Shortly after the Christmas visit with my sister and (soon to be) brother-in-law, Rob and I decided to move back to Florida. You might imagine this news did not go over well with, well… anyone. You would have thought we said we were moving to Mars! Everyone was against this move. My parents were concerned about our businesses. My sister was concerned about our budding relationship. My Mary Kay Consultants thought they’d never see me again and my friends were certain we’d burst in to flames or somehow disintegrate upon crossing the state line! There seemed to be this widely held consensus that there was no viable life to be had outside of LA. Eventually though, everyone understood about airplanes, love of friends and family (and certain restaurants) and seemed at least a bit reassured that we would be back to visit and work.
My consultants and director friends threw a wonderful going away party for me at a paint your own pottery place. They sent me off with a full stock of individual, beautifully painted coffee mugs! They knew me so well! We had one last birthday celebration for the boys at our beloved My Gym and then we loaded up our house, our kids and our cats for the trek across the nation.
I figured that, since they were still so young, we had a great opportunity to show the boys the country as we schlepped them across it so, we rented an RV and on Leap Day 2004, we headed East. We spent the first night in Vegas with my sister and my best friend, Jill. The next day we drove across Hoover Dam, something I’ve always wanted to do. And to be honest, I’m still a bit miffed there wasn’t that painted line on the road like you see in the movies; you know, the one that says Nevada on one side and Arizona on the other… We went to the Grand Canyon. You should really ask Eli about that one if you ever get the chance! We went to the Petrified Forest National Park, White Sands National Monument and the New Mexico Museum of Space History, which is small but really worth it.
Even despite Dylan having picked up some kind of stomach bug, we were having a great time. But, with our current political climate, I feel the need to say this; I’m so grateful to have seen these incredible fixtures of nature and many others across our amazing nation, and to have been able to share these things with my children. These places MUST BE PROTECTED! So please call, write or donate, help raise a voice to protect our nation’s most beautiful places!
And then, the coolest thing happened…
We took a wrong turn somewhere in White Sands and came out of the park on a different road than we had intended. It was very foggy and very flat but, off in the distance there was clearly a something, and it was big. It wasn’t on any of the maps and, as this was before GPS, I mean a real paper with big folds in it; map. This happy accident was about to check an item off my bucket list!
I am a space buff. I love the stars, space, the moon, stories about our astronauts, you name it. And I absolutely believe we are not alone in the universe. So, imagine my excitement when The Universe plopped us down on a very empty road in the middle of the New Mexico desert, to run smack dab into the VLA; the Very Large Radio Telescope Array outside of Alamogordo! In those days, it was not on the map and they clearly didn’t get many visitors, though there was a visitor center and a very small gift shop. A nice woman pointed us towards the few exhibits there and a self-guided tour to walk out and see the Array. Those things are HUGE! The boys were not quite as impressed but I was in heaven! I walked around as long as the boys would let me and then we were back on the road but, I had seen it, I had walked right up to those giants and touched them. I was a happy girl!
We ate dinner that night at an Italian restaurant with an Irish waiter (naturally) in Truth Or Consequences, NM while the Onion Growers Convention was hopping at the hotel across the street. They even had some Klieg lights and a couple of giant tractors out front!
The next few days took us through Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi as we headed towards Alabama to spend a night with Rob’s parents in Eufaula before heading to Florida. One of the great things about small town living is knowing your neighbors. Everywhere we’ve lived - and between Rob and I, I think we’ve lived in about 20 different places - I made a point to know my neighbors. Especially when Rob was touring with rock bands and would be gone for weeks at a time, it was important to know whose door you could knock on at 11 pm (and who’s door not to knock on, ever!) We drove our very obviously rented RV through the town, and by the time we arrived, at least three people had called Rob’s folks to let them know our arrival was imminent. They were waiting for us on the porch. We spent a lovely afternoon and evening with them and the next day we finally arrived in South Florida to spend a few days with my parents.
All in all, it took about 8 days to make the drive. We were enjoying the adventure and not pushing too hard but, we were all still glad to be done. It’s harder than you might think to make sandwiches in a 3ft square kitchen area while driving 70mph down the highway.
Rob and I left the boys and the cats with my folks and headed to Orlando to find a house. We had a lovely few days just to ourselves and rented a great house. We gave the movers the address and went back to South Florida for a few days while we waited for our belongings to arrive. Then we gathered up our human and fur children and headed back to to O-town. We had a few days in the rental house with zero furniture and a lot of take-out but we were enjoying the pool and the kids were happy. Eli was only about 18 months old when we moved into our townhouse in LA and there was only a very short sidewalk there as not every street had them. Our patio was quite small as well so, going outside to play really meant going to the park, which unfortunately we couldn’t do every day.
The boys had never had a yard and the house we were renting had a big one. It also had a pool so we were already on track to meet their terms for the move. (They wanted a dog, a house with a pool and to play soccer to accompany us on the move to Florida!) But when we brought the boys up to Orlando to spend our first night in the house (on air mattresses) we were a little taken aback by their reactions. The house had big trees on the front lawn and Dylan was in heaven digging in the dirt around them. I didn’t care because I figured we’d just throw them in the pool anyway but, when it started to get dark and we told them it was time to come inside, Dylan wrapped his little arms around that tree and just cried and cried! He loved the tree, he wanted to stay with the tree… And we had to explain to him that we were going to live here, in this house, with the tree, and he could come outside and be with the tree any time he wanted. This seemed to satisfy him and he agreed to come inside, though he did look out the window a time or two, just to make sure the tree was still there.
The next day we sent them out to the large backyard to play. When we lived in LA, they asked to go outside every day and, although most of their toys and things were on the moving truck, they did have some balls and other things to play with. But, they were just sort of standing there… until they came back inside declaring outside to be boring. We could see their point so off we went to Toys R Us to get some kind of play house/climbing thing for the backyard. We came back with a fabulous pirate ship that graced our yard for many years. I thought it was perfect, they would surely have tons of fun with it and yet, when we put it in the yard they climbed up on top and again, they just stood there. We didn’t understand what was wrong but finally, we realized they had no idea what to do. They had never played outside without a bunch of other kids before. We had a weekly play group at Trevor’s house in LA, and there were the kids they met at the park but never anything in their own space. We literally had to go out there and show them it was ok to play in their own yard. And, I guess this should be filed under the “be careful what you wish for” heading because our house quickly became (and still is) the one where all the kids hung out.
But to be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way!