were all hungry at 9:15, so we went out to get something to eat. Mind you, for my family, this is HUGE. We just...don't go out at night. Ever. Even at home. Period. That's something you just don't do. So we were excited. Bouncing off the walls sort of excited. We were suddenly entering uncharted territory. Who KNEW what would happen? Well...upon asking the hotel clerk where we could go, we learned that everything was pretty much shut down by 9, but Daphne's was probably still open. Daphne's was literally across the street, but we drove, because it was dark and cold, and we didn't want TOO much of an adventure. Remember: hunters with elevator eyes, potential ptomaine poisoning, and frostbite on the beach are okay...going out after 8 is still the unknown. So we drove to Daphne's and ordered cheeseburgers and milkshakes and soda and stuff and then we drove back, with my mother in a foul mood, and my sister angry about one thing or another. It was 9:30. I guess you have to start small. I ended up with just a soda, because Daphne's didn't understand the meaning of the word vegetarian, so out of Our Big Adventure, I got a small Sprite. We had dried pineapple rings in our hotel room from home, and I tried to tell myself it was exotic, but it didn't really work; I was still in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere drinking Sprite and eating dried fruit while watching a made-for-TV Disney movie about a boy who decides he wants to do double-dutch instead of boxing.

In a strange way, of course, I really did enjoy it, in spite of my sarcasm, because this is just what my family does. We go to tiny places no one has heard of in the off-season for places that don't even have an in-season, we walk in the cold, shop in the cold, eat in sketchy places, and watch Disney movies. We ride around in the car and look at birds, bring home a boat load of beach finds, go "in for the night" at around 7, and never listen to music in the car because my mom says she can't hear and see at the same time. It's what we do best. How can I not love it?