As we boarded the cruise ship I was feeling sad for Paige and thinking of her first week as a newlywed without Michael. His new job is a great opportunity, but it means many days alone for Paige. (He was one of 93 people offered the position out of nearly 3000 applicants. For the training period he does not come home during the week.)
As I lamented the blur of speeding time and the sad goodbyes after the wedding I realized that one plane ticket could equal another four or five nights with Paige and Graham. I messaged her and told her my idea and said I would check in on Wednesday from Jamaica to see what she decided. When I got to internet to see what she decided I was giddy to hear that she had booked a ticket and would be meeting us in Sarasota.
|excited little brothers waiting on a big sister and nephew to arrive|
At one point in our friendship I was trying to go run a half marathon with her but I bombed out and never got there. I am ten years older than Keight and she tried to see me as a mentorish type friend. I set her straight and cleared that up right away. We decided that iron sharpens iron but sarcasm and humor only serve to keep us mocking and laughing and inappropriate. Getting sharper would not be something we would offer one another. The Mr. of the Dukes family, Jesse, visited us in Haiti in 2014. However, the friendship that had been nurtured on-line was not between Jesse and Troy. They had no problem creating an instant bromance because of their common interest in brown hair, dashing good looks, and worship-leader-chord-chart stuff.
We had invited the Dukes to the wedding but those dates didn't work as well for them as the Sarasota dates. I was pumped when Keight said she would be bringing the crew south to spend some days with us. She thought it was five hours and she thought we *might* be worth the drive. It ended up being 7 hours for them, which is a big/long two hours when traveling with three young kids. The pressures to love one another much, much, much weighed heavily on us all after those extra two hours on the road.
Graham and Noa Dukes have an arranged marriage plan. They don't know about it yet, but it matters not. Oddly enough, the exact same day Paige announced her pregnancy to me last February, so did Keight. Noa Dukes was born five days before Graham Gonzales. Like his Tito Troy, Graham digs older women.
|Save the Date - Nuptials June 2038|
I quickly fished out some jeans and ditched the shorts in an effort to not become homeless for a week in Sarasota. Sadly, that was the best I could do because I didn't bring my homesewn clothing on this trip. Troy fell over on the ground from seeing me do something as kind as changing clothes so as not to offend. When I finally revived him I said, "People grow, Troy. Yes, even me. Also, we don't have the budget for five nights in a hotel."
My Mennonite friend Janet tells me that I was indeed in an area where many of her people reside. She enjoyed the juxtaposition of the two experiences. We left the wild cruise ship to land in quiet old-school area of (Pinewood) Sarasota.
Obviously, we are culturally very out of place in Pinewood. First, Troy cannot grow a giant beard if his entire life depends on it. Not in weeks, not in months. No giant beard ever. Second, Troy didn't know the rules and he found out that if you take a huge SUV filled with kids to the park, the folks on the bikes don't necessarily move out of the road - like at all. He backed the truck up several hundred yards to park it and walk when the stare-down ended in his defeat. It became abundantly clear he would not be driving into the playground area.
We don't know any of the rules, but we were certainly willing to learn about the old order by trial and error or any other available method. The general feeling we got was that everyone knew were were outsiders (duh) and weren't necessarily all that excited to have us invading their area. My Janet will explain things to me and I will do better next time I visit Sarasota. The thing is, we have two major things in common. We have lots of kids and we dig rejecting the principles of conformity. Maybe next time we will be braver and make a friend or two and play some shuffleboard in the park with the Yoders or Brubachers.
Because we excel at procrastination, we had put off Isaac's eye appointment until the last week. We had a major head-butting problem with the women at the eye place in WalMart. They couldn't find it in their hearts to offer ANY customer service so we ended up with an eye appointment at Target the following day. Long boring story short, we waited long enough to not be able to get the kid his new glasses in time to take them home with us. Still trying to get them to Haiti as of the writing of this blog post. The time in Sarasota was split between staring at Graham, laughing at Keight, and being a parent that takes their child to appointments and helps them have good health. We renamed it Saraseedy because it is actually the place circus performers spend their winters and let it be said, it is just a very odd combination - a bunch of carnys on vacation in the same area as the Amish - wha!?!?!?
This was no ordinary park. It was utopia...
People from all over the world living in harmonious peace and joy. Zero exaggeration here, we chatted with immigrants from Russia and Vietnam and undisclosed lands. Additionally, Lydia shared Cheez-Its with a black woman while she gratefully accepted my offer to lift her nephew onto one of the park toys because her back was bad.
It was a diverse stew of humanity and we simmered in the beauty of it all and tried to figure out how we could just create our own little United Nations mission right there in Saraseedy. We considered linking arms to sing We are the World, but Troy and Jesse forgot their guitars. The Russian Mom brought her baby girl (Zoe) over for photos with Graham and Noa, because world peace. The Vietnamese Dad (small in stature) pushed me (less small - more stature) on one of the park contraptions - because different but equal.
|holding our babies in the park|
|World peace is within our reach - so says Graham, Noa, and Zoe|
|diversity makes the world go round|
|oh nothing - just hanging with our friends - punny|
We are the world, we are the children.
|(Christian) (Mom) Swingers|
Keight wondered aloud if he would return to her or be taken from the earth in a dramatic fashion. We teased her and came up with multiple possible horrible endings. The time he was gone was long enough to all start to make up wild scenarios. At least two police cars and an ambulance sped past the restaurant during our wait. Before he could get back to us the food arrived and the kids all needed help. Keight single-Mommed it like nobodies business up until baby Noa did something truly legendary. Somehow in the middle of Two Amigos restaurant, Noa pooped a volume of ka-ka that has never been seen or recorded in modern history. Paige, Keight and I went to work trying to figure out how the world's wet-wipe supply would be sufficient while Troy dealt with everyone else and their food and beverage and attention from adult needs.
The poop was in so many places I couldn't stop laughing at the epicness of it all. A table that had been seated sometime after us gave us the stink eye while we laughed until tears were running down our face and baby Noa screamed in anger over her state of affairs.
Jesse waited until everything was totally in control again to walk back in from saving the world with his kindness. He will never fully know the horror or hilarity of those five minutes.
|bonded for life by poop trauma at Two Amigos |
I took the Dukes dung-stained laundry home to wash for them and we parted ways until the next day.
The entire memorable day birthed a bond between us that can never be broken.
Troy and Jesse are suckers. On our third and final day Keight somehow managed to get the dads to take the kids to a wild life "large cat preserve" where they would hug animals and feed bears hot-dogs on a stick. I am told all "wild" bears are doing this now.
|have you hugged an Emu today? |
|Goodbye (for now) photo for posterity's sake - Love us some Dukes!|
On our last day in Saraseedy we slept in and laid low all day. We played with the kids in the swimming pool. We hugged and kissed and obsessively photographed Graham. We all went to do our last minute shopping late in the day.
The five youngest kids had their own money burning holes in the pockets of their pantses. Watching them shop/choose is summed up in one word. Maddening. Lydia got another giant stuffed animal, rounding out the collection she has already imported.
|Do you have a fan club watching when you bathe? No. I didn't think so.|
Friday morning Paige had to take a cab up to Tampa for her flight in order for us to manage to get south to Fort Lauderdale in time for our flight. The 5am goodbyes were way less dramatic. Being too sleepy to cry is far less emotional turmoil, gotta note that and plan it the same for next time.