Crawling Under a Bathroom Stall Again…

Oh, where to begin…I texted a few  friends a snippet of this story thinking it was probably an inappropriate event to share with the world (Facebook) even with context. As it evolved into chapter two, I thought, why not? Why not tell the blogging world about a story that calls to mind college days, desperate moments having to do with immediate bathroom issues, and, quick, probably not well-thought out decisions. Why not?


A restaurant in the bottom floor of one of the oldest hotels in town, Hotel Del Pescador,  has a two-for-one margarita special all day long. In Zihuantanejo, restaurant owners, street vendors, and beach hawkers all call out to us, “Lady, Gentleman, come, drink, eat, and buy our fine things. Come now, we make margaritas for you. “

Duh, we went.

Two necklaces, one pair of earrings, one family of stone turtles (I’m still trying to figure how many there are in total), four shirts for the boys, three dresses for the girls, and suddenly, I have to pee. Bad.

I’ve only had two margaritas which is entirely manageable. 22489935_1579994358689990_6101645083406976537_n

I go to the bathroom at the back of the restaurant. I saunter into the first stall I see. Mistake, Paul’s mom tells me. ‘Always check to make sure there is enough paper.’

I admit that would have been a good idea. I closed the stall door behind me and slide the door lock to the right. The door lock falls apart in my hand. I catch it. It can wait. I really have to pee. As I hunched over the toilet letting no part of my body touch it (thank you, Amber for the squat exercises last week), I hold the little piece of metal and stare up at the door latch. I’m not sure what to do. I spin the toilet paper thing around and nothing comes out. I begin to realize I am facing a bit of a problem. I drip dry while I ponder my dilemma. I was a prisoner in the stall.20171020_1826431931233161.jpg

I stood up, adjusted the dampness, and concentrated on the non-functioning  door latch. I shoved the little piece of metal into the slot where it had broken off and twisted it quickly. Nope. The door latch didn’t move.

I looked around at the stall. It was clean, actually really clean for Mexican standards. I looked down at the floor and winced. Not so much. Plus, there was only about a two foot gap between the bottom of the door and the floor. I shook once more and bent down to my knees. It strikes me then. In 1987, I was visiting my cousin at WSU and we crossed the Idaho state border because we could drink alcohol before we were twenty-one. Then too, there was a bathroom stall malfunction and I had emerged from the floor like a creature from the swamp.  Why, thirty years apart, was I forced to get on my hands and knees and crawl under the door of the bathroom stall because of a door lock malfunction?

It couldn’t be helped, so I just did it. I crawled under the door and snaked my way out of the stall. At the last minute my shirt scrunched up and I was bare skin on the floor of the Mexican bathroom. I immediately thought to myself. ‘Wait until I tell Paul.’ It is a good sign in our marriage that I can hardly wait to tell my husband about the most horrifying and hilarious moments in my life. I put the broken half of the lock next to the sink, pulled my shirt down, and fluffed my humidity-curled hair. I cringed when I realized I now had bathroom floor gook in my red tresses as if it were hair product.

“We have to go,” I said to Paul when I reached the sand. “Now.” The various parts of me had slowed in their drip-drying process as the full force of the 100% humidity hit me.  “Trust me, it’s important.”

“Whatever,” Paul said in a happy, margarita-induced stage. We paid, left, and hiked the 166 stairs to our hotel. Somewhere between step 25 and 100, I belted out into a high-pitched whine an explanation of what had happened in the bathroom stall.

“Are you going to laugh?” I demanded.

“No, I am scared of what might happen if I say anything.”

“You are so in trouble,” I said.


“I just have one question,” Paul said shying away from the possible blows. “Are you going to change your underwear?”


So, would a normal person go back to the same restaurant knowing full well it was a possibility she might have to use the restroom again? Absolutely.

Four days later, we were walking past the restaurant where the whole debacle had happened.

“Hey, we remember you, two margaritas for one price this day too!” The waiter called to us holding out a chair in the sand.

I looked at Paul. “Do you think they know it was me?” I whispered.

“You mean the person who locked everyone out of the stall?” he asked.

“Shh, quit talking so loud.” I glared at him with narrowed eyes. “Your life could get so miserable,” I threatened coolly just under my breath.

