During the late spring and early summer, certain things remain constant: heat indexes can be measured by the amount of drool on a dog’s tongue; vinyl auto interior isn’t kind to bare legs; and my love affair with the ice cream man is rekindled. Over the past several years, I’ve bought enough frozen treats to pay off his mortgage and grant him a second car. A short time ago, I received a note from his daughter, thanking me for financing her honeymoon in Europe.
Vacation from school begins, and some families celebrate by buying new beachwear and embarking on trips. Not my family.
Since I’ve reached middle age, it’s in the best interest of humanity I never wear anything shorter than a granny-type nightgown. My thighs meet more than the U.N. peace talks. My rump hangs past my ankles and waves goodbye long after I’ve left the company of others. Once I tried on a purple swimsuit at a local department store. I looked like a violet version of the Pillsbury Doughboy, and a young man paid me twenty bucks to put my clothes back on.
It’s almost certain the minute my family takes a vacation, our house will be enshrouded in chaos. Dirty towels will backstroke in overflowing toilet water. Dogs will break dance and play poker in my flowerbed. Long-forgotten leftovers, wearing a full coat of fur, will venture out of the fridge and form their own civilization.
Instead, we have recreation at home. Why hike up a scenic hill when one can chase the lingerie-wearing family dog down the street? Booking an expensive fishing trip isn’t necessary. We achieve the same thrill by rescuing the TV remote from the toilet.
One morning though, my husband John took a sip of coffee and asked, “Wanna go on a trip?”
I was stunned to hear intelligible words. John and I aren’t morning people, conversing through eye rolls and grunts until the first pot of coffee is downed. We never realized how bad our breakdown in morning communication was until our youngest son took us to his first grade class and tried to pass us off at Show-and-Tell as the only living cave people.
“Are you talking to the Mrs. Butterworth bottle again?” I asked. “She’s not real, that’s just a commercial.”
My husband snorted, “I talked to her one time to entertain the kids. So, wanna go to the beach or not?”
He had to be kidding. I would give the cat a manicure if it meant getting away from dishes that refused to wash themselves and phone solicitors who inquired about my health, but didn’t want to hear about my bunion.
The next morning our adventure began. Some children are a pleasure to travel with. Clothes unstained, fingers booger-free, they open the door for their parents, say “please” and “thank you,” and barely speak above a whisper. My two boys fought over earphones, declared they were weak with hunger, and created a mural with spit on the rear window, all before we left the driveway.
After three hours, a dozen fights over a half-melted tic tac mint stuck to the floorboard, we stopped in a small town to eat. The restaurant was a mom and pop place; the walls covered in tattered pictures and yellowing newspaper clippings of local heroes. I followed my husband and children through the eatery, seething inwardly as several pairs of eyes ogled us. Good grief, hadn’t they seen a tourist before?
As I was taking my seat, a waiter whispered in my ear, “Madam, I believe you have a problem.”
Eyes blazing, forcing a smile, I turned and said, “For the past several hours, I’ve worn a permanent wig of spitballs and endured foot odor bad enough to choke a buzzard. And at the last gas station, I almost had to pledge marriage to get the restroom key from the attendant.” I gritted my teeth and continued, “And now you people treat me like I’m zombie road kill. So yes, I do have a problem. I . . .”
Fidgeting with his tie, the waiter cleared his throat, leaned closer, and whispered, “That’s a great speech madam, and I sympathize with your plight, but I’d take you more seriously if you un-tucked the back of your dress from your pantyhose.”