After what felt to be 27 years – but was more likely to have been 27 minutes – I decided that one melting down child (read: me) was enough; it was time to return to our humble room to watch some … whatever people watch in hotels that isn’t porn. When I’d skinned the kids of their wet suits, much to their vocal displeasure, I noted that they were covered tip to tail in a rash. Attributing it to over-chlorination, I felt, for the first time, pleased with the hotel. We all know kids whiz in pools with alarming frequency and by the rashes on their bodies, I figured that even if some kid dropped some pipe in the pool, it’d probably immediately be reduced into an effervescent chemical reaction that looked remarkably like pool water. The kids, on the other hand, weren’t as comforted as I. Instead of doing the right thing and plunking them into the bath, instead I tried to rub hydrocortisone cream onto their skin.
Bad fucking news.
I halfway expected DCFS to break down the doors with the screams Mimi was emitting, noting that while they didn’t quite sheer the ugly “tropical” wallpaper from the walls, it came damn close. Feeling like total shit for making things worse, I tried to make it up to them without much success. Finally, my father returned with Culver’s which, at the very least, provided the distraction needed to move on with the evening with our eardrums intact.
We picked at the food until we deemed it “done” and began the task of cleaning the room. As I hadn’t known when we’d be lounging against the machine, I’d declined maid service for the day. Besides, I’m perfectly capable of cleaning up a mess made in part by me and in part by those who (unfortunately for them) share my DNA. The Littles sat on the bed watching Minecraft videos and lamenting the snail’s pace of the hotel wireless while I busily cleaned the room, getting ready for the ultimate in sucktastic jobs – packing.
Soon the room was nearly clean and I steeled myself for the packing project by staring dejectedly at my suitcase, hoping that some magical packing fairy would come along and pack for me. I’m absolutely uncertain how – without purchasing a single thing – every time I go to pack, my crap has multiplied. With the kids? It’s like eleventy-niner times the amount I’d brought. When no magical packing gnome fell out of the sky or someone’s ass, I got ready to get down and dirty.
That was when something caught my eye.
Earlier that day, we’d thrown what was supposed to pass for food down our throats. I sadly ate my boring oatmeal as I jealously watched my eldest devour a chocolate chip muffin. I don’t know if the muffin was supposed to be “extra mess-worthy,” but I swear to you, Pranksters, I’ve never seen a muffin end up spattered on walls, in the hallway, and in the bedroom next door. I’d assume it’s simply Ben’s amazing ability to eat without actually getting food in his mouth, but without further inspection, I didn’t particularly care.
So that’s what I assumed it was.
More chocolate chip muffin carnage.
Because I am not a complete dick*, I grabbed some tissue to pick up the chunk on the floor – no reason to make more work for the maids, who, I’d assumed, lived in a perpetual homicidal state after cleaning up after kids all day, every day. It was, I figured, the very least I could do. Only after I’d absentmindedly picked up the chunk on the floor did I realize what it was. It wasn’t muffin wreckage. It wasn’t the remains of the airplane that vanished. It was decidedly not brownie batter. It wasn’t the Lindbergh baby or that huge ass diamond from motherfucking Titanic. It wasn’t even Carmen motherfucking Sandiego.
It was a chunk of shit.
Horrified, I threw the offending turd into the garbage can and practically elevated to the bathroom to scour my hands. The kids, sensing something was wrong – I think it was the screaming and retching that tipped ‘em off – stared at me all wide-eyed. I stared back at them, remembering all of the times I’d said “jeepers, mister, this room smells like a fresh dook!” when it dawned on me – without maid service in the room, the remnants of someone’s colon had been sitting on the floor since we’d checked in. We’d unknowingly slept in a hotel room in which someone had laid pipe.
Someone’s entirely digested breakfast had made its way from their colon onto the floor in my hotel room. Crawled? Deliberately placed? Oops I crapped my pants? Carelessly tossed from a rectum? Gnomes? Vampires? I scratched at the inside of my brain and could come up with no good reason why a pile of poo had been left in the room. And I knew I never would.
It was then that I suffered a complete break from reality:“I think we’re all fucked in the head. Well I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation. It’s a quest. It’s a quest for fun. You’re gonna have fun, and I’m gonna have fun!”
(pants)“We’re all gonna have so much fucking fun we’re gonna need plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles! You’ll be whistling ‘Zip-A-Dee Doo-Dah’ out of your assholes! Holy Shit“
“I think,” Alex said to his sister, “Mommy needs her medicine.”
“Yup,” she nodded. “She does.”
Me: “You know what I don’t get? TWILIGHT.”
Lauren: “Oh Em Eff Ge I LOVE those books.”
Me: “How can you read them? Stephanie Meyer can’t write herself out of a paper bag?”
Lauren: “I may have also seen every movie opening night.”
Me: …sputters… (eye twitches)
Me: (googles “how to understand Twilight if you haven’t read it,” then thoughtfully erases it from the search box in case someone wandered by and accidentally saw that I’d googled anything about Twilight. Filled search box with “why is orange a color and a flavor?”)
Me: “Okay, I found something that sorta explains it to me.”
Lauren: “Is it helping?”
Me: “Not really – why does Bella love that one dude that has a shirt on?”
Lauren: “Because she’s marked for love with *swoons* Edward.”
Me: (goggles at her) “Wait, so in this land everyone has a “soulmate?”