We had barely finished our first margarita when my body signaled it was time—urgently—to go to the bathroom. My eyes bugged out.

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

Paul began laughing and struggling for breath. He waved his hand not looking at me. Afraid to look at me.

I rushed to the back of the restaurant. I pushed open the door and automatically threw open the door to the stall I had destroyed only days before. I slammed the door shut. Someone had used gorilla glue and thoroughly installed the door latch again. I shoved the lock, banging it shut firmly.

Blowing air out of my mouth, my quads clenched tightly (thanks again, Amber), I prepared to hunch down over the seat. A slow heat burned through me. I had a big problem. I was wearing a “romper”. For those of us who remember the 1980s, it is a one-piece jumpsuit. There was no way out of it unless I could figure out how to get the zipper down. Same stall. Different problem.

I managed to pull off a contortionist move and get it unzipped half way down my back. Then, I shimmied it down over my hips. The fabric strained and I could see daylight between the seams of the zipper. I was not going to pull this off in a hunched position. I lowered myself to the toilet seat. (Sorry, Amber). I didn’t care what germs I would carry with me on my clothes. I leaned over to pull the toilet paper.

“Mom, I wailed. “How could this happen again?” No toilet paper. Not a single sheet. Could it get any worse? Of course it could. I stood up wearing only a bra on my top half, wrapped the loose romper fabric around my waist and opened the stall door.  I had lost all respect for myself, the romper, and the authentic Mexican breakfast I had four hours earlier. I spread my feet apart and carefully hopped to the stall next door. I grabbed more toilet paper and hopped back to my home away from home. Sitting there I had a lot of time to reflect on my entire experience with the Hotel of the Fish and the women’s restroom.

I went out to Paul and he grinned at me. His toes were buried in the sand, his Mexican hat was jauntily perched on his head, and a fresh margarita sat in front of him and another one in front of my empty chair. I took a long drink and looked with deliberation at the man of my dreams. Should I tell him? 20171020_1846021749731390.jpg

Crawling under the door the first time was understandable, but going back to the same bathroom and choosing the same stall in an emergency bathroom situation and ending up hopping around half-naked looking for more toilet paper is an unforgettable story he will roll out at every social gathering we will attend for the rest of our long married life. So, Friends, that is why I am sharing this story with you now. Yes, I am preempting Paul’s version which never matches mine anyway. For further proof of the veracity of my version, I’ll even wear the romper.

The worst part is that I cannot swear a series of events such as these will never happen again, because trouble finds me wherever I am hiding, even it is a lonely bathroom stall in a second world country. All I ask of future events is that they not involve skin to floor contact in a sticky seaside bathroom or a bra-only bunny-hop search for the impossible.



Roberto was my husband, brother and friend today. He is our taxi driver, our consultant with Mexican culture and our confidant in parenting twenty-something children.

We worked out a plan with Roberto. He would be our primary mode of transportation for our week in Zihuantanejo. We would call him for a hasty trip into town to pick up water or for a long ride out to Treconnes to sit on the quiet, uninhabited beach. But, it was in the last 24 hours that we got to know Roberto–and he got to know us.

To become a taxi driver in Mexico, you have to purchase your taxi license. It was about $325,000 dollars—not pesos. Roberto said he worked  many jobs in the United States and Mexico and raised four children while saving up enough money to purchase his license. It took him sixteen years.  His four children are all boys. They need school uniforms, sports equipment (mainly soccer), and money for the future. That doesn’t necessarily mean college; it means Mexican parents help their children with their futures—whatever that future might be.

Roberto was able to open locked gates, secure reservations, traverse private roads, and advise us on activities in and around Zihuantanejo. He took us to a gold market, tiptoed with us through a 140-year-old cathedral, and laughed at us while we pretended to smoke cigars with him. Paul and I rode along in the back seat  of his taxi bumping and nodding. Roberto can do anything.  We are believers.


Wednesday morning, Paul wasn’t feeling well. He’d had a cold since Sunday, but it wasn’t getting better. He had the chills, a head ache, running nose, and the beginnings of a cough. I should have paid more attention. It was my failing as a wife.

