Sun, surf and sand equal smiles

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 20, 2011

When it was suggested that I load up my three kids and mother and head to the beach this spring break, I was a little dubious.

Going anywhere with children – Wal-Mart, the grocery store – is an adventure unto itself. But when you add sun, sand and surf into the mixture, it could be a real mess.

We left here about 7 p.m. Thursday. We’d thought to leave Friday morning, but hey – it was a vacation, so we scratched that plan, threw the stuff in the trunk, tossed the kids in the car and headed out.

Five minutes down the drive, the youngest said, “I’m hungry.”

I looked at Mom, and she looked at me.

“Think we can make it to Pensacola?” I whispered to her as we rolled to the stop sign at the end of our dirt road.

“I’m real, real hungry,” she said louder.

“We’ll stop in a little bit,” I told her.

It wasn’t five minutes later as we hit the end of Open Pond Road, she said, “Are we there yet?”

By the time we made it to Wing, I was ready to scream. We hadn’t been in the car 20 minutes and I was ready to pinch her head off. The other two were blessedly silent, thanks to some “Tron: The Legacy” on the laptop. I guess guys-stuck-in-video-games just wasn’t that little girl’s thing.

By the time we made it Baker – which is only 30 minutes from my house – I’d had enough. I whipped us into the Gator Café parking lot, slammed it into park and told them to get out – Nana included.

As a note, if you’ve never eaten at this lovely place, the menu is filled with a scrumptious menu straight from a 1950s diner. I had a cheeseburger that was to die for, and my oldest said her root beer float was the best she’d ever tasted.

While we were waiting for our food, I pulled out my camera to capture the beginnings of our trip. As I was panning my way around the table, their smiles caught my attention for the first time.

While I was busy freaking out over feeding everyone, fueling the car and fighting with my keys in the ignition, they all were busy having a good time. And I almost missed it.

It took a good hour, but we had a great dinner. They got their picture made with the giant alligator chef, and I got a great glass of sweet tea, two Tylenol and a better perspective on things.

We’d just passed the rest area on the interstate when the youngest one started singing, “Goin’ to the chapel, and we’re going to get buried. Goin’ to the chapel, and we’re goin’ get buri-er-ied. Wow! That’s a big sign. Whoa-oh-o.”

Deadpanned, my mother looked at me and said, “She’s hilarious.”

“You have no idea,” I replied.