We decided to take an evening walk. It was still at least 90 degrees outside, but shades of pink had started to tie-dye across the desert sky and there was at least a breeze.
Paul and my dad walked way ahead of us, while my mom and I walked with the kids.
"Just let them walk ahead," I said, "we won't get lost." I shouldn't, since we were staying at the same time-share in Palm Springs that we'd been coming to when I was still breast feeding Eli under a towel by the pool. People look at me like I'm crazy when I tell them we go to Palm Springs in August, when the temperature could easily topple over 110 degrees. But it's off season and cheaper, and hey, you just make it work.
The place is built around a gulf course, with rolling grassy hills and lakes where ducks shimmy around in.
On the walk back to our rooms the kids started to whine. The breeze had stopped and suddenly it was hotter than hell.
"Carry me!" Savvy whined.
"How come she only gets to be carried?" Eli. He'd plopped down on a curb and said he was walking no further. His legs were sweating, he said.
My mom leaned over and whispered something in their ears. Suddenly the three of them took off running. By the time the rest of us reached the pool area, they had already stripped down to their bathing suits and dripped over to us by the gate: "Ha!Ha! We got in the pool and now we don't have to go to bed at bedtime!" Eli nanni-nanni-nannied, jumping back into the pool.
My mom looked at me with her signature innocent shrug and bewildered eyes. "I don't know...they just got in..."
It was 8:30 and the pool was aglow with white lights under the stars. Occasionally a breeze would blow and tiny white lights twinkled in the swaying palm trees.
It was dive-in movie night, a staff person announced. A pool full of people cheered as this theater-size blow up movie screen was erected right at the edge of the pool. Just like that we were watching, "The Tooth Fairy" from the water!
Paul had gone off to the adult pool, where it was quiet and the pina coladas flowed. He asked if I wanted to join him. "The kids are with your parents," he said.
I looked over at the kids and my parents. My dad and Eli were out in the middle of the pool where Eli (who had quickly gotten bored with the movie) was trying over and over to achieve a perfect flip in the water, the skin on his tummy stretched taut over his ribcage with every try. "Watch, grandpa! Watch what I can do!"
My mom and I sat at the edge of the pool, where Savvy was performing one of her "princess dances" for us on the top step. My mom had gotten the giggles when Savvy tried to twirl and fell backwards into the water.
"Stop laughing, grandma...or I won't dance. any. more," she said, missing another step as she tried to stomp...and toppling into the water again.
I love to see my mom laugh like that. Totally uninhibited throaty laughter that leads to snorts. The kind of laughter that gives my dad his cue: "Stop, Stella, you're gonna pee."
I thought of all the family vacations we'd taken when we were little. I remember thinking that it was worth all the stress of getting there, because soon I'd get to see my mom laugh like that and watch my dad make her laugh even harder. Seemed like so many lifetimes had gone by. Why did everything have to get so hard? There had been so many scars since...licked wounds, broken hearts. It's a testament to what a family could survive, forgive, I guess. Because there we were...a family vacation just like when I was little, only with my husband and two kids. Ha! It was surreal. I squeezed my eyes tight. It was one of those moments you just can't plan and all you can do is try and brand it in your brain, engrave it in your heart.
"Nah, I think I'll stay here," I told Paul. I had pictures to take.