Copyright 1999 W. Bruce Cameron
Don't you hate it when you're just getting into your "productive zone" and a family member interrupts with some fool project that threatens to derail your whole day?
Case in point: This weekend I'm settling into my chair, a pristine bag of taco chips nestled under my arm like a newborn baby. In my lap the TV listings reveal an entire day of sporting events (including Ukrainian Woman's Body Building, which I never miss), while to my right is a beer, glistening with dew and shimmering with promise. Then my wife bursts into the room and begins to wax irrational.
"I want to go on a family hike," she proclaims.
I nod encouragingly. "Then you should go. I'm sure there are plenty of families who would love to accompany you."
"I mean us."
"Why a hike?" I demand. "Don't they have a web site for that?"
My children are equally astounded, but, like any responsible parent, I've decided to present them with a unified front. "Your mother is crazy," I explain. "We'd better do what she says."
"But I have plans for the weekend!" my oldest daughter howls. "Why do I have to go?"
"Well, you ARE technically part of the family," I observe. "Pretend you're walking at the mall."
"You are ruining my whole life," she snaps. (I don't tell her what having two teenagers has done to mine.)
My other daughter tries a different approach.
"Can Brittany come along?"
"How about Whitney?"
"Is Greta the one I like?"
The family packs as if we're never coming back. Everyone is carrying enough water to wash the car. Our backpacks bulge with extra clothing suitable for both a day on a dog sled and an afternoon of beach volleyball.
After carefully applying makeup, my 17-year-old daughter troops out in a skin-tight blouse that looks like it came right off the rack at "Babes R Us." Maybe she's hoping we'll encounter a cleavage contest. "What do you think, we're going to run into boys on this trip?" I demand. Her response is an insolent toss of the hair that makes me wish I had some sheep-shearing tools in the garage.
"Put on something less...mammalian," I tell her.
"Why?" she jeers. "Do you think we're going to run into boys on this trip?"
My son wants to know why he can't take his hamster. "Because all pets have to be kept on a leash," I explain.
"I WILL keep him on a leash!" he promises eagerly.
An hour later we're at the base of a hill. "This is crazy," I tell my wife supportively. "Why couldn't we pick a downhill path?"
"It will be downhill on the way back," she says, as if this makes any sense.
I cast a look at my kids. My eleven-year-old is carrying a walking stick and wearing ski goggles -- he looks like a sherpa. My youngest daughter is plugged into CD headphones; my oldest is talking on the cell phone. "We're coming up on a big, big rock," she reports. "No, wait, that's my dad's butt."
For some reason this strikes my wife as funny, and she begins what will turn out to be two straight hours of giggling.
I step into a mucky bog and my shoe is sucked right off. "Hey! The trail is eating my feet!" I protest. Only my son stops to help. He has changed into a hockey helmet. I frown. "Where'd you get that?" I ask.
"In your backpack, under the ant farm."
"You brought your ant farm? Why?"
"Because I couldn't bring my hamster," he explains logically.
After we've hiked across a couple of time zones, my knees begin muttering to themselves about the ordeal. "We need to take a break, I'm bleeding internally!" I call out. I'm ignored.
I'd still be up there if it weren't for a sudden storm (shows what happens when you send your prayers marked "urgent"). My son pulls umbrellas from my backpack and we run down the hill.
"That was a once-in-a-lifetime, never-again experience," I announce as I start the car.
My wife, gazing out the window, pretends she doesn't understand the significance of my phrasing.
Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1999
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