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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Being Me - Or One Little Old Lady and Two Dogs Hit the Road

I have a Packing Thing. Packing to go anywhere sends me into a tailspin. I religiously make lists and check and recheck to make sure I haven't forgotten anything and still I’m a nervous wreck. The Packing Thing starts chewing away at me a couple of days before the actual packing is to take place. If ever there were a case for prescribing Valium for little old ladies, this is it.

So, on Saturday morning, I took my dogs to the beauty parlor and came home to - dum-ta-dum-dum - pack for our long weekend on Sea Island. But first I had to shower and wash my curly mop of graying brown hair so it would be dry by the time I was ready to pick up the dogs.

I packed two smallish bags for a short trip, sometimes walking in circles and gnashing my teeth. Don’t ask why I was so anal about a trip that was supposed to be a personal retreat. I don’t know myself.

Did I remember my medicine and my hair fixing stuff? Check. Jeans and boots? Check. Pajamas and a warm-up suit (for walking the dogs and myself)? Check. Toothbrush? And yes, I have gone off without my toothbrush. Check. And so it went. I took my new 3-pound dumbbells in the trunk of the car so I wouldn’t forget them. They are blue, a perfect match for my new workout pants, and I pictured myself walking along Ocean Road while pumping them energetically.

I cleaned Mr. Palmer’s bowl and put him in the box I use to take him on the road, making sure I packed his food. He’s a Betta, dark blue with fabulously flowing fins. Yes, I do take my fish when I am going to be gone for more than one night. I think he likes the adventure of going someplace new. He seems to, anyway. I carefully placed his travel box on the floor of the passenger’s seat and surrounded it with stuff (my laptop and some other things), so the movement of the car wouldn’t splosh him all around and make him seasick. Satisfied that Mr. Palmer would have a smoothe ride, I stumbled back into the house to finish packing and, oh yeah, dress for the trip.

I packed my cooler with three Lean Cuisines, my almond milk and a carton of nonfat half and half. I use those little things you store in the freezer to keep things cold. There was room for a bottle of wine, so I tucked in a bottle of Trader Joe’s Chardonnay. (You just can’t hide class, can you)?

Then I packed the dogs’ bag, measuring food into a big plastic zippered bag so we wouldn’t give out, making sure there were two kinds of treats for them, one chewy kind and one crunchy kind. You would think I were going to a monastery, not to the coast where they actually have stores that sell dog food.

Are you sensing and OCD pattern here?

With everything packed and in its place, I set the alarm, made sure all the locks were secured and fired up the old Lincoln that was Clint’s and started down the driveway. I hit the brakes. Where was the skirt I planned to bring? The tops to go with my jeans? Uh-oh. I turned off the car, went back into the house and found my hang-up things dangling from a hook on the swinging door between the kitchen and great room. I placed them carefully in the trunk on top of my other things and once more got in the car, cranked it up and headed to Petsmart to fetch the dogs and get on my way.

It was a slow and rambling trip from Macon. We took mostly back roads to avoid all the spring-breakers on the interstates. We ambled along through little towns with courthouse squares and past pastures where cows were grazing and fields turned over for seeding. There were old falling-down barns blanketed with wisteria, and acres-wide pecan groves that stretched out on both side of the road. Lots of people out in the country were having yard sales. Though tempted to stop at a couple of them I reminded myself that I am simplifying my life, not looking to clutter it up any more than it already is.

I rolled down the windows to breathe in the perfumed spring air, and Belle pushed her nose out of the half-opened back window to take it in, too. I opened the sun roof and before long, my hair was standing up all over my head.

The trip took about four hours, and I listened to "The Help" while tooling down the road. The Packing Thing behind me, I allowed myself to relax, enjoy the scenery and the book. One time, I pulled over thirty miles outside of Macon to check the trunk. No shit. I really did that. Aside: Don’t read "The Help," listen to it! Four women narrate it beautifully.

