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20160627_185109I could see that Jen was holding back the tears. She’d planned and directed this vacation with concierge style, and yet what was before us wasn’t as it had been marketed.

The house was much smaller than communicated. The swimming pool was only a smidgeon larger than a hot tub and nothing that would accommodate a family of six. The advertised game room was actually a tiny garage with a sliding door that didn’t meet fully with the ground. Just beyond the garage door was a driveway infested with ants threatening to make their way inside.

And there was something else, but we didn’t know it just yet.

We’d already carried ten days’ worth of groceries into the house and put them all away, and although disappointed by the pool size, the kids were pestering us to let them swim. And so we did.

“We looked forward to this all year,” Jen said. “We need this time for us, and I wanted it to be perfect.”

She’d already sent a few emails from her phone to complain as well as get word to the owner of the home we stayed in last year to see if it was available.

“It will be fine,” I said. “If we’re bothered by it, then the kids will be bothered by it, too. Let’s make the best of it and enjoy the ten days.”

“If we can get into somewhere else, do you want to go?” she asked. “It will double our budget because we won’t get the money back for this place.”

“We’ll be fine,” I answered. I really wanted her to be okay and to know that I was happy just being away with her and the kids. She was right. We needed this time to be restful because it’s all we have all year long.

“I’m going to unload the suitcase,” I said and hugged her. “Don’t worry. Go sit with the kids. This will be fun.”

She did.

I was gone only a few minutes before I returned to the bunch and called through the doorway to the pool area, “Get your things. We’re leaving. Now.”

“What is it?!” Jen asked and hopped up.

“Josh, watch your brother and sisters while Momma and I pack up,” I said.

As I was traveling toward the first of the bedrooms with the family suitcase in tow, I noticed what looked like frays at the edges and corners of the carpeting. I didn’t have my glasses on, so I couldn’t quite tell what I was seeing. Once my glasses were on my face and I got a better look, I started to sweat. I walked through each bedroom and made the same discoveries.

There were dead cockroaches everywhere. We were not staying.

It was then that Jen’s phone had pinged with the message of all messages – the home we had rented last year was indeed available and we could move in as soon as we made the payment. And so, with my debit card in hand, I called the number and gave over next year’s vacation budget to the wonderfully accommodating person on the other end of the line. We were in the home within the hour.

I hate bugs. Jen hates bugs. Let me tell you how much.

I hose down my house with Ortho Home Defense pretty much every six months just to keep out things like spiders, pill bugs, ants, and other more or less harmless creepy crawlers. They belong outside. If I see them outside, I leave them alone. If they come indoors, well, I welcome them much in the same way that I would welcome someone breaking in to steal my TV.

But I can guarantee you that it matters not where I discover a cockroach. Inside or outside my home, I kill them.

And. I. Kill. Them. With. Great. Joy.

God forbid I ever discover one in our home. Gasoline and match in hand, Jen and I are in full agreement that the only course forward would be to burn the place to the ground and start over.

I’ve learned that the people in Florida like to refer to them as “palmetto bugs,” which I’m guessing is their delusional way of making them sound a little less threatening. But we Michigan folks know them as cockroaches – filthy, pestilent, disease-carrying cockroaches – perhaps second in nightmarish dread only to bed bugs, which by the way, would also trigger the nuclear option in our home if they were ever discovered.

There is a light at the end of this vacation tunnel. In fact, there are several.

The first is that, as I already mentioned, we planned to stay in Florida for ten days this year instead of seven as we did last year. All of this happened the very first day and so it is behind us. The second is that we’re together and we’re resting. The third is that on our way to the other home, I stopped at a liquor store to pick up parental nerve suppressors – whisky for me and wine coolers for Jen – and I discovered an edition I’ve not been able to acquire in Michigan: The Deveron 12-Year-Old.

I’ll say that when the news came through that we’d be able to get into the other house, I experienced an inner elation. We had been tested, but everything had turned for the good. Not knowing what to expect with this mid-range Scotch, and yet, sitting beside a familiar swimming pool at the end of a challenging day, doing what I loved doing – writing, listening to the family laughing, lifting the whisky’s cork and breathing in what was a welcoming embrace of apples and sweet malt, I was indeed vacationing and unconcerned with the day’s events and the choices made. All was well.

A sip from this fine dram confirmed the same peace. It ushered me into the malt from the nosing and then added a thicker, warmer apple pie filling sprinkled with more than enough cinnamon and wood spice to tickle the tongue. Positively delightful.

The finish – a warm and slightly biting swallow of brown sugar and baked apples that gradually transformed into pears. Very nice.

I would encourage the reader that if you discover this dram, buy it. It certainly has the potential to further the heartening of the disheartened and to be the happy ending for any day’s story.