The Last Family Vacation

Gillian Cieri

Gillian Cieri

My family broke apart when I was six. My parents divorced and my siblings — all older— went off to boarding schools, leaving me with my mother. I think that's why our two-week vacation to Acapulco a couple of years prior stands out so vividly in my mind. It's been fifty years, but thanks to home movies, photos, and my sibling's ability to fill in some of the blanks, I remember much of our days there, all six of us together enjoying the good times. The perceptions and memories of a four-and-a-half-year-old could well be contrary to reality, but I choose to hold on to this cherished remembrance in my own nostalgic way. 
I remember the pools the most. It was there at The Acapulco Princess that I learned to swim without my inner tube for the first time, jumping off the pool's edge into my mother's or sister's waiting arms. The aforementioned home movies bear witness to me, in a bikini bottom only, putting my face down in the water and kicking over to my 15-year-old sister. She took care of me then just as she takes care of me now, in so many ways. (The vacation proved memorable for her, as well, when she was crowned "Miss Acapulco Princess" after a hotel contest.) The regular pool had a waterfall with a bar and stools underneath. I remember sitting on the stools with the loud, gushing water pouring down around me. Cool stuff for a kid, and not nearly as common in 1973 as resorts today. The second pool was salt water and had rock walls to appear like a natural cove. One of my two brothers played a character he called "Bad Bus," and he would swim slowly through the water after me, thrilling me with both the attention and a kid's exciting dread of being caught. 

Early each morning our waiter, Fernando, would bring me hot chocolate in the outdoor café. I was usually there with just one of my parents, whoever volunteered (or lost the coin toss, perhaps?). My siblings took part in activities such as parasailing or surf lessons, and I admit to having little recall as to what I did when they were elsewhere. It's the time together that I remember most. 

One night, there was a cock fight, although it was a tame version, thankfully. No death was involved and I, a full-fledged animal nut since the time I could crawl, had a photo taken with me holding one of the birds afterward. There was also a huge piñata one evening that dropped all kinds of candy and trinkets. One day, Santa Claus flew in from a parasailing boat to hand out gifts to all the kids on the beach.  As documented in our home movies he saw my short hair and assumed I was a boy, giving me a miniature truck. You can see the baffled and unhappy look on my face as I gaze down at the unappreciated toy in my hands. 

My parents wore glamorous clothes on vacation. Suave Dad was a big fan of jackets he'd have custom made with bright colors and patterns. My exquisitely beautiful mother often wore chic head scarves, highlighting her dark tan and nearly black hair. They were quite the splendid looking couple, and great dancers as well. I lost them both before I turned 30, and not one day goes by without me thinking of each of them. The Mexican vacation will remain a touchstone in my mind for our brief, but glorious time together as a nuclear family, filled with color, beauty and fun. 

Gigi Beach was born in Pittsburgh but attended boarding schools from age ten on. She graduated from UF in 1990 with a B.A. in English and currently does freelance proofreading. She lives in W.P.B. with multiple rescue pets.

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