I have a sticker on my windshield that gets me on Sea Island without having to stop at the gate and convince the attendant that this wild-haired little old lady with a Boxer and a Lhasa Apso in the back seat of her 14 year old Lincoln Town Car is really a guest of the Smith’s at 502 Ocean Road.

With that behind me, I moseyed down The Drive, taking in the glorious spectacle of the live oaks that line it. With the windows still down, I realized my car was squeaking every time we hit a dip in the road. Shit. The roads on the barrier islands all have dips in them. It’s because the dirt underneath shifts. I worried that Mr. Palmer might throw up in his bowl. I had known for weeks that I needed new bushings but had put off having them installed, and there I was, in one of the three richest zip codes in the USA- squeaking.

So, it was with an abashed smile that I squeaked up to the gate and told the gate keeper at Ocean Forest that I was a guest of the Smiths. He frowned and peered into the back seat at the dogs. Then he shuffled through a stack of passes, not finding one with my name on it. Shit a blue brick! He eyed me suspiciously, and I offered to call Deidra for him. I pulled forward, letting the car behind me pass while I squeaked over every little dip in the road. I stopped to call Deidra. Thank God she picked up. I took the phone to the Gate Nazi, and he filled out a pass for me, handed it to me with an disapproving sniff and gave my car a long cold stare, like he could stare the squeaking out of it.

Before I unpacked the car, I walked the dogs, a silver doggie-doo bag hanging out of each pocket of the old scrubs I decided to travel in. Belle and Honey knew what they were supposed to do, and they did it, me following along with the bags so as not to leave any dog-doo on anyone’s pristine lawn.

I unpacked the car and hauled my stuff upstairs to “my” room. I could have used the elevator, but I couldn’t remember how to operate it. Besides, walking stairs is good for one’s soul, not to mention one’s fanny.

“My” bedroom is the best place in the whole house for enjoying the glorious views of the Atlantic, the Hampton River and the marshes and creeks winding their way toward Little Saint Simons Island. I opened the door to the balcony, stepped out, leaned over the rail, and breathed deeply of the salty air. I felt like the luckiest woman in the world.

I unzipped my bags and began putting my things away. I hate it when my things smell like luggage, so I always unpack as soon as I can. I trudged back downstairs to get my hang-up things so I could put them in the closet. I didn’t even make a drink before I unpacked.

Even I was amazed at what I dragged out of those bags. (Gentlemen, you may want to skip this part). Two pairs of jeans - one black, one blue, two pairs of boots to match the jeans, my workout clothes, two pairs of socks and nine, count them - one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, NINE pairs of panties. There was one pink cotton granny pair, two black satin ones and SIX pairs of nude ones that are not supposed to leave a panty line. (They don’t work). I can't wait to hear what my therapist has to say about that.

What was more amazing is what I didn’t drag out of those bags. Not a bra in sight, of any color or texture. There I stood in my scrubs with a sports top on underneath and not a single real bra to be found. I routinely take two black ones and two nude ones, but oh no, not this time. I didn’t even pack more sports bras. I would spend four days and three nights in the same sports bra. It’s humid on the coast, so I couldn’t just rinse it out every night and hang it on the balcony rail to dry. Not only would the neighbors have a hissy fit, but it wouldn’t dry anyway in all that humidity. I would have to use the dryer.

I had managed to pack a lint brush, a bottle of Rogaine, Honey’s brush, three brown hair bands and one red one, most of my toiletries, two iPods with cords and ear buds, one cord that didn’t belong to anything, but no charger for the iPods or my Blackberry. I figured a way to charge my iPods by syncing them through my laptop and decided to just turn off my Blackberry, but I still didn’t have a single brassiere. What would I wear to Jim’s class in the morning? The sports top that makes me flat as a pancake? I had four turtleneck tees, two short sleeved and two long, and a cashmere sweater jacket that Clint bought for me the last time we were in Scotland that was way too heavy for the weather.

I remembered to bring the little packs of instant Starbucks - one decaf, the other regular - but failed to bring my fiber. I had green tea and sugar free Peeps to snack on. Don’t laugh. They are delicious, but if you eat too many, you’ll get some pretty noxious gas.

