I’ll never forget it. It was the first vacation we’d ever taken, paid for by my mother’s boyfriend who’d decided she wasn’t spending enough time with her children. He was right. But paying for the vacation didn’t do much to correct the matter.
With funds received from…whatever his name was…she took us to Greenbo Lake State Resort Park in Kentucky. We stayed two nights. The hotel had a pool out back, and my sister and I would bounce between the pool outside and the pool tables in the basement’s recreation room, shooting billiard balls with some old dude that we didn’t know.
I remember we had pancakes in the hotel’s restaurant for breakfast. It was my first experience with a pancake that wasn’t made by my grandmother from scratch in our own kitchen, drowned in homemade sugar syrup. It wasn’t like Mamaw’s at all, but I liked it anyway.
Mom slept in our room somewhere upstairs, seemingly the whole time we were there. I guessed she must have been really tired from her secretarial job and wasn’t much in the mood to be involved, nor did she want the hassle of being around two little girls. I was probably only around nine or ten years old. I remember I was in charge of my little sister the whole time, making sure she didn’t get lost, or taken, or hurt. She is almost three years my junior.
As I recall, we never left the hotel until it was time to go. There was no sight-seeing, no adventures – just the hotel grounds and whatever we could get into that wouldn’t bring us trouble later on.
At the time, I didn’t know enough to resent my mother’s absence from every aspect of our lives, or from that vacation. I was just glad she was there. And that we were finally with her.
The hotel’s check-in counter in the lobby had a huge jar; I think it might have been a gallon sized container, which was full of brown beans – Pintos. Mamaw would have called them ‘soup beans’. They’re the kind she always had on the stove, and served with a skillet of cornbread fresh from the oven.
The contest was to guess how many beans were in the jar. I came the closest without going over, and won a t-shirt from the resort. It was way too big, but I loved that thing. It was a constant reminder of the weekend I’d spent with my mother, the fun I’d had playing with my sister, and the first vacation we’d ever taken. Not to mention my first stay at a hotel, and my first restaurant pancake. That shirt stayed with me for several years and I wore it often.
When I began to grow out of it, I still kept it in my closet. I’d take it out every once in a while and just, well, remember. One day my cousin came to visit and needed a clean shirt. For some unknown reason she took that one and then never returned it. I remember being so angry at her for keeping it.
I look back now at my attachment to that shirt and realize that it wasn’t the shirt that had drawn my fascination. It was my mother. I had misdirected my longing for a mother onto a shirt from a place I have yet to revisit, for guessing beans in a jar that I’d only seen once, from a place that made delicious pancakes that I’ll never forget.
Pretty dumb, huh?