Word of advice: Do not stop at a Florida Turnpike service center if you are hungry and thirsty and a fresh fruit stand is set up to resemble a pleasant farmers’ market–complete with samples of the sweetest oranges on the planet. If you do, you will end up with a cute netted bag of petit Candy Bells–a quarter bushel bag, that is, because that’s the minimum you can buy. That’s about a quarter bushel too many, because all you and your daughter really want is one orange each. But you are so hungry and so thirsty and the sample tastes so good, you spend $12.95 on a quarter bushel of oranges anyway.
RG Daughter carefully peeled us multiple oranges on our three-hour drive to Disney World. That’s right, our 950th trip to Disney this year, it seems. RG Daughter had suggested this last-minute visit in order to cheer me up at “the happiest place on earth” after what seemed like another–and this time, certiain–ending with my one-day-at-a-time boy. With my stomach clenched in a perpetual knot–something I had never before experienced, and which RG Daughter promised would go away “in time”–I wasn’t much company, but I was willing to eat tiny bites of the sugary oranges she offered me en route.
“We’ve eaten so many, but the bag is still full!” she groaned as we approached the Swan hotel. “No way can I eat another one.”
But she gingerly held the heavy bag on her hip as we grabbed our overnight bags from the car. “My God, it’s like we have a baby with us, this thing is so heavy,” she laughed.
“Oh, they got you, didn’t they?” commented the front desk clerk who checked us in.
“What?” I asked. He nodded toward the bag RG Daughter balanced on her left hip.
“Oh! Yeah, but they are so good. Try one,” I said as RG Daughter followed my lead and dug two out of the top of the bag.
“No, no, I can’t,” he said. But we would not take no for his answer, and plunked them down on the front desk despite his protests.
And so began the orange giving, an activity that would continue into the elevator, where multiple pieces of the fruit were offered to a computer repair guy.
“We should drop them on the USA Today newspapers in front of everyone’s room,” I told RG Daughter as we walked down the long corridor to our room.
“Uh, no,” she laughed. “They would know it was us. I don’t think Starwood would approve of us handing out unauthorized oranges, Mom, after the lobby scene.”
With the quarter bushel bag of oranges tucked safely away in our room, we headed out to Epcot on day one and Animal Kingdom on our second and last day, RG Daughter always smiling and laughing and trying to cajole me out of wanting to throw up every five feet. “Seriously, Mom, you will feel better soon. I know from this.”
Funny how many times I seemingly empathized with RG Daughter when she had problems with her once long-time boyfriend. When they recently and finally broke up after several years, and he immediately started seeing someone else, and RG Daughter had to face him and the girl in class every day at their small college, I told her, “Now I get it.” Because I did.
It is the most excruciating feeling to be ditched, dumped, told you’re not it–whatever. I had never known this until my foray into South Florida. And I had never known how physically painful a breakup could feel until the first guy I actually allowed myself to honestly put faith in–my day-at-a-time boy–and I had another panic attack with one another, and he said we were done. Not until I could barely keep food down and found nothing, absolutely nothing fun about Disney World or going out or getting up or doing one damn thing whatsoever, did I ever get it before.
Remember the boy back in June whom I thought was the be all and end all when he stopped calling? Ha! Chump change, kindergarten, training wheels.
With my heavy mood as palpable as it was a physical weight in my chest, we gathered our belongings to check out. RG Daughter once again carefully kept watch and hold over the net bag of Candy Bells. “Oh my God, what if they all just spilled out and rolled all over the place?” she laughed.
When we left the elevator and entered the lobby, a hotel manager-looking man pointed at RG Daughter. “Lots of oranges you have there,” he smiled.
“Wait, here, take some,” she replied, hastily putting three in his hands.
“Thanks!” he said. “Happy Holidays to you.”
RG Daughter and I looked at each other. “Okay, we give them…” I started.
“…to everyone we see,” finished RG Daughter.
The same clerk who had checked us in was there again to check us out. “Here’s two more for you,” RG Daughter offered, placing two oranges in front of him. This time he happily took them without argument.
“And a couple more for everyone working the front desk this morning,” I smiled, grabbing multiple handfuls of oranges and scattering them along the front desk. Everyone accepted them, no polite refusals at all.
When we walked past the bell desk, two young guys asked why we had excluded them in the orange gifts. They each got three. The guy who took our valet ticket? Two more. The gentleman who actually retrieved our car–easily three in addition to a tip. If I hadn’t had a Sunpass to breeze through the toll gates on the way home, we would have given them to every toll collector. As it was, we had managed to get rid of half the quarter bushel just to hotel staff. Not bad!
And for a brief moment, my stomach relaxed ever so slightly. “I think giving away the oranges had to count toward some karma, don’t you think?” I asked RG Daughter.
“Definitely,” she said.
As the drive wore on along a singularly boring stretch of road, I made a decision, which I shared with RG Daughter. “I am moving to the Keys,” I said. “I am taking that crazy job and making my life quiet and peaceful again.”
“Of course you are,” RG Daughter said, because she despises my South Florida lifestyle and most of the social contacts I have. “And it will be just right for you, at just the right time.”
And much, much later that night as she slept and I did not, and as I paced my room and agonized that my day-at-a-time boy and I had ended it all on such a harsh and angry note, I positively jumped when my text message chime sounded on my iPhone.
In the quiet of the parking lot and later in my apartment, we talked about how horrible we both had been to each other, about how this latest uproar was started by me in a terrible way and finished by him in an equally ugly manner. How could this be, we wondered to each other, when we care so much about each other?
Maybe we are okay now. Maybe. But only maybe. Much damage was done. I have long-buried insecurities that make me insane when he doesn’t seem inclined to want to be with me as much as I want to see him. He has much frustration with this, willing me to “please don’t be crazy about that,” even as I always seem to be. It could well be a deal breaker.
“You should move to the Keys,” he had told me before the latest upset. “I will follow you.”
“I am moving to the Keys, anyway, you know,” I told him on this night of another hope for getting it right. He seemed surprised.
“You told me to, remember?” I reminded him.
“If I can get a job there…” he started to say, but I stopped him.
“No promises, no plans, as much as I would love that,” I told him. He seemed to get that. We both did, in a sad kind of way.
Because I am making this move for me, for better or worse, and whether he is with me or not. If I move to the Keys and he follows me, then it was the right move, and I will give us the best shot as I can at being together. If I move to Keys and he doesn’t follow me, then it was still the right move, and I will give myself the best shot at moving forward once again. I hope we eventually find our balance, but I am certainly not pushing anything.
Truth is, I have to go forward toward a quieter time and finally, finally begin to allow myself time to heal from the pain and guilt I feel every day about the reality of what I did by leaving RG Husband and breaking up my family. It is long past due that I search that specific chamber of my heart, make peace with it, and live more simply for the next day.
Besides, I’ll be working with Upset Waitress. How much better does it get than that? When I see her tomorrow and we try to find me a place to live, she’s getting a half of a quarter bushel of oranges and some sweet Disney princess pens for us to use when we write down our orders. That should provide almost enough karma to hold us all for a while, right?