“l want to go shopping in Ixtapa,” I announced at breakfast.

“Roberto,” Paul said looking over at me, “Lesley wants to go shopping.” They were on the phone together. “Okay, I’ll tell her you’ll be here in 15 minutes.”

I shot out of my chair and made for the three flights of stairs to our room. Two hours of shopping without Paul! Thank goodness for his cold!

I sat in the back seat while Roberto drove the 20 minutes to Ixtapa. We joked and laughed and talked about Paul and his wife. I threatened him that he couldn’t sit in the car and wait for me to finish shopping—he wasn’t my husband, I told him sternly.

We arrived in Ixtapa and I looked around. There was nothing. There were about ten hotels and two blocks of shopping. I was so disappointed.

“Well, I’d least like to look at the beach,” I said.

“Okay,” Roberto said parking the car. “I’ll go with you.”

Wait a minute. I was going to walk on the beach with my taxi driver?  I did. We parked our little car, number 623, and walked to the public entrance to the beach. We passed under a concrete entrance way and two men stood up and met us. Roberto held up his taxi license hanging around his neck. They nodded to him and glanced at me. In a rapid Spanish, Roberto stood tall and spoke right back. I understood enough to realize that Roberto had to justify our access to the beach. He was defending me. Like a husband would.

We walked on the beach, my heavy shopping tote bumping my leg with every step in the sand.

“Here, give it to me,” he said sighing and rolling his eyes.

We walked along until I realized that I was putting as much pain on Roberto as I did on Paul. They both hated walking on the beach, going nowhere, doing  nothing, and carrying a rainbow-colored bag with giant handles. 

“Let’s go shopping,” I said wheeling around. “Let me have the bag.”

“Oh no,” Roberto said grimly. “I will carry the bag.”

Back in the car, the air conditioning was struggling to get started. Sweat dripped from under my head and splashed on my shoulders. Roberto looked over his shoulder at me.

“Why don’t you sit up here? It is colder already.” I jumped out of the back seat and opened the front side door. The air conditioning blew my hair, and I shoved my face into the air vent. Roberto laughed until he started wheezing. It felt odd to ride in the front with Roberto and yet, it felt wrong  for me to ride in the back and shout over the sound of the air conditioner.

“Okay, we will meet here at 12:15,” I instructed. “Exactly 12:15. Not earlier, okay?” I looked at him warningly. He dismissed me with a wave of his hand. Our deal was that he could work during the time that Paul and I were doing activities as long as we set a pick up time.

It was a glorious two hours. I recklessly spent 2500 pesos. I could not tell you how much that was, but every time I pulled out a 500 pesos bill and laid it on the counter I felt power. Later, after the furor of the day subsided, Paul informed me I spent eighty bucks. It takes so little to make me happy.

At 12:15 I was waiting exactly where Roberto and I agreed to meet. I had the rainbow bag and the five other shopping bags, so I kept alternating them from one side to the other. I kept hearing the sound of a horn beeping, but I ignored it. I was in the right spot. Finally, a girl selling dolphin tours came up to me and said, “Is that guy with you?”

She pointed. It was Roberto. He looked frustrated. I got in the front seat and threw my bags in the back seat. I think I hit Roberto in the head with the rainbow bag.

“We were supposed to meet over there,” I gestured towards the corner.

“Yes, but right here is the same as over there, just on the other side of the street.”

“That doesn’t count. You told me where to be.”

“it is alright,” he said staring out the window, his shoulders hunched.

We drove back to the hotel in silence until Roberto began telling me a long story about the Mexican cartel and how they don’t want people in Mexico doing drugs because they don’t want the shipment to the U.S. delayed. I was interested.

“What happens if you do drugs in Mexico?”

“You get your head cut off.” He made the slicing motion on his neck.


When we got back to the hotel, Lena the concierge, met us at the taxi.

“Mr. Paul is not well,” she told me.

“I’ll wait,” Roberto said.

Down at the pool, Paul was laying on a lounge chair. Every time he coughed his chest caved in and a whistle came out.

“Get up, you are going to the doctor.” Looking at my face, he knew not to argue.

