Growing up, it was hard to understand why my father never got as excited as the rest of us over family vacations. Whether it was getting on a plane and spending a week in Disneyland or simply camping at a nearby state park, when a family trip was approaching, my sister and I would sometimes have our bags packed as early as a week in advance (perhaps the only time we were ever ahead of schedule in those days), as we dreamt about what the adventure might hold for us. My father never seemed to want to breach the subject. At the time, a part of me thought he was a curmudgeon for it—these days, I know better.
Any trip that requires packing luggage also requires the father to load the car and then fetch the small toy at the bottom of whatever suitcase has already been buried under other luggage in the back of said car to stop the one-year-old from screaming like a hurricane warning siren. More than that, with small children come larger and more oddly shaped items to pack, making for one crazy game of real-life Tetris.
Now, don’t feel bad for me—at least not entirely. My wife has it way worse when it comes to family packing and getting the kids ready. Typically when I’m outside packing the car, she’s inside chasing the two-year-old with a pair of two-year-old pants, yelling at him to put them on as he screams back, “NOPANTSNOPANTSNOPANT!” Meanwhile, the four-year-old is following my wife with his own pants on his head, because “look, Mom, I’m funny…I’m funny, Mommy!” (and I know just what my wife is thinking at this point: at least HE has his pants ON!) and, through all this, the one-year-old empties the bathroom wastebasket of its contents…and wears it as a hat to mimic the four-year-old.
I hear all of this from outside the house, fighting the urge to prolong the process of packing up the car because–once I do–I know I’ll have to tag in to this madness.
But this time I’m lucky. This time my wife exits the house with the children dressed and ready—one child wearing mismatched shoes and a shirt meant for a child two years younger, another with marker blemishes across his face, and another with his diaper on the outside of his pants.
We are now ready to depart…or so I foolishly think.
I look at the back end of our SUV with a broad smile and a long sigh of relief, thrilled with how tightly and efficiently I was able to pack that car. I really am a prodigy at these sorts of things. Then I look to my right, where my wife is carrying a baby basinet that seems more appropriately sized for a small horse, one that bears a shape that is not conducive to packing into an already-overstuffed SUV.
“Do you have room for this?”
Remarkably, she is able to repress her frustration from her earlier dealings with the children. Sure, she’s glaring at me like I just put one of her scrapbooking scissors into a bin that was clearly meant for scrapbooking ink stamps, and sure her left eye is twitching like a twerking Miley Cyrus…but all three kids and myself had yet to be maimed. Knowing what it’s like to get the kids ready for anything, I call that a win.
And so I look at the massive baby bed next to her, and then back at the car, noticing how the body of it droops heavily toward the back wheels. I know this item won’t fit. Of course it won’t fit, but I have to be delicate, have to use that charm of mine that once won over her affection enough to agree to spend the rest of her life with me.
But knocking her up won’t help in this situation, Phil.
Kidding, kidding! Sheesh, that’s how rumors get started.
But I do have a fleeting thought that how I respond here could dictate how long of a life I get to enjoy–and so with careful deliberation, I come upon the exact right words:
Her eyes soften and her grimace twists into a smile. She mouths the words, “Thank you,” and proceeds in buckling the boys into their car seats. I had made it…I had survived.
And that’s when I did the dumbest thing ever.
“Uh, you know Kyle’s diaper is outside of his pants.”
…and while I can’t tell you exactly what happened next—I blacked out through most of it—I am fairly certain that whatever happened is the reason I now have a slight limp whenever I attempt a sharp left turn.
Finally, we get in the car and begin our journey…
…but that’s for another day.