Lauren: “Well, vampires do.”
Me: “I feel myself getting dumber.”
Me: “So I’ve thought about this whole “Twilight” thing and I realized that I’ve changed my mind.”
Me: “I figure anything that gets those cretins we call “tweens” reading and away from Justin Bieber… well, that’s a good thing. And really, there’s no reason to hate the series – I don’t want to be one of those pretentious asshats who’s all ‘lookit me, I HATE something that’s MAINSTREAM.'”
Lauren: “I’ll bring you in one of the books.”
Me: (googles “Twilight quotes” and comes across a gem about Bella, the angrily constipated protagonist, who is now bleeding from the eyes.)
Me: “So wait – Bella is now bleeding from the eyeballs?”
Lauren: “Yeah, she must be a vampire now.”
Lauren: “Vampires bleed from the eyeballs.”
Me: “You know you’re not making this decision any easier on me.”
“I was so happy to see your Mom at Alex’s concert the other day. Saw she’s using a cane now, so’s mine. She’s been falling a lot – I’ve had to go over and help her off the floor more times than I care to count. She needs a second total knee replacement now; she told me that your mom does, too. Sucks watching our parents get older, doesn’t it? Fuck, it sucks getting older – period.”
“You’ve been on your own Medical Mystery Tour – forgot to tell you: I finally had that MRI. I guess I got tired of people making the whole, “a migraine for a month is called a ‘brain tumor'” joke and figured that if I was actually dying, I should probably be aware – I’d have to plan my own funeral, after all. The test wasn’t too bad, but it was the first time I’d had to sign one of those “emergency contact” forms. I no longer had anyone to list and it felt weird. I’d actually started to fill out your information when it dawned on me – you’re no longer my person. You lose people in small ways for a long time, I guess.”
“Got the results back the other day – “bright spots and structural changes consistent with chronic migraines.” Beats the balls a brain tumor – guess Mimi and I have more in common than erms, well, everything. She’d probably agree that the only time you want to hear the term “bright spot” is when you’re talking about diamonds, not your brain – she’s my daughter, after all. The neuro seems unperturbed by this – the bright spots, not the diamonds; never talked to him about those – so I guess it’s just one of those things that happens. Still kinda scary. I try not to think on it.”
“Hope work is going great for you; I know how you love your job. My job’s going well – just got a promotion. So weird to think that all of those years ago when you told me I should “start a blog,” it would change my life. Not only did I start spewing verbal diarrhea across the Internet on Mommy Wants Vodka, I founded Band Back Together; landed a job as a writer in downtown Chicago. Thanks for the suggestion – never really did think it’d go anywhere. It’s funny – I regularly take the very same train you’d tried to unsuccessfully catch all those years. Reminds me of college: I still bitch about the “lifers” and commuters on the train – they’re still the same pricks I remember. Never did love the bustle of the city like you did, but it fills my days, and that’s what matters.”
“Glad to see you’re still using the “Good Dog” bowls I bought for the cats years ago, remember how I’d laughed at my cleverness? Miss those days. Happens, I s’pose. That reminds me, the wisteria needs a good pruning. Sorry to see that the trellis I’d put up didn’t withstand the harsh winters a bit better. It was a good experiment. Saw that you’ve got an old wasp nest on the porch, right by the nickel address sign I’d proudly picked out – the kids are so scared of bees, you may want to take care of that before it’s a problem. I can do it if you want – wait, that’d be weird. Forget I offered. The flower beds I’d planted in the front are overgrown with weeds – I’ll teach the kids how to take care of them. Bet they love the magnolia I’d planted to replace those overgrown horrifying bushes I ripped out when I realized they made us look like those creepy people who probably made lamps out of the boobs of dead hookers. Always wanted a magnolia bush. Never did get to see it bloom.”
“Feels so weird to be in an apartment after living in a home for so long. Forgotten how transient apartment living makes life feel. Always did like the idea of putting down roots somewhere – I know it wasn’t your style, but it was – still is – mine. I’ll plant another magnolia, more roses, have another orchid collection. Someday.”
“Did I tell you? I’m Marching for Babies again this year! Still looking for more people to join our team – so far it’s a couple of my work buddies. Remember the last time we did it? Mimi was barely walking, Alex was too young to go, and Ben, well, it was a long hike for him. Just a few of us walked right along the river. I remember happily pointing out my (old) apartment complex to you. Sure never thought I’d move back there. Man, that feels a lifetime ago. This year, I’m walking along the Lakefront downtown – both Alex and Mimi want to walk, but I’m torn. One hand says, Mimi is one of the reasons I walk for babies, the other reminds me that, 3 miles is particularly long for a five-year old, even if she is a miracle. Hm. Yeah. Maybe I’ll get a stroller.”
“Saw the new car in the driveway, glad you got that CR-V off your hands. I know it was a good idea to get it at the time, but it turned out to be an albatross of a thing. Alex told me that your parents got it for you – that’s really nice of them. I’m sure the new car is more gas efficient – total plus. You must be so happy about that.”
But I don’t say any of these things.
My mouth’ll form the words, but the words won’t come out.
What tumbles out is, “See you later,” as I bundle the kids out the door I once tripped through spilling my diet Coke down the hallway as laughter rang freely. I hear you say, “Yeah, whatever. She’s here. She’s just taking them for a couple hours.” Tears I can’t explain sting my eyes as I walk out the door of the house I once called home.