We pushed our shopping cart through the Publix supermarket in Longboat Key, Florida, where we had rented a condo for the month of February. We studied the list of foods our daughter had emailed us, as she, her husband and our two granddaughters would be visiting during President’s Week.
Our granddaughters, Lindsey, 11, and Olivia, 9, had been sick in the weeks leading up to vacation with flu and croup, and we had waited before stocking up our pantry with kid-friendly foods. As soon as we learned they were well enough to come, we headed for the supermarket. In went the Oreos, string cheese sticks, sandwich meat, sugar cereals, ice cream and three kid-picked yogurt flavors. They were coming down the next day, and to make things even better, their parents would be attending a business meeting in Miami, and we were going to be alone with the kids for two whole days.
The weather at the beginning of the month had been more dismal than dazzling. But after Valentine’s Day, Florida began living up to its reputation as the Sunshine State. I looked skyward often and pleaded silently with the weather gods for good weather for their visit. I saw other grandkids splashing in the pool, and that made me want our granddaughters even more.
We met them at Tampa Airport, and they looked pale and tired. Their faces lacked color, and their bodies seemed slightly thinner than when I had last seen them at the end of January right before we left for Florida. When we reached our condo, it was a little cool for swimming, so the girls and I walked the beach on the Gulf of Mexico.
They ran ahead of me, looking back frequently, and I scrambled to keep up. You could see them looking longingly at the enormous swimming pool, but I felt it was a little too cool for them to swim, so we collected shells. They picked up seashells, showing each individual one to me to be admired as if it were a precious jewel. I fussed over their treasures while the girls pocketed what they could and kept the others in their tight little fists. It was perfection…the weather, the beach and our granddaughters’ love.
The week passed too quickly. We played family Scrabble, and I discovered Olivia cheating and looking at the tiles before she selected them. Lindsey noticed my spider veins for the first time and made a terrible sound of dismay. The girls showed off their independence by going to the pool by themselves. It was a safe environment for them, and they gloried in not needing constant supervision. The girls were cautioned about splashing the older residents and talking in loud voices, and they were old enough to understand many of the residents were not used to youngsters.
I got a glimpse into Lindsey’s sixth grade world when she confided to me that she had a crush on a boy. She proclaimed they were “going out” but he didn’t know that yet. She surprised me at dinner by saying, “Gigi, you’re wearing mascara.” I had worn mascara before, but now she was old enough to notice it. Olivia astounded all of us when she volunteered to try a new food at dinner one evening because she knew “it was more grown-up” to try new foods.
Despite many warnings about the Florida sun and numerous applications of lotion that were sprayed and smeared on them continually, they got burned. We bought aloe cream, which stung their skin, and Olivia begged, “Gigi, blow on me, please blow on me,” which I happily did. I puffed out my cheeks and aimed my breath at her red face. No matter how often she requested her personal cooling treatment, I complied.
Six days later we put two healthy grandchildren and their parents on the plane. The girls had rosy, pink cheeks, and their faces beamed.
Our reservations are made again for next year, and so, I am pleased to report, are theirs.