When we’re not departing on a multi-day outing, our family, for the most part, does not resemble a prison riot. No scores are being settled, nobody’s trying to shiv anybody. When we are, though, you might want to keep a sharpened toothbrush in your pocket, just in case.
“Slow down! You’re not wearing shoes!” my wife Kara yelled as she dumped another armload onto the staging area at the top of steps. Our sons skated past the pile, sliding across the hardwood floor in their socks, taking full advantage of their preoccupied guards.
“Zack’s hittin’ me!” Evan yelled, sliding to a stop.
“No, I didden!” Zack protested, as he continued hitting Evan.
The dog, sensing that some perspective needed to be brought to the proceedings, climbed halfway up the stairs, and barfed.
“Thank you for your attention. As you can see, I have been cleaning up after the deer in the yard,” she said, without words.
“I could just get in the car and drive away. By myself. Right now. Just put some Tom Petty on the stereo, turn off the cell phone, and drive,” I thought, looking to see if I could get to the door before Kara could stop me. As I looked from the door to her face, though, I realized that she was already looking at the door with the same thought, and she had a few steps on me.
We’re normally a perfectly functional family, but something happens when we’re getting ready to go somewhere. When you’re travelling to visit family or go on a vacation, you are ostensibly removing stress from your life and going on an enjoyable trip. But stress cannot simply be deleted. It must go somewhere. And that somewhere is the final hour before your departure, during which time you will act like a lunatic. I call it Dysfunctional Family Departure Syndrome, and, in my experience, it’s the only way to insanely prepare to travel.
After cleaning the stairs, I took a final load down to the car as multiple children slid past the doorway above me. The dog clung to my ankle like a remora on a shark, sensing that a long trip was about to happen.
“Don’t ditch me. Don’t ditch me. Don’t ditch me,” she exuded. To a dog, getting ditched is even worse than having to vomit on hardwood when fresh carpet is nearby.
I crammed the last of our belongings into the back of the car and patted the blanket that lined the floor of the small, square canyon therein, surrounded on all sides by cliffs of luggage, electronics and toys piled precariously to the ceiling.
The dog hesitated, looking up at me as if to say, “Dude, the indignity.”
“Don’t even talk to me about indignity after what you just made me clean up. Come on, hop up,” I said.
Memphis hates getting ditched, but her enthusiasm for car trips has decreased in direct proportion to the number of children we’ve added to the family. She used to have the entire backseat to herself. Then half of the backseat. After the second car seat/throne got installed, Memphis was demoted to the cargo area. In many ways, she’s like an airline passenger. She used to get hot meals served to her, a choice of chicken or fish. Now she’s lucky to get a packet of pretzels, she just paid $30 to check a bag and she’s crammed into an area that is barely large enough to hold a kindergartner’s backpack. But she’ll still travel with us, because what choice does she have?
In any event, we eventually wrangled all of the inmates into the car without inadvertently teaching them too many new words. As we rolled out of the driveway, the Dysfunctional Family Departure Syndrome was cured, and the relief was palpable, until the dog started heaving.
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6 days ago