Day 1, 2013

Coming home from vacation on Saturday night is a good news, bad news scenario. The good news is that you have the entire day Sunday to recover and prepare for the week ahead. The bad news is you feel like it is Sunday all day Saturday and it puts you in a tailspin.

 So, I found myself Saturday morning at the beach pulling out church clothes for the boys and then checking myself. It was a good thing we didn’t have to look respectable and holy because we were scraping the bottom of the barrel in the clothes department and not much of what I was finding under their beds was passing the sniff test.

 The one task I knew was inevitable was packing up the beach place and shoving anything valuable or personal into the owner’s closet. The single worst job on the planet. OK, maybe that is an exaggeration but it is undeniably the cruelest way to end vacation.

 Yet, once Mark took the boys and the dog to my in-laws and left me to my shoving, it was the first time I actually relaxed in the 8 days since we left home. So, I sat on the couch and strained my ears for some noise. Nothing but the ocean and the whoosh of cars on Ocean Highway. So, I closed my eyes for just a minute.

 I am sure there was still alcohol left in my body from a week’s worth of sampling Happy Hour specials so I am going to blame my extended cat nap on chemistry and other high level science stuff that is beyond my control. I am not sure how much time passed as I snoozed, because my watch was in the bottom of the beach bag coated in sand and crumbled gold fish and pretzels. I foolishly took it off on the beach one day to avoid the tan line and it just sunk to the bottom like ocean treasure never to be seen again.

 The second worst job on the planet is wrangling three boys and a dog into the car where they are each allotted a mere two inches of leg room for the three-hour ride home. With multiple sets of golf clubs, clothes, coolers, pillows, summer work in backpacks that were never unzipped, the beach bag with two pounds of loose sand—and my watch– in the bottom plus a dog bed; our car was the Rubik’s cube of travel. If you touched even one thing and broke the packing pattern, you had to undo it and start the puzzle over again.

 There is something about a road trip that makes me want to eat junk food and drink sodas and smoothies. It doesn’t matter if I am driving or riding shotgun, the craving is the same. Now that I have kids, I can just pretend that we are stopping for their benefit and I am just going along with this plan to oblige them. I am pretty sure my entire family sees through this ruse but as long as the end result includes sugar, I am ok with this.

 We stopped at the gas station before leaving the city limits and I prepared to go snag some treats but Mark advised that since the boys just ate, we should wait until we stop later to walk Murphy and get something then. Well, I only like pretending that I am into snacks solely for their sake when it benefits me. How was I ever going to get Peanut Chews if we have to wait? The sweet tooth knows no logic. But, fine.

 The kids weren’t even complaining because their grandmother made sure they could live off that last beach meal for days in case we got off-course and ended up in the wilds of Sussex County, Delaware without reserves.

 Reed fell asleep almost immediately in the third row in a position only a 10-year old can sustain without a physical therapy follow-up appointment. Murphy spent 10 minutes teetering on the center console before finally getting up and lying next to Mac in the middle row. Drew played with his phone. I fiddled with the radio marveling that there are 3000 satellite stations and only 12 songs, all the while obsessing about my snack.

 Two hours into the road trip, Reed and Murphy were still resting comfortably while I was getting more uncomfortable by the minute. Road trips suck without snacks, this is widely known. Finally, I found an ally in Mac who is starting to send strong hints about food. Mark stared straight ahead, driving until I pulled the only card left in my deck.

“Um, honey, I have to go to the bathroom. Can we stop soon?”

The fact that I have timed this statement minutes over the Bay Bridge with a Wawa, McDonalds and several other options two exits away was no accident. I opted for Wawa because they have good bathrooms (since I am going to have to go pretend pee to perpetuate the lie), good drinks and well, good everything. I was minutes away from Peanut Chews, I could just feel it.

 We pulled in and I offered to go to the bathroom first while someone walked the dog. When I returned Mac handed me the leash and I handed him my credit card and recited my order. I ticked off the requisite Peanut Chews and then hemmed and hawed over the drink. Surely they had some fake Frappuccino thing on the menu I could order, so I told him to call me with the options from inside.

Reed was wide awake and he and Drew trailed Mac into the store. I stayed outside with Murphy and stared at a rotten banana on the strip of grass next to the gas pumps. My kids swore that the same banana was there when we stopped there on Memorial Day. I had no evidence to dispute it so I, instead, busied myself keeping Murphy away from it.

 Mac called and we settled on a cold coffee drink and I waited. And waited. Mark came back from the bathroom with no kids. Drew and Reed came back with candy bars but no Mac. I got Murphy in the car and we pulled closer to the door anticipating Mac’s return.

 Finally he appeared with a drink tray and a bag, He handed out the drinks and I balked at the looks of mine. This was no blender drink, it was iced coffee with mocha syrup and it was bad. Really bad. Because one of the best ways to prove something is bad and you are not just being picky is to pass it around and force everyone to test it, Mark took a sip as we pulled back onto Route 50.

 He concluded that they had left the coffee on the burner too long. I concluded that this was a total rip off but in Mac’s defense, he ordered the same thing and was equally disappointed.

 As he ripped the corner off the wrapper of his Kit Kat bar, I was reminded of my Peanut Chews. Maybe they would make the drink more palatable. I turned to Mac and asked for the bag, “it’s empty,” he said.

I felt all the hairs stand up on my arms and neck before I inquired about my candy. To which he replied “Oh, um wow I forgot.”

Mark veered the car off a little on the rumble strips and then stared straight ahead again. Everyone in the car was looking at me except Murphy who is looking at Mac hoping for some chocolate.

 Mac offered me his Kit Kat but I declined the half eaten bar and automatically took a sip of my drink as a means of settling myself. Then the bitterness hit me and I slammed it back in the cup holder. I turned around and bestowed my best fake smile on everyone. It was fine, really.

 Except it wasn’t.

 Darn, darn, darn. Everyone knows that you have to eat all the bad stuff on the way home from vacation so you can start your diet the next day. But maybe since it was Saturday and not Sunday, technically I could still be on vacation on Sunday and start to get back on track on Monday.

 All this planning and the accompanying sugar crash occupied my mind until we got home. I felt like a whole day had passed while we unpacked the car. It seemed never ending until finally my entire living room was filled with a sandy, leaning tower of stuff that signified our vacation.

 And then I saw it. The bright pink and orange bag that has symbolized the beach from the time I was a teen. Candy Kitchen. That bag had been in the car buried under all the other unimportant, insignificant things like clothes. How could I not remember this?

 I did a half split over the cooler and beach bag and grabbed it in one try. The Peanut Butter Kiss box was already opened, saving me precious moments. Mac was walking the dog, Mark and the other boys were cleaning out the trash in the car. And I sat down on top of someone’s duffel bag and popped two pieces of peanut butter taffy in my mouth.

 There alone in the living room again, it was the sweetest way to end vacation.


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Magnificence in the Mundane

Finding humor in kids and chaos is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

Magnificence in the Mundane

Finding humor in kids and chaos is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

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