Roberto drove fast, careening over the pot holes as we flew down the narrow streets to town. Paul laid his back against the head rest and continued coughing. His face was white. Roberto dashed in and out of the traffic and pulled in next to a pharmacy.

“Come, let’s get him in.” We helped Paul out of the car.

Within less than 30 minutes, Roberto got Paul into an examining room where the doctor took his blood pressure, weighed him, and listened to his heart and lungs. Roberto translated for us, but there times when he and the doctor talked vehemently to one another.

“He’s going to give you an antibiotic shot,” Roberto said steely-faced. “One each for the next three days. I told the doctor you are very sick.”

We were all quiet on the ride home to the hotel. I made arrangements for Roberto to pick us later for dinner. In the meantime, Paul was to rest.


It was at least 8:00 at night when we saw Roberto again. We wanted a quiet, fast dinner. No formalities, no linen napkins, no bucket to ice the wine. Just dinner so Paul could go back and rest back in the room.

“Paul, Lesley, we are friends, right?” Roberto seemed troubled.

“Of course, Roberto,” I said.

“Do you need something, Roberto?” Paul asked.

He pulled over onto to side of the road next to the beach and let the engine idle.

“It’s my son. The one who is twenty three? He told me yesterday he had something serious to talk to me about,” he stopped and looked at us in the darkness. “Is this okay to talk to you?” I let Paul answer. It seemed like he needed Paul more than me.

“We have serious talks with our kids,” Paul said. “What is happening?”

“He told me he was in love.”

“That’s great,” I said happy for the Roberto Junior out there somewhere.

“To a thirty-year old woman with a child,” he finished.

“Roberto, you love him no matter what, right?” Paul asked.

“That’s what I told him,” Robert said.

“Then that doesn’t make a difference.” Sometimes it’s scary how smart Paul is.

Later, after dinner, we sat on the concrete steps of El Centro where two local teams were playing basketball. I was cheering for the side with the purple uniforms and heckling the referees who were pretty loose when it came to calling  traveling. I was happy. My husband was starting to feel better. 20171018_215551836082366.jpg

“Lesley and Paul.” We looked up at Roberto smiling and standing behind us. “Time to go home. We have a big day tomorrow. 

Roberto rested his hand on Paul’s back for a moment as he helped him stand up. He patted him gently between the shoulder blades. It could have been a “you owe me for taking your wife shopping” pat, or “don’t go scaring us like that again,” pat, but I think, watching Roberto match


us step for step to the car, it was a “thank you for being a kind friend” pat.

We spent our last full day with Roberto on a tour of a gold and silver market in Petalan, walking rows of an ancient pyramid and playing field, and eating bowls of local pezole soup. When someone hands you the salt shaker without you asking for it, he is a friend. Best Wishes, Roberto. We will think of you, the boys, your wife, and, of course, taxi 623 that always met us with a rush of kindness. It felt like home. 

Wedding Crasher Wimps

We were invited to crash a wedding this week. It was tempting. The guy sitting next to us on the plane leaned over and said, “Come on, it’s okay. Crash our wedding. My bride to be will be cool with it, I promise,” he grinned and held out his hand, “Cecil, really.”

He got up and went to the bathroom in the back in the plane. He stood in line. All over the plane heads popped up.


Hey, Dad!”

“Brother, Dude, I’m still hung over from last night,” a haggard-looking guy called.

“There is no way we can crash their wedding, Paul,” I said my eyebrows raised. Every single popping head was African-American.

“I guess we couldn’t fade into the background,” Paul said reluctantly.

Cecil was from Los Angeles and twenty-seven members of his family were on the plane. The bride had arrived in Zihuantanejo the night before.

“Google it,” Cecil said confidently. “Just say Texas billionaire, Zihuantanejo. It was cheaper than home. The bride,” he laughed, “picked it out. Gorgeous view, I guess. Bride happy, groom happy, you know?” He nudged Paul. Paul’s head bounced up and down.

Then a voice came out of the loud speaker, “Doctor or medic to the back, please.” Then it wasn’t just Cecil’s family who popped up out of their seats. We all did.

“Oh, God. My brother-in-law, no way, she’s going to kill me.” Cecil sat down and put his head on the tray table. “Please tell me it’s not a heart attack.”

I stood on my chair to see better. Paul scowled at me.

