Monday, January 28, 2013

To Grandmother’s house we go

“We forgot Memphis!” our son Evan yelled from his car seat, looking around in vain for our dog.

“We remembered her, didn’t we?” my wife Kara asked.

“Dude!  I knew I was forgetting something.  I was hoping it was just my toothbrush,” I said.

Kara looked to see if I was serious.  Whenever she thinks something bad might have happened, like we might have let our insurance expire, or we might have forgotten to buy the eggs that were the whole reason for the grocery trip, or we might have left our dog alone in the house for the weekend, I have a compulsion to make her think the worst has happened, even though it hasn’t.  It’s a form of humor that became popular in this country right around the time that it became socially unacceptable for wives to hit their husbands with frying pans.

“Memphis!” I said, and a furry head popped up behind the back seat.  Before our second son was born, Memphis lounged in the passenger area, sticking her snout out the window and snorting and sneezing with glee.  Now, in case she had any question about where she fit into the new family order, her little bed squished beside the suitcases in the very back should have made everything perfectly clear.

We were travelling to Kara’s parents for the weekend, a three-hour drive that often reaches its midway point at about the time Zack, our ten-month-old, decides that his fellow travelers would probably enjoy listening to the unbearable sounds of his loudest vocal stylings.

The regular reader(s) of this column will remember that last week, I claimed that each day you spend with your child is easier than the one before, that every milestone reached is one step closer to the ultimate goal: Getting your children to the age when you’re allowed to take a nap while they’re still awake.

Right after I submitted that column, Zack submitted his rebuttal by reaching the milestone in which little enamel daggers started jabbing through his gums.

“Okay, you have a valid point.  Each day isn’t necessarily easier than the one before,” I said to Zack that night, slumped over his crib as he screamed and drooled Infants’ Tylenol.

Back when Kara was teething, her parents, driven to desperation, had employed the old whiskey-on-the-gums trick, which seems like a very frontier-parent thing to do, perhaps the only parenting technique they shared with Daniel Boone.  Of course, I don’t know if Daniel Boone ever had any teething babies, but it would explain why he spent so much time out in the woods.

On this car trip, the hour that Zack had been sleeping was about the longest stretch he’d managed all week.

“Peace and quiet,” I said to Kara, and she nodded.  In the backseat, Evan sat with his headphones on, glued to the Word World episode playing on the iPad strapped to my seat back.

We flinched as the silence shattered.

“THE PIG’S EATIN’ PIE CRUMBS OFF THE FLOOR!” Evan yelled, pointing at the screen.

“Evan, quiet!  You don’t need to yell,” Kara said, holding a finger to her lips.

“WHAT?  I CAN’T HEAR YOU.  LOOK AT THE PIG!” Evan yelled.  He hadn’t quite mastered the whole headphone thing.

“You’re yelling, Evan.  We can hear you if you talk much quieter,” Kara said.


Zack grunted and shifted around in his car seat.  We froze, wincing, waiting for the screaming to begin.  He sighed and fell back asleep, saving the energy he’d need to keep us up all night.

We arrived quietly, something we hadn’t done in ages.  It felt good to travel as a family without any major calamities, even though I forgot my toothbrush.

You can open the tailgate to let Mike Todd out at

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