Mid July, circa 1966. Momma has just completed her top-secret negotiations with Daddy on what to do for a family vacation. They were wise enough to keep completely mum about their plans for this annual outing until the afternoon before we were to leave – just enough time to squeal, “WE’RE GOING TO THE BEACH!!!” a few hundred times and pack some clothes, but not enough time to drive ourselves (and them) insane with anticipation.
With so many kids (by 1966, there were already six of us Ardoin kids: Cassie, Andy, Glenda, Gilda, Dicky, and me) squeezed into our house (on the corner of Vine and Mallet Streets in Eunice*) figuring out where and how to go on vacation was quite a challenge.
To help make this outing manageable, Momma and Daddy decided we would head to Biloxi, which was relatively close, being just next door in Mississippi. Mémère and Pépère would come along to help herd us kids. This was another key logistical consideration that made this vacation possible. Cassie, Glenda, and I rode in the back seat of our grandparents’ Bel Air, in which we would follow Daddy’s big, black, bulky Dodge all the way to the beach. In the back seat of that car were Andy, Dicky, and Gilda. Separating the twins was a strategic move: less hair-pulling and fighting.
On the road, the three of us in the back seat played with magnetic face-making games (similar to the one pictured). Momma had picked up six of these at Gibson’s at the Amy Shopping Center in town – for, I’m guessing, about 29 cents each. I think it was a wise investment. Glenda was pretty talented at making her magnetized filaments stay in place – I was not blessed with hands as steady as hers. My man’s face rarely resembled anything human. Rather, my “creations” usually resembled various species of cactus. Momma had also picked up a couple decks of Old Maid cards to fill in the gaps (and gasps) between Magnetic Man-decorating.
This was sooo long ago that I don’t remember much more about this vacation to Biloxi, except that Gilda and I walked in on Mémère and Pépère taking a bath together. It was more funny than shocking or scandalous to my not-yet-corrupted little mind.
But beach trips like these (we most often went to Holly Beach in Cameron Parish, La.) do call to mind sunburn and Noxema, mosquitoes and citronella candles. Lunchtime meant ham sandwiches and Dr. Peppers from Daddy’s red ice chest, and a bag of Ruffles. Also: various inflatable floaty things as well as jellyfish stings (these are a few of my favorite things! – except the mosquitoes and jellyfish).
So I’m now craving a beach trip before this summer ends. The beaches of New York are pretty decent – but I’m thinking I should get farther out to make it more like an actual getaway. Biloxi (which seems to get smashed by a hurricane every decade or so) is out of the question because, being all the way down there in Mississippi, it’s just too far. Any ideas?
* We had not yet moved to the Stone Motel.
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