My father and stepmom go on a lot of really exciting vacations, you know. They’ve been to Africa on safari. Alaska. The Great Wall of China. The Mayan ruins. All sorts of places I may never get to go, but always each trip more exotic than the last.
(They tell me this is the advantage of working too hard all their lives and now being retired. I wouldn’t know, as the pension plan for freelance writers more or less dictates that you work until you die, or enjoy a nice vacation to your local 7-11, where you can go really wild and splurge on a Big Gulp.)
Anyway, I’m sure that you can understand—in light of their status as seasoned world travelers—why coming here is an unparalleled exercise in extravagance.
Yesterday morning began in our house as it always does; my alarm goes off at 6:00, then Otto’s alarm goes off at 6:05, and finally when my alarm goes off again at 6:15, I get out of bed and go wake the kids up. Despite my exhortations to them to proceed QUICKLY and QUIETLY with their readying, I’m pretty sure that my parents—resting in the ultimate comfort which only a pink-and-flowery room strewn with scraps of paper and doll carcasses can afford—were woken up a time or three by cries of “GIVE IT BACK!” and “LET ME IN, I HAVE TO PEE!”
We got the kids fed and packed up, and Otto took them to school on his way to work.
By the time my stepmom wandered downstairs, I was in my usual spot: Working away at my desk. In my bathrobe. Because I am fancy. I took a break when my dad came down and we all had breakfast together. I then apologized for needing to work more, and went back to my desk for a while. Around lunchtime I decided to do us all a favor and take a shower. No one had SAID anything about the smell, but they were pretty busy with reading and doing Sudoku, plus they’re too polite to comment on it.
For lunch I served up leftovers from the night before, then apologized AGAIN as I headed back to my desk.
“Stop apologizing,” said my father. “If you need to work, it’s fine. You don’t have to entertain us.”
“But but but,” I protested. “I DO! Because I am a crappy hostess! And I should be doing STUFF and THINGS that are ENTERTAINING!”
“Go do your work,” he responded. I think he may have rolled his eyes. I went back to my computer, pointing out that the kids would be home soon.
Indeed, soon the children were home, and I was free to finish up my work, secure in the knowledge that the parental units were in good hands. Well, sort of. Monkey insisted that Grandpa “play” with him. This mostly meant that Grandpa should sit at rapt attention while Monkey built stuff and crowed “LOOK! LOOK NOW! THIS TIME IT’S DIFFERENT!” Chickadee, on the other hand, had managed to complete half of her homework AND THEN LOSE IT (another story for another time, perhaps), so she had a pile of work to complete, most of which involved her trying to trick me into giving her the answers.
“I already went to fourth grade, thanks, though,” I kept telling her, as she became progressively more annoyed with me.
(Afternoons here are EXCITING!)
When it was time to head out to Tae Kwon Do, Chickadee insisted that the grandparent who hadn’t come last time needed to come this time, so after some debate it was determined that Grandpa was up. We three headed off while Grandma continued playing with Monkey. (She later reported that she, too, was mostly allowed to sit there and admire him. What fun!)
By the time we returned, Otto was home, and it was time for the Sacred Ritual of the Visiting Parents and Chinese Food. This is a complicated homage to gluttony that involves ordering approximately enough food for a small village, then sitting around the table and commenting on how full you feel, all while reaching for just a little more lo mein.
Chickadee had a small freak-out over something before dinner and was in A Mood, so THAT was fun. We sat down to eat while she whined and cried that her soup was too hot and besides, it had LITTLE GREEN THINGS IN IT, and it was all very tragic. Meanwhile, Monkey waved a chicken skewer in the air and bounced around and pushed his hair out of his face with a greasy hand over and over to the chorus of us all shrieking, “WIPE YOUR HANDS!”
Fine dining at its very finest. Yes.
About halfway through the meal, Chickadee got enough food into her belly to become human again, at which point things became much less interesting. But then, of course, the time came to do the fortune cookies, and she was all over that.
“Everyone take one, but don’t open them yet, just unwrap them, and then wait, I’ll tell you when you can crack them!”
Otto and I exchanged a look. “No,” we said in unison. Her controlling little shoulders slumped. So sad.
Somehow we’d only gotten 5 cookies, so I gave one to Otto and didn’t take one for myself, but then he gave it to me, so I said I’d share it with him. (Then everyone threw up from the sappiness. Awwwww!) I cracked it open.
“‘This week is a good time to act as a team,'” I read. “Well, I guess the cookie KNEW I was sharing with you! Because we could be a team together. But being a team alone sort of makes my head hurt.” Otto chuckled.
“Now me!” said Chickadee. “‘You will excel in all sports undertakings,'” she read.
“Hmmm… that might’ve been better for your brother,” I commented. “What does yours say, Monkey?”
He carefully unfurled the paper. “‘You will have great success in all you attempt,'” he read, looking slightly disappointed. These were not turning out to be very exciting fortunes.
“What does YOURS say, Grandpa?” he asked, turning to my dad with anticipation.
“Oh, well, let me see, here,” he answered, with grave concentration as he extracted the paper from his cookie. “Okay… oh! ’10… 17… 23—‘”
“GRANDPA!” bellowed both children, while the rest of us laughed.
Dude. Who needs Space Mountain when you have all of this?