Close your eyes, boys.

It was while I was taking inventory of what I did NOT have that I got the first inkling that I just might have, I’m whispering now, a yeast infection. I sure as hell didn’t have anything to fix that. For the love of God, I had brought three Lean Cuisines just so I wouldn’t have to go to the store, just so I could really be on retreat with no outside distractions other than Jim’s Sunday School class. I decided to go to the store after I attended his class the next morning.

Boys. it is now safe to read on.

Making sure that Mr. Palmer was happy in his usual place on the kitchen island, I fed him then made myself a martini with three olives, sat down in front of the TV, and, breaking my promise to myself, turned it on and watched us bombing Libya for a while and tried not to cuss myself out for being such a fruitcake.

On Sunday morning, I showed up late for Jim’s class looking like Johnny Cash in drag and wearing a curly brown wig. I was in black from tip to toe, decked out in my favorite black top (which has diagonal ruffles that camouflaged my flatness) over black jeans with black cowboy boots peeping out from under the hems. My socks were even black. I’m not sure why I think it makes a tinker’s damn what I wore to Sunday School, but something just made me include it in this ridiculous tale. And by the way, when I was driving to church, I noticed that my car was no longer squeaking.

On the way back to Sea Island, I stopped at CVS to pick up you-know-what and found out that you can actually buy sports tops there. I helped myself to three so as to avoid washing anything while on retreat.

The remainder of my retreat revolved around writing and walking the dogs and walking myself. Belle made two escapes, but I managed to hem her up before she could poop on the neighbors’ lawns. No TV, no Blackberry, nothing but contemplative silence in which to think and write and enjoy the splendid vistas across the river to the sea. Okay, okay. I did check my email, but I cranked out two blog posts and this preposterous yarn.

On Tuesday morning, as we crossed the Sea Island causeway headed for Saint Simons and the mainland, I rolled down the windows, opened the sun roof and noticed that the old car was squeaking again. Maybe the Gate Nazi really did stare the squeak out of it...........

© cj Schlottman


Linda @ A La Carte said...

I love it when you just write!

Sue said...

This was a great read. I chuckled with recognition at your packing issues. I am a crazy nervous packer myself. In fact, to minimize this, I now make a list the day before I start packing, imagining myself going through the days and thinking of every little thing I might need.

Then, the next morning, I put it all together, checking off each thing as I go. It helps, but I still hate making that list!


Kat said...

This made me laugh out loud. I recognize these symptoms all too well. Although I've never taken a pet fish on a trip. The line about Mr. Palmer getting seasick almost made me lose my coffee this morning. Now, I just have one question. Do you clean your house from top to bottom before you leave? For years, DH thought it was because I wanted to come home to a clean house. The real reason is I'm always afraid that if something horrible happened, strangers would be coming into my home and I didn't want them to think I lived in a pigsty LOL. Thanks for the great read this morning. Kat

injaynesworld said...

LOL! I once took a trip back east and wore everything I'd need in layers like Heidi so I wouldn't have to deal with luggage. Last year I went to a family gathering and left the dress I wanted to wear hanging on the door at home. This whole packing thing may be why I seldom travel, but I might make an exception for a beautiful weekend like yours.

Deb Shucka said...

They make sugar-free Peeps?!?!?! I need to get to the store.

This was so much fun to read. I hope you got lots of writing done, and returned home rested.

KeLLy aNN said...

You are so cool...you brought Blue Fish!

jeff campbell said...

This is some funny shit CJ...I am envisioning a sexy, brown haired cj jogging, braless, with dumbbells in hand down Ocean Blvd...stopping traffic of course, causing men to wreck their Mercedes...all the while not realizing the damage that such uncontrolled beauty can cause because of the flipping ear buds and iPod tunes...sounds like a blast, or is this fiction?

Katie Gates said...

I love this post. It is so entertaining, and I could absolutely SEE everything you described. Oh, and the stopping and opening the trunk to check on whatever? Been there; done that!

hip-chick said...

It can take me longer to pack then I am going away for!