After the endless dirge of a winter we've had, plus a harrowing few months at work, the three of us were quite ready for spring break to roll around. Months ago, my mom and I did enough research and VRBO-scouring to fill a full-time job, looking for just the right place for my crew plus my parents, my aunt, and my grandfather to meet up somewhere beachy over Felicity's school break. We FINALLY settled on a house on Isle of Palms, SC (just outside of Charleston), that had everything we were looking for: a pool, a beachfront location, and a price somewhere south of a zillion dollars a week. Bonus: it was available, unlike every other place we'd inquired about.
By the time April arrived, with nary a sign of spring to be found, Joe and I were limping toward the finish line. All we had to do was get to that beach house and finally we could relax. The sparkling pool, the crashing waves, and the swaying hammock kept us going like a beacon in a dense fog.
We were set to leave on a Saturday. One week before our departure, Felicity came down with a mystery fever; she was completely fine all morning during a museum visit and lengthy brunch with her godparents and god-brother. Then we popped into a store to get her some socks before heading home, and she wilted like a hothouse flower in an ice storm. She sagged into Joe, who carried her back to our apartment (no small feat -- DENSE, as I may have mentioned before). When she fell asleep in his arms, we knew there would be trouble. Sure enough, when we got upstairs, she was burning up. I put her right into bed and gave her a fever reducer and she murmured as we bustled around her with cool cloths and fretful glances. She kept on sleeping, and around her usual bedtime I peeled off her clothes and got her into pajamas and stashed her back into bed. By nine, she was bathed in sweat but her forehead was cool. The fever had broken. The next morning, she was completely fine, with a slight runny nose and the usual preschool cough that she'd mostly managed to avoid this winter.
We have no way of knowing whether it was related, of course, but that Tuesday, Joe came down with a cough. I figured it was the usual Man Cold and would blow over. That night, he coughed so much that at 4am I gave up on getting any real sleep and went to doze on the couch. By morning he had a grayish pallor and an incessant cough that sounded somewhere between a yell and a wheeze. That night I gently suggested a visit to Urgent Care, but by then he was so sick he could barely move. He had a fever, teeth-rattling chills, full-body aches, a splitting headache, and loud moaning. Filled with sympathy and sensitivity, I went around the apartment spraying Lysol on everything he so much as glanced at. I kept Felicity a minimum of 25 feet from him at all times. Whatever he had, we did not want it.
After two days of this, he finally went to the doctor. Diagnosis? Pneumonia. This was on Friday evening. The night before our trip. Clearly, Isle of Palms was not in the cards for our Joe. So Felicity and I bid him our sad goodbyes from the doorway, a trail of Lysol in our wake, and he murmured vaguely coherent regrets from his sickbed.
Aside from that, our trip started out well; I got to feel the warm sun on my face and Felicity got to go tearing around the beach, racing back and forth from our home base to the water, stopping to pick up even the tiniest of shells to add to her collection ("These things can be hard to keep track of!" she noted) (Also, "This is the special shell I'm going to share with Granddad, because I love him so much!"). She is a happy child in general and loves the great outdoors in any form; but for whatever reason, Felicity seems most ecstatically at home on the beach. Actually, she's pretty ecstatic in the pool, too. She made full use of both on those first two blissful days. She even decided to forego her floatie on the second day and made some great progress toward swimming on her own.
And then the rains came. The cold, cold rain. And the WIND. Days and days of 20MPH winds.
We used the rain and near-freezing temperatures (AND THE WIND, HAVE I MENTIONED IT?) as a handy excuse to leave the sodden beach and wind-blown pool and head into Charleston for some sight-seeing. Evidently, so did the rest of the known world. There was traffic, y'all. REAL BAD traffic. And a line about 20 miles long to get into the aquarium, where apparently everyone is required to go when it so much as drizzles. My 97-year old grandfather had to walk about a hundred blocks in the cold rain from where we parked to the aquarium, and then we got jostled by every other tourist in the state of South Carolina plus their 30 kids apiece while trying to enjoy the splendor of biodiversity on display. Felicity did incredibly well, especially considering we threw a couple of granola bars at her and called it lunch so we could power through the middle of the day without an actual meal or even a moment's rest.
Afterward, though, we drove across town to the Hominy Grill and shoveled comfort food in our faces, so all was well again. I had a Charleston Nasty Biscuit, which was everything I had been jonesing for in Southern cooking on a plate at once: a nice and lardy buttermilk biscuit with a slab of fried chicken, smothered in cheese and sausage gravy. With a side of cheese grits, of course. Not a green thing in sight. It was glorious.
The next day, we were compelled back into the Holy City by the continuing windstorm and frigid temps, although this time the weather did us a kindness and dialed back the rain. Felicity fell asleep in the car en route, which was good in terms of our not having to listen to her whining about being in the car ("I feel S-I-C-K! That spells SICK!"), but not so good when we were driving around endlessly in search of a parking spot and she woke up and went into a face-melting tantrum that lasted well more than half an hour.
Somehow, we pulled her out of the emotional wreckage and managed to do some sight-seeing, which was to culminate in a horse-drawn carriage ride in the afternoon that we'd arranged online that morning. Or so we THOUGHT. We arrived at the designated time and place only to be informed that nay (neigh), they had not received our reservation -- whoops, maybe the site was down! -- and we would have to wait another hour before we could get on a damn carriage. We all managed to regroup and rally, and we distracted Felicity from the wait with a gourmet popsicle and some shopping, and in the end we got the white horse (named Bob) that she'd been asking for all day, and the ride was perfectly lovely. FREEZING, but once you got past the frostbite and the bitterness over it being subzero in Charleston in APRIL, quite lovely.
To be continued!
(Forgive the abrupt ellipse; I will finish this another day and maybe I will even remember to upload the photos from the actual camera that I brought on the trip, if we are all so fortunate.)