Monday, May 15, 2006

Atlantic City

This was the best birthday present EVER. I've always said that the best gift is an experience, not anything in a wrapped box. Gifts are great, but the snapshots from experiences -- especially experiences like this one -- last so much longer and bring the smiles out of nowhere. I could write for days about how amazing this getaway was, but I'll stick to just a few of the many, many highlights....

Normally, I'd be nervous about 'The First Vacation' with someone, but there's none of that with Joe. So we started with breakfast, where I ran into the parents of one of my old high school friends -- always good to hear that I haven't changed in 20 years! It'll be terrific to talk with Jen again sometime soon...

The ride down to Atlantic City flew by...great conversation (as always), lots of laughs, and that first view of the water and the seagulls, speedboats ripping through the water, just took my breath away. With how difficult the past few years were, I didn't have a vacation. At all. And now here I was on the Parkway, sharing this moment with someone amazing. I had to choke back a few tears, remembering all the family vacations I'd been on, how we always left at 5am, the smell of the ocean when we reached the hotel. Brought me right back to memories that warmed me. I so needed to be near the water...

We checked into our hotel, stopping first to look at all the Miss America memorabilia in the lobby. The actual gowns, the crowns, the shoes in some cases. They had the dress from the very first Miss America, and that too brought back memories. The beading and hand-stitching on the gown was the same art that my grandmother used to do. So of course, I'm thinking about how I'd always watch the Miss America pageant as a little girl, so amazed by it all. I was a Barbie girl, so the formal dresses were the big thing for me. Joe cracked me up when he commented that I was a Barbie girl with the dreamhouse and the outfits and the shoes, but yet I never had a shoe thing (until now)...true, true.

We held hands and walked around the city, stopping at many of the outlets and grabbing a hot dog for lunch (I'd been craving one for weeks!). It was a gorgeous day, not the rainy day they'd predicted, and one of my snapshots fulfilled. One of many that weekend.

Thought about swimming in the hotel pool and taking a dip in the hot tub, but let's just say the pool was a little bit cloudy and the hot tub was under construction. So we went back upstairs and showered for our big night out...we had plans to go to the Borgata. Another snapshot as we both got ready for the night out, how his eyes looked when he saw me in the new little black dress, the new stockings with the back seam, the stilettos. I've seen that look before, and it's the most fulfilling thing...I'm sure he saw the same thing on my face when he walked out of the bathroom in his black shirt and dress pants. He's a jaw-dropper. I'm a lucky woman.

Beautiful hotel room, but snafu #1: obscenely noisy neighbors who seemed to be after the world record in door slamming. At 2pm, that could only be a harbinger of bad news at 2am. So Joe went downstairs to get our room changed to another floor -- there was no way a diplomatic approach would work with this crew. I don't often see Missing Link varieties of this sort, and neither of us wanted to stay there. So, the best the hotel could do was another room downstairs. Done. Time to go out.

On our way to the Borgata, as we waited for a taxi, a bridal party fresh from a wedding emerged from several limousines, and I took the opportunity to congratulate the bride. The thought is always the same: "I wish them luck," and of course there's a little part of me that wonders: "Did any of my books help them?" So, another giggle as we departed for the casino.

I'd never played craps before, but it's always been a snapshot for me to be the woman who blows on the dice before the man rolls them. I got to do that a bunch of times, and Joe taught me how to play as well. I found a lucky slot machine and missed the sound of the coins hitting the winning tank. It's gone to paper receipts, which is brilliant on the casino's part. If you can't feel the money, if you can't see all the shiny little coins piling up in your cup, if it's just a number on a piece of paper, you're going to put it right back into the machine. They got me. So I only lost a little bit -- only brought what I was willing to lose -- and spent more time just standing at a distance and checking out Joe at the craps table nearby. He stood, so sexy, against the table and this cute little thing he does with his eyebrows when he's being all serious, and he never once checked out another woman. Little does he know, I was checking him out. We played our birthdays and anniversary on one spin of Roullette and quickly tired of that.

Dinner at Mixx was phenomenal -- I highly, highly recommend it. Sushi, crackling crab strips, macho steak. Great atmosphere with a very classy bachelorette party going on behind us -- always nice to see. Our waiter came up to us then and said, "Hey, you two are must have had a bachelorette's party too, once, right?" Ummmmmm...He saw my ring hand and apologized and hurried away. Okaaaayyyy...So we're giving off a married vibe at less than 3 months. And where's the scariness of that? There is none...with the topic on the table, nice to know we're in the same place. It's out there in the distance as a definite wish list thing, but we're happy in the here and now. There's a big, wide open future out there that we'll fill with amazing experiences and laughs. I've never been this comfortable....ever.

So after dessert and coffee bought at Starbucks and a primal desire to get back to our hotel, I had a near Marilyn Monroe moment when a breeze lifted my skirt at the taxi stand. Couldn't have been more perfect. Not a full-on Marilyn moment, but just enough leg for this conservative girl to enjoy the smile on my guy's face. Never mind that this conservative girl was soon wearing the guy's shirt and chowing down on an espresso brownie....

And Snafu #2 the morning afterward. It was Mother's Day, and I felt a tremendous sense of pressure to get home and shop for the steamers, shrimp and Key Lime pie I'd promised my mother, and my father had asked me to go out and buy a gift and card for my mother from him. Plus, I found out my brother was stuck in New Hampshire in the state of emergency heavy rains and floods. So my head was spinning, to the point of feeling sick. My blissed out state, that bliss bubble with no worries and no fear and no anything back home for that one weekend, collapsed on me. And reality hit me like a ton of bricks. But Joe is an angel, and he understands the pressures I have, and we left early to get me back home to my crushing To Do list. I'm tearing up just thinking about how safe I am with him, his empathy, his lack of judgment, his support. He called on the way back to his house with an idea for my Dad's gift to my Mom. I said it before, and I'll say it again, I am a lucky woman. I am a blessed woman.

Mom loved her Mother's Day lunch -- she said it brought her back to memories of our family vacations at the beach. And the Key Lime Pie reminded her of a trip to Key West my parents had taken long ago. My mom fought for her life last year. I'll never forget how she looked on the ventilator, so tiny, like a baby bird. I remember how they brought us in to say goodbye, and I thought my Mom was gone. And now I'm hanging out with her, laughing, eating steamers and reminiscing about family vacations to the islands. All that pressure was worth it, even if I seemed VERY frazzled that morning. I pulled together a great Mother's Day for my Mom. She loved it.

Now we have to hear from my brother in state-of-emergency flood zone up north. And Joe isn't feeling too well today. So I'm locking into my cocoon of writing three articles that are due today and hoping my shoulders come back down from up around my ears. I had THE most enjoyable vacation with Joe, the best birthday weekend ever...I just need to pound out some work to get my To Do list down, and then I can get back to my bliss giggles and memories of that back, those shoulders, those arms and that eyebrow thing while he's watching the dice and unaware that I was twenty feet away, admiring him.