Camp Widow: One Day Arriving, One Day Crying, One Day Laughing
Part the First: One Day Arriving
To explain the giant omnibus title there, this was originally envisioned as one post, and then I realized it was at least three. But the title is a good summary of my Camp Widow experience: one day arriving (Thursday), one day crying (Friday), one day laughing (Saturday).
One day arriving. It all came together at the last minute.My hotel was covered by an angel walking among us. It was possible. I had barely enough to cover spending money/food/incidentals/airport fees to and from, but just enough. Also, because I apparently like to double-complicate matters for myself, (Not on purpose! Just booking at 2 am and....Herp Derp, Widda Brain!) I managed to book a flight into Sarasota instead of a flight into Tampa, which turned out to be a scenic hour's drive away. All very well and good, in the 'taking in the scenery' sense. Not so great in the 'I have two roommates waiting for me at the other airport' sense.
I got a ride from home at 5 am, bleary-eyed. Flight left at 7:50 am, boarded at 7:30 am. By some miracle, I got waved through to the easy TSA line, even though I didn't pay extra money for it. (God knows I can't!) Even taking off shoes was optional in that line. No newfangled scanner, no riffing through bags...simple. Window seat, lovely view, all the way to Charlotte. Ditto, though with smaller plane, to Sarasota, where I sat next to a very chatty, very nice guy who was literally named Attila the Hun(garian) and pastored a Sarasota Hungarian Protestant Church. I told him why I was going to Tampa and about Camp Widow and he seemed interested in it, and in SSLF, as a resource for his church congregation, which includes an unusually high number of widow/ers, due to their age. I hope Camp Widow Tampa gets some Hungarians from Sarasota there for a day trip next year thanks to me! :)
I took a rental car from Sarasota's airport, which is adorable and tiny, to Tampa's airport, which is ginormous and manages to have duplicates of the rental car stations in both the red and blue loading/unloading areas. (Cue the requisite joke from "Airplane.") Not that I turned out to need the rental car place on arrival--I got a receipt on car delivery and was set--but I told C. and P. I'd meet them at the rental car place and then I was running round creation trying to find them. May I also note that I'd never rented a car before and this was super-exciting and fun for me? It was easy to find my cut l'il red car in Sarasota's 'International' Aiport. "Go to number 10." I think it only went up to 12. In Tampa there was an entire parking garage with hundreds of vehicles.
Anyhow, eventually, I found my awesome friend widows C. and P., who I'd been corresponding with online for most of the five years we'd all been widowed. (Seriously, we are all at year five.) The difference is that both of them have been at multiple Camp Widows and this was my very first one. I recognized them both by description and by their Camp Widow t-shirts, which I wanted right then and there, knowing full well that this was the Camp that they weren't giving out free t-shirts but free notebooks. (Like I need a free notebook. Pshaw.) But I digress...These two ladies, my roommates, were women I'd known online for years, but I'd never before met in Real Life. It's so different meeting somebody you've only known online in meatspace. It adds a new dimension.
Also, I had the funny experience of finding out that my Hira/almost real FB name firewall has been so effective that even people who are friends with both me-as-Hira and me-as-real name on FB can think I'm two different people. I suspect it's because 'Hira' lets her hair down and tells it how it is, and even cusses occasionally, whereas real name FB-me is more buttoned down? Perhaps. Perhaps because I've been careful to ensure the twin never met? At any rate, P. didn't understand why she'd been hearing from both FB-me's about meeting her in Tampa. Mystery solved! And then I found out folks had been calling me Hy-ra instead of Hee-ra. ::Facepalm:: Yeah, probably best that I explain that...
So that first night, we all went down to the Champions Lounge, which is in the lobby area of the hotel, and chatted with the huge bunch of widow/ers there (in two places). I had a mojito and bbq sliders. Then I went with P. and our new friend R. from Canada to Publix, the grocery store, since I'd just found out it was 'lunch on your own' and I had to make things stretch for breakfast and dinner. I didn't realize yet that breakfast would be provided downstairs, so it was mostly lunch that would be problematic. I got breakfast things, lunch things, and some seltzer water that served me well.
After that, P. and I ran into C. in our room. She had just been in the hot tub. P. wasn't prepared to get into the water, but I changed into my bathing suit and met up with the smallish crowd of our CW tribe that had gathered in the hot tub to kvetch, kvell, connect, and laugh. I had a great time. P. left before I did. The rest of us went downstairs to pester widowblogger/internet celebrity Kelley Lynn, who was hard at work on her blog post. We took two selfies which rock in their utter randomness. (That is the True Nature of Selfie.)
And the morning and the evening was the first day...