So a year ago, my husband and I made it a 2020 plan to relocate for a month to the beaches of Gulf Shores in March, just to test out our snow-birding abilities. Translation: see if we can live together in a small condo and not kill each other.
And if you’ve read my blog about our traveling mishaps over the years you know that that usually means some weather phenomenon, disturbance or catastrophe starts to brew in the atmosphere. Weather meteorologists suit up, animals and birds seek higher ground, residents board up windows, medical facilities stock up their supplies, someone is going to lose a limb because…well…
The Hudgins are coming.
The closer we got this year to our trip the more excited we became because we’re apparently what you call S-L-O-W L-E-A-R-N-E-R-S.
We started checking the weather daily, and it looked like perfect sunny temperatures for our arrival. We were giddy. On the way down I checked my weather app, saw temps in the ’70’s and actually said out loud “Ha! take that! Bad luck, my ass!” Then I’m pretty sure I asked dismissively…
“Think this Corona virus is going to turn into anything?”
We both laughed carelessly, “ha ha ha…”
… right in Karma’s face.
Introducing! (Horns sound!) Pandemic COVID-19! The 2020 catastrophic event of epic proportions…
Now our plan all along was to spend the month at the beach, but Paul would work from here, and I would start working on a new book, because I figured that monsoon rains would start promptly on our arrival so I better have rainy day stuff to do. Oh, Fate must have enjoyed my attempt at backing up plans.
We arrived on March 11th, and quickly started receiving texts from family and friends at home that the sky was falling….the world was ending…No food! No water! No toilet paper!—man, they really know where to hit me, I am so fond of TP I bring it with me when I travel…hmmm, should we be alarmed? “Nahh,” we say to each other. So Skip To My Lou we go, getting groceries, setting ourselves up in the condo, right on the beach, for the glorious month of our free-trial snow-birding.
This is gonna be GREAT!
First day, we are run over in the elevator by REAL snow-birds getting the hell out of here. I strike up a chat with one who says “Gotta get out before all the spring breakers bring that Corona virus here!” He’s frantically bumping the cart, carrying everything he owns, into the walls and door frames as he pushes it down the hallway. I stopped on the walkway to the beach, thought about what he said and then promptly went out onto the beach and stuck my head right in the proverbial sand.
By now the texts from home are becoming more frantic by nature, and I’m starting to feel a bit anxious. My mother is texting me that my brother is dropping off “ammo” (a word a mother should never use) for her gun, because “we’re all going to martial law!” I immediately picture rioting and pillaging in the streets and my mother crouched behind her sofa loading her gun. My mom—the woman who can’t open a bag of croutons.
“Think we should go home?” I ask pouring myself some wine.
“Are you feeling nervous?” husband looks concerned.
“No, why do you ask?” picking up the salad bowl of wine with both hands.
By this time, stores at the beach have started to run low on items as well. The panic has finally trickled its way from Atlanta, everywhere, to the quiet shores of Alabama. We hit three stores looking for various items, give up, and end up in a tacky souvenir shop getting a 1970’s airbrush t-shirt made, and putting pirate hats on each other—don’t tell me we don’t know what to do in a crisis! Deny, deny, deny! Look at us! It’s like we don’t even know it’s the end of the world!
I quickly deduce that my culinary talents are about to be fully tested. I laugh at the irony of my fully stocked kitchen at home which I could cook a gourmet meal for 12 people at a moment’s notice but where am I during the zombie apocalypse food shortage? At a rented beach condo with two tangerines, a bag of pistachios and a half a bag of pork rinds, because pork rinds are low carb and I’ve been low carbing it since January1st—New Year’s Resolution, right? Yeah, well that was before Corona scared us all into thinking that every meal might be our last. This is a crisis french onion dip can’t possibly stand up to. I’m eating potato chips dipped in carrot cake now.
Corona is nipping at our heels. At this point the beaches were still open and some college spring breakers had made it into town. No worries. It’ll be fine. I’m not talking to anyone on the beach—God no! I’m not even looking at them. But it’s there—looming. I’m an Empath, so I can always feel things coming before they actually arrive, and as I sat there that day looking at the drunk kids having the time of their lives on the beach I wanted to tell them to run the other way—away from me. I felt like the witch in Hansel and Gretel—I might as well just shove all these kids into my oven.
