Dear Readers: This column is an excerpt from my book, Laura On Life: Corn Dogs and Dust Bunnies:
My husband and I finally went on a long-awaited vacation without the kids. I say “long-awaited” because this was the first vacation we had taken alone since we started having children twenty-three years ago. We weren’t sure how to act. What do we do when we don’t have to amuse children on a long ride? What do we say to each other, if we are not interrupted every two minutes? How do we converse without the usual breaks to scold a child for spitting on his sibling or throwing her toy out the window? Who will provide the arguing and nitpicking?
Well, as it turns out, we didn’t have to amuse the children, but because there were no distractions, we had to amuse each other to stay awake. We sang songs that my husband learned at camp when he was a kid. We made fun of what the people in other cars were doing. We tried to identify roadkill.
My husband said he saw a dead armadillo twice. I thought he was delusional, because I’d never seen a live armadillo, but I was smart enough not to say so. I just agreed with him. At one point, I saw a flattened something that clearly had fur and mused aloud that it might be a bear. He didn’t disagree with me, but I could see that he thought it was unlikely. Just to be ornery, I suggested that it was probably a polar bear. Since we were driving in the Southeast at the time and a polar was obviously an endangered species there, he finally had to bite and said, “It was no bigger than a bread box and brown, how could it possibly be a polar bear?”
Since the albino version of white is clearly brown, I told him it was an albino polar bear. A baby albino polar bear that was having lunch with the armadillo when a Mac truck rudely interrupted them. He didn’t buy it, but he never mentioned an armadillo again.
Things went well until the door on the driver’s side of the car decided to take a vacation as well. Oh, it was still present but it refused to open, no matter what we did to it. The lock was stuck in a weird position, my husband guessed. So, every time we got out of the car, the driver had to crawl over the passenger-side seat to get out. This wasn’t such a problem when I was driving, but I couldn’t drive more than two hours at a time at which point we had to switch.
While I watched, my husband would haul his 230 pound frame into the passenger seat kneeling backwards on it. Then he’d throw one size 12 foot between the seats and annihilate a bag of pretzels and a bag of white-powdered donuts. That bag exploded causing a cloud of white sugar to fumigate the inside of the car. Then he would try to turn around while pivoting on the bag of pretzels and the demolished donuts and haul his rear end into the driver’s seat. Inevitably, said rear end would get stuck between the steering wheel and the seat because when I was driving, the seat was pulled forward. The technique he used to contort his body in a way that would allow him to reach the lever and pull the seat back again would have made Houdini proud.
After he was finally seated and had yanked his legs underneath the steering wheel, he’d give me a dirty look that said, “Don’t you dare laugh.”
Like it was my fault the door was uncooperative, I thought. Geez. “You didn’t have to squish the donuts, you know,” I said peevishly. “They were in my way!” he said defensively.
“Well then, you could have tried this.” I demonstrated by picking up a corner of the donut bag between two fingers. The bag, of course, was broken, and as a result, small pieces of demolished donut plopped out and white powder once again permeated the air.
We both looked at each other and broke into gales of laughter. About that time, we realized that we were behaving a lot like my kids would if they were with us. Well… I’ll be darned.