“Get down.”

“He’s okay, Dad,” a voice from the back called. “Medic guy said it was dehydration.”

“Thank you, Lord,” Cecil said. “I told him to stop the drinking last night.”

Over the next three hours we heard all about Cecil and his family. He had seven children and it was a second marriage.

“Two sets of twins,” he groaned. “what was God thinking?”

As he talked, Shonda popped up, her long braids, flying behind her. “Dad, we there yet?”

“Chemistry major,” Cecil sighed. “I thought she’d be the artsy type. Her twin brother,” he motioned to the handsome boy across the aisle about the age of our youngest son, “he’s majoring in music. Viola, I think. I’m not sure how it’s different than the violin, but I guess it is.” He reflected. “Don’t tell him I don’t know the difference. Probably important, you know?”

Paul and I were enchanted by this family that ebbed and flowed down the aisle. Cecil was the center—the anchor of the family.

“Seriously, guys,” Cecil said to us, “if you don’t feel comfortable at the wedding, come to the turtle release in Treconnes on Sunday night. I hear it is pretty special.”

“It is. You have no idea,” I said.

“Amazing,” Paul said.

When we landed in Zihuatanejo, Cecil’s family trooped off the plane carrying various musical  instruments. They waved to us as they filed by. A little girl, a grandchild, smiled shyly at us as Cecil tickled her stomach. Her head arched back showing great gaps between her teeth.

“Paul, I don’t want to crash the wedding. If you invited someone I didn’t know, you’d be a lonely man sleeping on a bumpy couch even if it was our honeymoon.”

Paul cocked his head. “Entirely possible.” I raised my eyebrows. “Likely?” He posed. I squeezed his knee.

“Okay, you don’t have to convince me,” Paul said. “I’d like to see Cecil again though. He’s a nice guy. Let’s plan on seeing them at the turtle release.”

Faker,’ I thought. ‘You are as in love with this family as I am.’


Sunday came and Paul and I stood in the lobby of the hotel waiting for the tour. We knew from two years ago a van would pick us up and take us to the small town of Troconnes, thirty minutes away. The guide would face backwards while the driver drove and explain about the Olive Ridley turtle rescue program. When we arrived at the sanctuary, we would dig up a well of turtles, allow them to rest and gain their strength, and then release them at sunset.  In the meantime we would celebrate and play in the surf.

A taxi pulled up and man exited. He came forward he hand outstretched. “My name is Francisco! I am your tour guide!  You may call me Frank, which is American you know,” he shouted, “or call me Paco, my Mexican name.”

“Where is the big family?” I asked.

“Where are the bride and groom?” Paul inquired.

“Oh, they were too big a tour. Another guide took them to Manzillo. You need a private tour guide! Me, Frank or Paco, whatever you like!”

“Paul, I don’t want to go.”

“We paid already. We’re going.”

The entire drive to Troconnes Paco or Frank (take your pick) yelled over his shoulder at us as we passed lumbering trucks full of coconuts.

“They are pulled from the beach out of the way of predators and they incubate for 45 days. Half of them are male and the other half are female. It depends on the temperature, of course.”

“Of course,” I mouthed to Paul. I looked out the window.

After Paco parked the tiny taxi, Paul and I straggled to the enclosure and settled on the ground in front of a stake that had the number September 1 on it.  It was 45 days later, and deep in the sand, the turtles had hatched out of their eggs. We dug down into the damp hole and carefully pulled the tiny turtles to the surface. Paul’s hands were more gentle than mine. I scraped the side of the sand wall feeling for errant turtles that had gone sideways not straight up. 20171015_151034

“Seventy nine,” Paco crowed as if he had done any of it. “Come now and have your snack while we wait for sunset.” He walked ahead of us shaking his shoes with each sandy step.  He led us to the restaurant on the beach.

“Paul, it was supposed to be perfect. We were supposed to see Cecil and Shonda, and her brother who plays the viola,” I hissed. “Now we have Paco. What happened? Why didn’t we get the tour with them?” I hated Paco. I detested his memorized list of turtle facts. 20171015_151935

“They will return here ten years from now,” Paco announced. “Of course that is only 3% of them.”