The restaurants were still open too so that night, at 4:30 to avoid “people,” we sat outside overlooking a beach full of bikini clad co-ed’s who were sharing drinks, touching, kissing—Oh my God, stop! Have none of you taken Microbiology?! Cooties! The mother in me wanted to stand up and send them all to their rooms, collectively. I felt it then…they were going to close the beaches. The Hudgins curse had now befallen all of Baldwin County Alabama.
Next morning—beaches closed. Uh-huh. Shocker to no one.
It’s funny how you start to bargain mentally, offering yourself consolations when you get disappointed:
“Maybe we can still WALK on the beach but just can’t sit out there?” NO.
“This should be a private part of the beach, I don’t think it will pertain to…” NO.
“Can we still go out early morning and then just come in before…? NO.
“What if we just walk to the edge of the…?” NO.
“OK, well, we still have the pool.” NO.
“Can we even look at the beach?” NO.
It reminded me of a cartoon I saw once showing two guys casually chatting amongst the burning flames of Hell, one looks down at his cup and says “Man, they’ve thought of everything, even the coffee’s cold.”
I had my birthday here. Planned it that way, because how fun would that be right? To get to celebrate your birthday at the beach—that you can’t go on? Or look at? Lucky for me, I have a husband who made sure I still got to celebrate so he took me to the Bon Secour Wildlife Refuge—lured me there with beignets no less. I fell for it thinking it was going to be like a petting zoo.
“Am I going to get licked by a baby deer?” NO
“Get to hold cute cuddly things in my lap?” NO.
With powdered sugar still in the corners of my mouth, I was starting to get the feeling that I had been duped.
Just look at him. He knows I’m about to hate this.
It was hiking through miles of sloped sandy trails, boob sweat, peeing in the woods with no-see-ums biting my ass, and looking over my shoulder for an alligator the whole time. It was basically Missy’s “Alabama birthday boot camp.” Plus every time we met someone on the trail I had to do quick social distancing math in my head, “Is that six feet? Wait…no…move back.” For the record, boob sweat and math do not a Missy birthday make. He also forgot my birthday presents at home in Atlanta, but he did say “Here, I’ll let you have the last tangerine for your special day.” No scurvy for me, just like celebrating my birthday in 1887.
So here we are. Beaches closed. Restaurants closed. I’m trapped with a man who doesn’t drink, hardly eats, doesn’t really talk, and has dedicated over half the kitchen counter space to his work computers. I’ve voluntarily sequestered myself to the condo balcony because I can “make noise” out there.
All personal hygiene or lack thereof is in full swing here. I’m on a quest to see how long I can go without washing or styling my hair or wearing make-up. The seagulls don’t seem to mind. I saw a picture of Rita Wilson online yesterday and realized I “looked” far sicker than she does (btw, God Bless Tom and Rita). I’m just sayin,’ I don’t think keeping people six feet away from me is going to be a problem.
A trip to the grocery store channels my inner, Lara Croft Tomb Raider–gear up, scan the perimeter, suspend myself from the ceiling so as not to touch anyone or anything, dodging people who are breathing. I get home and my husband tells me I have a hole in my shorts. “Oh I’m sorry! I didn’t realize it was a garden party, I thought it was a pandemic! I should have worn my NICE shorts to brave the killer virus germs at the store to get your dinner! Silly me! We’re all just trying to survive here man!”
The unpacking of groceries is now followed by a Silkwood hot shower brillo scrubbing.
One of my favorite lines from, Christmas Vacation, we’ve used daily, “I don’t know what to tell you Audrey, it’s the holidays (or a pandemic), we’re all miserable.”
Now, I know what you’re thinking “Poor things, quarantined at the beach, wah-wah…” and I agree. I’m not making light of the fact that our worst quarantine situation here by far outweighs the best quarantine at home . We can still look at the beach (if we don’t get caught)! And that beats watching pandemic TV or walking my mom through loading her gun over the phone…
“Mom. Mom. No. It’s on the bottom. The bottom Mom. No, the other way. No, you can’t turn it off and back on again…Mom. Listen. Ok, let’s start over…”
Everyone please stay safe—wear clean underwear like your mom always told you to, “just in case,” maintain your sense of humor, and we will get through this. We can do it!