Thursday, July 27, 2006

The Lap Of Luxury

By nature I’m a bit of a planner. A list-maker. And while I like to think that I’m just a person who wants to be prepared, I think there’s probably a little OCD in the mix. I mean, I am a person who typed out an itinerary for a SPRING BREAK TRIP in college, so basically, you know, I’m crazy.

So last Thursday, when certain aspects of Paul’s condition started to come to light, I started to make some plans. It wasn’t anything maudlin – just the pending matters of What To Do With The Child, How To Get To Jackson, When Would We Go To Pensacola, etc. Practical stuff, really.

When we first heard about funeral arrangements and realized that there was going to be a second memorial service in Paul’s hometown, Polly Planner here went straight to the phone. I called a hotel chain, asked about their properties in the area, and made a reservation. I knew that some of the girls would want to go, and I figured we would need a place to sleep. Being proactive was oddly comforting to me.

Late Monday afternoon, after the first memorial service in the town where Elise lives, Tracey, Merritt, Wendi and I got in the car and set out for the Mississippi Delta, which is such a unique place geographically and culturally that it deserves a blog of its own. Since I’m a girl who grew up in the piney woods of central Mississippi, I just can’t do the Delta justice, but it was always one of my favorite places to visit when I was in college. It’s a place where family is everything and cotton is king, and I’m fascinated by every single aspect of it.

It was getting late when we finally got to the hotel, which I won’t mention by name but may or may not rhyme with Barefield Binn, and it seemed like a pretty nice place, all nestled up against the Mississippi River levy, only blocks away from the church and the cemetery we’d be visiting the next morning. It seemed functional, efficient, practical – exactly what we needed.

But I think maybe the first indicator that it wasn’t quite time for me to pat myself on my planning back was that our "doormen" were a couple of stray cats who were jumping in the garbage can by the front door and – I kid you not – leaping out of the garbage can with chicken bones in their mouths. Merritt seemed concerned that the cats weren’t being taken care of and thus had been forced to forage for food, but I was just concerned that there were HUNGRY CATS LEAPING IN AND OUT OF THE GARBAGE CAN. That has to be some sort of urban legend omen. Has to be.

Once we got in the lobby and looked around, we had to wait a few minutes behind a gentleman who was also checking in. I couldn’t help but laugh when he asked the girl behind the desk if his reservation was for a smoking room, and when he heard that yes, it was, he replied, “Well, it’s a good thing – because if it’s not, it will be when I leave!” And then he went into a full-fledged coughing fit, which I feel is perhaps an indicator that he might should, you know, stop all the smoking. But maybe that’s just me.

I should probably tell you that Wendi and Merritt, who were roommates in college, are scaredy-cats extraordinaire. Before we even got to the hotel, they were plotting all the ways they were going to ensure our safety, either by moving furniture in front of the door, or – my favorite – PUTTING TACKS UNDERNEATH THE WINDOW, because, as we all know, tacks are an EXCELLENT crime deterrent, cited far and wide by Safety Experts as the #1 way to stop a BAND OF THIEVES dead in their tracks. I mean, a deadbolt lock can only do so much…you really need those tacks under the window to provide some extra peace of mind.

Once we got up to the room, we immediately noticed that it wasn’t just humid – it was DAMP. Borderline wet. The window unit was pumping out cool air, but seeing how the humidity in the Delta is about 98% at all times, we were pretty much standing in the middle of a cold sauna. And no way were we going to let our feet touch that wet-ish carpet. Oh no ma’am. Flip flops would be the order of the day – or night, as it were.

Everybody immediately got ready for bed – we were exhausted and pretty desperate for sleep. Merritt did read a page or two from her book (I had to include that detail because it's something that has never happened before, and I wanted to capture the moment for all posterity - a bit of heritage for her children, if you will), but we went to sleep pretty quickly. Safe and sound, snuggled in our semi-wet beds. Just a little piece of heaven on earth, it was.

You can imagine our delight when, around 2:30 in the AM, the fire alarm in the hall sounded with the force of all nature. The four of us leapt out of bed so quickly that Tracey, when recounting our luxurious overnight stay, said, “All I could see were arms and legs flailing everywhere.” I think what tickles me the most is that, despite the fact that an alarm was blaring and we were awakened from a deep sleep, not a single one of us hit the floor without getting our feet in flip flops first. Because, I mean, if you’re in a fire, your number one concern is almost certainly preventing direct contact between the damp carpet's mold and mildew spores and your bare feet. Right?

As it turns out, it was a false alarm – though that didn’t keep Wendi from plotting our escape as we dashed around the room with no particular destination in mind. We were all sort of running from bed to bed, from door to window, not doing a single one of the things you learn to do in fire drills, and at one point I heard Wendi say, “You know, we’re only on the 2nd floor. It’s not that far a jump, girls! It’s not that far a jump! I’ll get that TV and throw it through the window and we’ll be out of here in no time! I’ll throw it right through the window!”

The mother of four children, ladies and gentlemen!

We all slept fitfully for the rest of the night – and just like college, Tracey was the last one to get out of bed the next morning (by the way, one of my favorite tales from our week together was when T., who has three children, told her husband, in all seriousness, “Imagine something that you really dread doing. Something you HATE doing. That’s how I feel about getting out of bed in the morning”). And if you’ve doubted my assertions of the high level of humidity in the room, I offer you one more detail as proof: when I was putting on my make-up, the brush that I use for blush was wet. Not that I’d run it under the faucet or anything – it had just been sitting in my make-up bag.

Can’t wait to make YOUR family some reservations at the Barefield Binn, can you?

But you know, just like everything we’ve ever done together, the whole experience was oddly fun – not in a Oh-I-Can’t-Wait-To-Do-That-Again sort of way, but in a Well-If-I-Have-To-Stay-In-A-Hotel-With-Scavenging-Cats-And-An-Abundance-Of-Mildew-I’m-Glad-I-Was-With-Y’all sort of way.

The stuff of memories, you know?


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