“Of course,” I mouthed again. Paul laid his hand on my shoulder.

We sat at a table looking out at the waves while the turtles began to come alive in the buckets next to us. They raised their heads and looked around. Piled six deep, their flippers pounded against the sides of the plastic walls. Insistent, their little bodies scrambled, trying to climb the six inches out of the buckets. Their eyes blinked wet and black. 20171015_151057

“The tour includes a snack and two drinks. You may order now. Not margaritas, however. Beer or soda pop.”

“I’d like a margarita, please,” I announced as the waiter came over. The bucket of turtles continued humming next to us. I didn’t look at Paul.

“We release them at sunset,” Paco said, “so they can follow the road to the sun.” He beamed and bit into our quesadilla. I kicked Paul under the table.

I was shaking with anger. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted to see Cecil and his children shout and laugh when the turtles began to run towards the water. I felt helpless.

A dog ran up to me begging for scraps of our tortillas. I kept my hands in my lap. Paul pointed  towards the dog while Paco continued to prattle about his expertise as a tour guide. I got up and left the table. I sat down on the sand.

“And, I take older retirees for three nights into the mountain towns to see the monarch butterflies,” he proclaimed.

The dog followed me and lowered himself to his front feet and raised his rear into the air. His tail wagged back and forth. His tongue panted and he pushed his nose into my hand. Suddenly, he tackled me and I cried out scared.   Paul stood up and looked at me. I waved him off. It was okay. 20171015_170055

I watched the dog who licked me with equal parts sand and dog drool. I longed for the easiness I have felt towards dogs my whole life. I reached out and stroked his head. He leaned into me. His weight was substantial and I leaned back. It wasn’t fair. It was supposed to be perfect.


Emmie was seven weeks old when she came to us. Solid black, short hair, and intelligent eyes, she was meant to replace our golden retriever of thirteen years. We were so happy. We were going to be the perfect puppy parents. We missed our old dog who had passed away, but this was our time to start over.

When she was little, Emmie was scrappy. She chased the cat, Lily. We plied her with mountains of toys and she snatched them from us when we teased her. Her little growl was cute. We taught her early to walk on the beach with us, but as she grew older she jumped on us her little teeth like needles. When we punished her, she jumped again and again. It didn’t matter what we did, she never backed down.

One day I was feeding her and, as I dropped the bowl to the ground, I reached to pet her. She turned and attacked me. She snarled and lunged for my hand grazing it with her teeth. I stood back against the wall and held my throbbing fingers.

We went through puppy classes, obedience training, even private lessons with a police dog trainer. But, nothing helped. By the time she was nine months old, we had her on a long leash in the house so when she snapped at us we were several feet away.

Paul loved Emmie. He walked her twice a day. Even though the trainer said to keep her on a tight leash at all times, he let her run on the beach off leash. It was the only time she was free. He loved watching her launch herself into the water after a ball. He believed she would be okay.

Each night Paul and I debated whose turn it was to put her in the kennel.  We had to take the leash off her, and because we had to reach into the kennel to unhook it, it was a tense transition for her and us.

“I’ll do it tonight,” Paul grabbed the leash and led her towards our bedroom.

The next sound I heard would change our lives, and in some ways, I don’t think we will ever get over it. I heard a deep growl and a cry of pain. I ran to our bedroom. There was a pool of blood next to the kennel and Emmie was standing inside. I followed the trail of red splotches into the bathroom where Paul sagged against the counter, his hand in a stream of water that flowed red and fast. His face was grey in shock and I could tell he was trying not to vomit. The bite was to the bone.

We had only one choice the next day. Paul took her to the vet even though I offered. That is an example of Paul’s character. If you know him, it makes sense. The hardest jobs are the ones he will do.


“It is time to release the turtles,” Paco beamed.

I fumed.

Paul and I carried our little buckets of turtles to the water’s edge. A Mexican family with a small boy who asked his mother why I talked funny came to join us. We tipped the buckets over and the turtles began spilling over the edges. They tumbled, one after another, and gained speed when the foaming water flew in to cover them. I sat with my new friend, the dog with the sandy drool, and watched the turtles spin their flippers towards the road to the sun.


