When our firstborn was a few months old, we all went to Puerto Rico. When our middle child turned 2 months old, everyone flew to Santa Barbara. Neither trip imparted fond memories since we were certain, like most new parents, that the vacation would kill our baby. We spent the duration of each trip trying to fend off invisible pathogens and UV rays, like Dustin Hoffman in a HazMat suit quarantining a populace from an infected monkey. Despite numerous assertions to remain at home and useless self-persuasion that a vacation is just what everyone else needs, the instant our third child was welcomed into the world and the temperature tumbled back into the single digits, we booked a trip to Miami.
Neither Greg nor I had ever been to Miami. I had my reservations since my preconceived notion of Miami was that it was a city built for those who hear club music pounding in their eardrums even in silence and for those who have stopped hearing anything at all. I’d always imagined the streets were paved with pastels and the cadavers of those who didn’t fare well on a plastic surgeon’s table. Nevertheless, we were seduced by the reasonable flight time from New England, the temperate winter weather and my penchant for beans.
Upon arriving — withered in a way only parents attending to three children on a plane can appear — we were ready to make Miami our own, like much whiter and lumpier versions of the Spaniards who’d colonized it. It took us mere minutes to hit the beachside walkways with strollers and newly purchased discount sunglasses. It may have been the rose-colored lenses in those aviators made of tinfoil, but suddenly our senses, deadened by winter, were awakened to everything in our surrounds.
Flowers. Palm trees. Ocean breeze. Waxed chests.
Their combined effect disarmed us both and immediately imparted our vacation manners. We were speaking in full sentences again instead of commands — Get me a diaper! Make your own dinner! — and awaiting responses from the other. We were strolling instead of marching, laughing instead of groaning. We even held hands until that maneuver sent one of the strollers, child ensconced, into shrubbery. We were gentler versions of our typical selves. And it wasn’t just us. Everywhere I turned, I spied couples heaping affection upon each other. Doors held. Appetizers shared. Apparel coordinated. I even saw one man lovingly apply sunscreen underneath the thong of his wife’s bikini. He actually lifted the lycra, and slathered sunblock in between her very ample butt cheeks.
With the exception of buttock SPF, everything Greg and I consider tedious or ridiculous in real time became wondrous and magical in Miami time. Aren’t $18 hamburgers delicious when there’s a sliver of avocado on them? Why don’t you wear fedoras and smoke Cubans? Even the tiresome antics of our children seemed fresh and novel in the glare off the ocean. Isn’t it adorable the way they had diarrhea in the pool?
I had unexpected desires to engage in activities I’ve never had interest in. Normally I’d look upon a person on rollerblades with disdain and think, I’d sooner pogo stick my way to the market than be seen alive on rollerblades. But in Miami — on vacation — rollerblading seemed like a completely sensible way of traversing distance, even if one is wearing nothing but a bandana. Suddenly I was thinking that I’d like to rollerblade. Maybe take some lessons, but not in a rental pair. No! I’d like to actually own a pair. You know, maybe I’d get some customized with my initials and in my favorite colors to complement my bathing suit. At that point, Greg interjected with the observation that I haven’t been seen in a bathing suit in the wild since the late ‘90s.
It is at the mere mention of the words bathing suit that my vacation-inspired dreams began to sunburn. The bathing suit is the uniform of Miami, standard issue. It is the great unifier of South Florida; Be you male, female, going to work, using a walker or undergoing radiation for squamous cells, you are clad in a swimsuit. The only variation comes in square inches of material. This is a horrifying prospect for a woman who has experienced three back-to-back pregnancies. In a city of Mamis, I was feeling much too Mommy.
Each woman to pass by through South Beach left me lifting my chin in false confidence while adjusting the Bjorn like it’s the must-have accessory of the season. I’d mutter self-affirming statements until Greg would send the stroller into a collision with my achilles because of staring at a set of boobs deserving of their own postal code. Crippled, I’d fall upon the sidewalk as he rolled right over me, making direct eye-cleavage contact. I may have been wrong in believing the streets of Miami are littered with the carcasses of plastic surgery victims, but there are certainly scattered bodies of women taken down by the surgery survivors.
Back at the hotel, while flipping through a phone book for surgeons specializing in ankle reconstruction, I looked up to see Greg vigorously rubbing aloe across his sunburned skin. I chuckled and said, “I guess we’re not exactly Miami material.”
“Speak for yourself; I’m going to the bar at Fontainebleau after you fall asleep.”
Erin Donovan moved with her family to the midcoast where she constantly is told she says the word “scallops” incorrectly. She performs live and produces Web sketches derived from her popular humor blog I’m Gonna Kill Him. Follow her misadventures on http://imgonnakillhim.bangordailynews.com and on Twitter @gonnakillhim.