Over the weekend, we took the youngest children to a place in middle TN that was an integral part of my childhood. A place that I haven’t visited in over a decade and an area that I told goodbye during my grandmother’s funeral. A place where time stands still. Oh, wait. The trees are taller now. Also, the basement game room was sacrificed to install a much needed elevator. Other than that . . . same guy in charge, same humidity, same last names and same, same, same. Did I mention the humidity?
There’s a reason I never successfully had a frizz-free day until I moved to East TN. West and middle TN have fungus seasons when the muggy heat saps away the energy and desire to do anything except sit, nap or read. The recent TN monsoons have transformed the normally humid weather into the mosquito coast. The lush green illusion that was the park’s septic field is now a foul-smelling, toxic wasteland. The bugs are growing and multiplying into rain forest monsters. The hotel room was physically soggy. The carpet squished with every step and the clothes in our suitcase absorbed water so rapidly that I expected them to smell like the nasty kitchen sponge I threw away last week.
When the room temperature was higher than the outside temperature and the pages of books started to curl, Doug walked to the hotel desk to see if all the rooms were a swamp or just the ones that overlooked the lake. A few minutes later, we were switched to a room with dry carpeting and a temperature below 80 degrees. It was like moving from the cave to the hatch. With no phone signal, I settled in to use the Internet to call the teenagers we left at home. Doug went to report the room change to the rest of the family.
An hour later, Doug returned from telling my brother our new location. It took some work to find my brother, since he had also switched rooms. His preschooler flushed a wrapped bar of soap, overflowed the toilet and flooded their room. My mother’s careful placement of the entire family in a nice row of rooms turned into a middle of the night Chinese fire drill. Everyone settled in and slept without the distractions of absolutely anything resembling civilization nearby.
Unbeknown to us, at some time in the night, Amy came down with stomach plague. We didn’t know, because Amy switched rooms to be with her cousins. While she did her imitation of Eyjafjallajokull, her Aunt pounded on our hotel room door. The empty hotel room with soggy carpet. The room that Doug told my OTHER brother we were no longer using. The Aunt gave up and sent the uninformed brother to pound on our door. When this failed, they tried calling the empty hotel room. Maybe they called our signal-less cell phones. I’m certain they called us some choice names. If I had known we were playing the world’s meanest practical joke, I would have moved our car to the employee parking lot.