Every summer my family would take its annual vacation to the Alabama beaches. When I was not more than six or seven years old, my father started a ritual that drove all of us crazy and literally exhausted my mother. He insisted that everyone be up, packed and in the car no later than four-thirty in the morning. He wanted to get to the Grand Hotel early enough to check in and play at least nine holes of golf before dinner.
He had all five of us scurrying around like rats after cheese, trying desperately to finish our last minute packing, get dressed and load the car, while my father shouted orders like an angry drill sergeant. The sun was rising as we entered the outskirts of Jackson. Straight to the Toddle House we went for our favorite part of the trip. There would have been a mutiny if my father had forced us to drive all the way to Point Clear on empty stomachs. We loaded up on scrambled eggs, pancakes and big fluffy biscuits. Before we left the eatery, we were warned to make our bathroom runs because my father wasn't stopping until we reached Hattiesburg. Remember folks, this was when Highway 49 was still a two-lane road! We literally held it until Hattiesburg with eyes watering and legs crossed. As we entered Lucedale, my father would regale us with facts about the tunnel in Mobile, the history of the Grand Hotel and all the good seafood we would be exposed to. As we hit Fairhope, the younger siblings would start the familiar chant all parents will recognize, "Are we there yet?" "Almost" my parents would say with a terse smile.
After we had checked in and unpacked, the family would scatter in different directions. My father would hit the golf course, my sister headed to the beach, and I would explore the grounds on my rented bike. Only my mother would stay put. She collapsed in a lawn chair outside our cottage and didn't move until it was time to dress for dinner.
Everything changed with the arrival of my baby brother. No more getting up at four-thirty and no more waiting until Hattiesburg for a bathroom break. My little brother tried out every bathroom from Yazoo City to Point Clear, Alabama. It didn't matter how small the town or how inconvenient the accommodations - stop we would. My father complained bitterly but it didn't change anything. Ironically, Jimmy turned out to be just like his father. If you rode anywhere with him, it was one bathroom break per trip!