“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.” – Unknown
I wasn’t working for the first time since I was a teen. Francis had a couple of neighborhood buddies and would ‘go out to play’ with Matthew and/or Andrew almost every summer day it was an option. Hubby went to work. Usually we would have our morning together and then he would leave to see clients. He often didn’t return until late evening. My days were long and rather lonely. We were just keeping our chin up financially so there wasn’t much flexibility in the budget for exploration or home improvement although I was really good at making something from nothing and by all measures, we had a lovely home.
I was restless. There was a significant period of time where the realization that I had turned 30 and had not yet effected the world in a profound or meaningful way was depressing me.
Hubby and I were often in sync when we were dreaming about building something – the dream, the prep, and the implementation – they were the glue that spurred and motivated us to work together effectively. He moved to another company, which generated a tremendous amount of work that we agreed to do together. I maintained my licenses so I was able to contribute / help in a sizable way. I essentially became his assistant and I now had a purpose beyond being a house sitter while Francis went out to play.
Our days were fairly typical for a small family of three. We did the best we could – day by day – and settled into a fairly symbiotic routine.
Fast forward a year to the summer of 1991. We had some financial successes that year and we made the decision to take Francis to Walt Disney World for vacation. My twin (half) sisters were turning 15 that summer and we invited them to join us. I missed being physically close to my family and being a part of their day to day lives so it was great to be with them for an extended period.
I’m a spendthrift when necessary. Especially back then, I was able to stretch a dollar further than your average rubber band. We were going to camp in WDW so we had to drive – allowing for transportation of all the camping equipment. We drove to Virginia and took the Auto Train from Lorton to Sanford, FL.
I had worked on the Amtrak trains for several years while I was in California going to college and I was excited to share some of the experience with my family. When I booked our ‘coach’ tickets on an overnight train, I really hadn’t given it any thought because I knew that the seats reclined to an almost prone position. I hadn’t though, considered the impact of sleeping out-in-the-open for the rest of us. Really, those kids were able to sleep almost anywhere – it was us, as adults that had a more difficult time. I had the upper hand as I knew what to expect but Hubby wasn’t happy. He wasn’t comfortable and he didn’t really sleep. Deep breath Leslyn – you are on vacation.
After a rough evening, we at least woke to find ourselves in Florida. The beauty of the Auto Train is that upon arrival in FL, you just get in your own car and continue the trip. It was a tight squeeze for the 5 of us but we made it to the campground that I had found on our VERY new internet. It was the prudent alternative and we discovered why when we arrived to find that the only trees on the property were babies, barely 5 feet tall. For any of you who may have ever gone tent camping, you’ll realize immediately that tent’ers rely on trees to tie off their tents. To make it more insane, the tent we were using was a borrowed CANVAS army tent that slept 8 – I thought it would all be easy. Well, except that I never took the summer Floridian weather into account. Apparently, it will often rain every afternoon in the manner of gusty, fast moving thunderstorms.
The first one we experienced was the day of our arrival and it rolled in while one of the girls and I were at the grocery store. We returned to the campground to find Hubby attempting to yell directions over thunderclaps, in between lightning strikes while Francis tried to hold a tent line (he was actually flapping in the wind) and sister #2 in tears. Everything that had not been in the car (which was with us at the store) was soaking wet and the tent looked like a pool float with a broken air stem – completely deflated – flat on the ground. This vacation wasn’t starting well.
The other thing we didn’t know about Florida weather is that by 9 am it was 90 degrees outside. Our canvas tent soaked that summer sun like a dry sponge and so my grand plan to save money by eating breakfast at camp and packing lunches went right down the sewer. Within an hour after waking, we were mostly huddled in the air conditioned bathhouses, attempting to muster enough courage to spend the day waiting in line while we were either bathed in our own perspiration or completely soaked by a drenching downpour. My advice to all of you reading this… don’t go tent camping in Florida in the month of July. Ever.
The bulk of our vacation was good. The twins quarreled from time to time; Hubby’s patience was challenged a fair amount; and I played mediator a time or two. We were there for two solid weeks over the 4th of July (which, as a note – WDW offered the most amazing fireworks display I’ve ever waited 6 hours to see). It continued to be agonizingly hot. The last weekend we were there, an air conditioned cabin became available at the campground and we instantly agreed to rent it. I’m not sure I ever again slept as good as I did that first night in air conditioning after 11 days of hot tent resting.
We were exhausted when we got on that train to go home; not only from heat distress and sleep deprivation but because as most people who’ve had a WDW vacation would agree – you need a vacation from that vacation. It’s go, go, go… each day. It’s great; but it’s tiring. So, by the time evening fell and we were well on the way home, it was apparent that sleeping in the coach train seats was going to be challenging once again. Hubby, feeling frustrated and wealthy, approached the conductor to see if there were any sleeping car accommodations open. “Yes, there is one – it sleeps two” he said. “I’ll take it” says Hubby.
I turned my head, not really sure if I had heard that exchange correctly. “It only sleeps two?” I asked? “Yea, you and I can get a good night’s sleep. The kids will be fine here” replies Hubby.
Um… It took a moment for this idea to sink into my head. He was willing to let twin 15-year-old girls and a 7-year-old boy hang out alone, on a train full of strangers. Hmm. I wasn’t sure if that was just ignorance about parenting / caring for children or if it was a chilling example of a selfish disposition. In either case, it didn’t set well with my personal value structure nor did it fit inside my definition of responsible behavior. He went anyway – I slept in the coach section with the kids.
I recall feeling deeply disappointed that night. I was unable to relate with the decision he had made. I felt disconnected and distant. In my mind, that experience provided me with important information but it didn’t fit into my vision. It wasn’t in accord with what I wanted my world to look like. I filed it away – or perhaps a better description is that I stuffed it deep into the back of the filing cabinet in a folder that was labeled… ‘YUCK’.
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