Ignoring Paco and his musings, I thought about Cecil, Shonda, her brother, the toothless grand daughter, and the bride we would never meet. I stroked the dog’s back and hoped their turtle experience was perfect—just like it was meant to be.

“I have another fact for you,” Paco said standing in front of me and blocking the sun. “Look there,” he pointed to the sand dune next to the turtle enclosure. “See those tracks? Those are the tracks of the turtles who escaped the pen before we could save them. They decided on their own when to go to the ocean.”

Under my hand the dog shook his coat and sand flew everywhere. I closed my eyes and felt his heart beating, steady and sure, through his body. He sighed and laid his head in my lap.


The dozens of turtles we released continued on their journey to the water. They didn’t stop even when tossed by the frenzy of the churning water. Perhaps Emmie was one of the ones who decided her journey without waiting for the others. For her it was the perfect time; for us, it was the time we had to accept.

A Babe in a Bikini

20171014_1340341624548308.jpgPaul and I dropped in an exhausted heap today at the beach. We grabbed a couple of chairs under a palapa and ordered a bucket of Pacifico beer from a beachfront restaurant called Irma’s. The waves were pounding a few yards away, but I was restless. I hate just laying on a chair. I was ready to walk. Someone had to save the chairs and keep track of our things, so I nominated Paul. Eyes closed, he nodded.

“Is there anyone around?” I asked Paul. He nodded again. I yanked my dress over my head. I stepped out of my shoes. “I’ll be back.” Looking over my shoulder behind me, I slipped down to the waves and started walking.

I alternated between the sand and the waves looking for shells and sea glass. I wasn’t thinking—I was just cruising along. I peered into the tide pools looking for crabs or small lobster. Looking up, I saw Paul jogging along the sand directly towards me.

“I couldn’t see you,” he panted.

“I’m fine,” I smiled. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” He huffed and caught his breath.

“There’s rocks and an undertow, and…’ he gulped. “You’re wearing a bikini.”

“This is not a bikini,” I corrected him. “This is a two-piece.”

“It’s a bikini.”

To me, a bikini is a tiny swim suit worn in 1979 by self-confident teenage girls on vacation. I remember their skin shimmering in the sun by the side of the pool with a sheen of Tropicana coconut oil coating their bodies. They laughed and tossed their Farrah Fawcet hair, leaning back on their elbows. That wasn’t me back then. I was too fat to wear a two-piece.

When I was in 4th grade, I went through puberty abruptly. I grew nine inches in a year and gained 30 pounds.  Overnight I had stretch marks on my stomach and hair under my arm pits. I went from being a confident girl who could turn cartwheels across a velvety-green lawn to an uncomfortable young woman who sat on the door step and watched other girls twirl across my yard.

It sucked.

There was only time I wore a two-piece bathing suit between 1979 and 2012. In 1987 my parents took us to Hawaii, and I pranced about in my blue and white Hawaiian two-piece. I had worked hard to get into that two-piece—Jane Fonda aerobics, the grapefruit diet…my dad didn’t tell me once I looked nice.

When my mom bought me new school clothes she had me put on a fashion show for my dad. I would traipse into the family room and pirouette in front of him. I remember him tilting his head just past me to look at the television.

I don’t mean to rag on my dad. He was proud of my sports ability, my grades, and my determination to accomplish my goals. I just wasn’t tiny enough for him.

He passed away in 2011.  I started the year wearing a size 14 and weighing a 170 pounds. At the end of the year I wore a size 2 and weighed 125 pounds. Yes, it’s because my dad died and no, it’s not. Everything came together—sometimes a perfect storm can mean everything you’ve always wanted happens at once. As amazing as I felt, I was also uncomfortable. The scent of the coconut oil lingered in the air. I didn’t think I’d ever wear it.


In 2012, Paul and I went to Hawaii. I was strong from weightlifting and graceful from Zumba, and I ate healthy food. I was doing everything right. But, I couldn’t wear a two-piece. I felt naked, fat, and scared.

“Okay, you can take my picture,” I called to Paul when I put it on the two-piece on for the first time.

“Well, you are going to have to come out from behind the bush,” Paul said exasperated.

