Day three and things have fallen into a vacation rhythm of sorts. In the morning we jog around my parents’ neighborhood which consists of a Russian doll-like series of gated communities with names like Mystic Ridge and Heron Glen within the larger security guard manned compound called Pelican Landing. It’s like Checkpoint Charlie with palm trees and landscaping to rival the royal parks. The Colony is the ultimate lockdown sub-community within Pelican Landing. It has it’s own separate golf course, country club and security guards, who recently turned my mother back as she attempted to breech the perimeter on her beach cruiser bicycle.
After jogging we head to Bonita Beach for a couple hours of sun therapy using the aging and NRA bumper sticker adorned Toyota Avalon my father has lent us for the week. Having forgotten my bathing suit in London, I wear a twenty year-old faded purple and neon pink paisley bikini. Through the dual miracle of American residential storage space and worn out elastic, I found this high school relic in the upstairs’ bathroom drawer at my parents’ and it still fits. Lying on the beach listening to the radio from Doc’s Beach House blare out “Send Her My Love,” “The Time of My Life,” and a synthesizer version of “Deck the Halls,” it feels like nothing has really changed from my high school days other than some extra bulges and extra money manifesting in the form of our double chaise lounge rented for fifteen dollars and ninety cents.
With all this beach time I am working my way through my airplane reading material much faster than anticipated. The New Yorker fiction issue has been consumed cover to cover bar The Financial Page, and by tomorrow I’ll be done with my novel. Even my mother’s Bon Apetit, thanks to which I am now familiar with the eating habits of Ryan Seacrest, has been picked clean. I’ll soon be left with nothing but the enemy, silent contemplation set to the lapping tide of the Gulf of Mexico or, worse, forced into actual conversation with husband.
Like a toddler who prefers the bubble wrap to the fancy toy that came in it, Taco Bell and Target are two of the small pleasures of returning to the states. Lunch at Taco Bell—cheap and Mexican, both rare in England—happens before or after the beach depending on how early a start we got, then the afternoon is spent on what husband calls a “spot of retail therapy.” It’s ok when this phrase is used in a lifestyle magazine but somehow wrong when it falls from his lips. At Target we routinely have to perform interventions with one and other to prevent regrettable choices. Today I had to have a large black leather-like tote with lots of shiny hardware and a sticky zipper pried from my hands in the check out line by husband. I had entered a delusional state brought on by the prices, even at these exchange rates, and had convinced myself the purse was a Birkin Bag-esque steal. But there was no stopping husband from purchasing the half size too small Chukka boots that do actually resemble the pair in the gentleman’s clothier in Cirencester.
After retail it’s dinner with my parents at a chain restaurant in one of the infinite new strip malls. My parents only eat at two restaurants, Bone Fish Grill or Carraba’s, maybe P.F. Chang’s China Bistro if they are feeling zany. The strength of the boundaries to this culinary repertoire became clear when, on night two, my parents offered to take husband out to dinner for a belated birthday meal. Husband suggested a nice hotel by the water or maybe one of the outdoor restaurants in downtown Naples. We knew from the balking that followed that the invitation was really only good for one of the chain restaurants. We were at Carraba’s in time for happy hour two-for-one Pinot Grigio. My father knows all the wait staff by name, including our server, Tiffany, from whom he not so secretly ordered a sundae with a candle. The delivery was accompanied, inevitably, by the entire wait staff singing Happy Wishes to You in Italian to husband.
I’ve given up on any post-dinner, communal family television watching. The first night I attempted this with an E! True Hollywood Story on Oprah. My parents expressed a bizarrely vehement disdain for Oprah, their chief complaint seeming to be a suspicion she doesn’t read all the books in her book club. I suspect there’s some Obama related mistrust lurking there too, and I decided if we couldn’t agree on Oprah (I mean my God, who doesn’t like Oprah??) there was really no use trying with anything else.