I was literally hiding behind a bush just above the beach. My white tummy showed the stretch marks of my childhood. They were silver-colored, and I was likely the only one who knew exactly where they were. My thighs were strong and muscular. My trainer just days before had sighed and said, “I would give anything for your calves.” Really? When I was younger I couldn’t fit them in boots.

So, when Paul ran down the beach towards me today, because I was wearing a “bikini” and he feared for my safety, I had to laugh. I am not as small as I was in 2012, but I am strong and confident. I could beat the crap out of any guy who tried to grab me while I was on the beach.

“Okay,” I told Paul. “I won’t hide behind a bush. I won’t wait until sunset. I won’t cover up with a towel. I’ll let you take my picture in my two-piece.”

“Bikini,” he said automatically.

So he did. He took the picture and I promised myself I would put it on my blog and not worry about what others would think of it.


Then the true test came. There was a party of 40 people in Irma’s restaurant. They were toasting a guy’s 65th birthday.  I marched right through them all, wearing my BIKINI, and ordered two margaritas. Although it was thirty years ago when I last wore a bikini in a restaurant, I rocked it today. There was more than one frowning wife and quite a few men sneaking a quick look. After all, I am just fifty—a babe in a bikini in their eyes.

Greeting the Ghosts Who are Us

Paul and I are headed for Zihuatanejo, Mexico, the little beach town made famous in the movie (and book) Shawshank Redemption. Andy Dufresne escapes from prison and says to his friend Red Redding, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Paul and I are busy living.

We traveled to the humble town of Zihuatanejo in 2015 and fell in love with it. We could go to the sleek high rise hotels of Ixtapa a few miles away, but there is something about Zihuatanejo that calls us back. We love it for its grubby, funny, sweet places and people. I hope, like last time, that as soon as our taxi leaves the highway and begins bumping along the pot-holed streets, the children in their school uniforms will run along next to us smiling and waving through the window.

20151124_091644The quaint, raspberry pink-hued hotel, Paseo de Morro, is our very own Grand Marigold Hotel from the movie by the same name. It clutches the rocks on the side of the cliff hanging over Zihuatanejo Bay. There are 166 steps from our hotel down the hill into town. A few times we started the margaritas earlier than was advisable and the climb back to the hotel was demoralizing. Paul got cranky and told me to quit counting the stairs—he couldn’t bear it. I cackled and shouted the numbers. 20151121_172254

I have prepared myself that the magic of “first times” will be fewer. However, I will go to the bay one dawn when the long and fast panga boats hurtle towards the familiar landmarks that welcome them home each sunrise. The fishermen who cast their nets by the light of the moon or by headlamps on moonless nights, slide onto the beach and push their bounty over the side of their boats. Fish, some still flopping, rain onto the sand and wait for the restaurants from the resort town to come and select the catch of the day. No matter how many times I see that flotilla heading for shore, I know my breath will catch in my throat just a little. 20151123_115104

We’re returning to the beach town called Troncones to volunteer with a turtle rescue organization. We’ll release protected and newly-hatched baby Ridley turtles. They struggle out of their shells and trundle towards the incoming surf which cartwheels them back to the sand again and again. Smaller than the palm of my hand, hundreds dash towards the water determined to make it under the waves. Last time we visited, we watched a mother turtle dig a hole and lay her eggs next to our dinner table where our bare feet were burrowed in the sand. It was my birthday, and I thanked the massive matriarch for providing a beautiful spectacle that will reside in my mother heart forever.

20151125_204348We are returning to Zihuatanejo in hopes that time has stood still in a few places and for some people, most notably our favorite restaurant, Bistro Del Mar, where four staff waited on us all at the same time (imagine four men pouring wine, pouring water, removing plates, and placing plates all simultaneously). We also look forward to the hotel staff at Paseo de Morro even if they did cluck like disapproving mother hens when we appeared at the top of the stairs tired, hot, and, let’s just say it—intoxicated. 20151125_172243.jpg

To return to where you have been, to be young where you were once younger, to expect the unexpected all the while knowing full well what to expect—it is a rather odd place to be in the universe.  If anything, those two ghosts of our past—the younger Paul and Lesley—better at least push us up the stairs or we won’t tell them how much more wonderful their lives get in the future.