Don´t you hate it when you´re just getting into your "productive zone" and a family member interrupts with some fool project that threatens to derail your whole day?
Case in point: This weekend I´m settling into my chair, a pristine bag of taco chips nestled under my arm like a newborn baby. In my lap the TV listings reveal an entire day of sporting events (including Ukrainian Woman´s Body Building, which I never miss), while to my right is a tall, cool lemonade, glistening with dew and shimmering with promise. Then my wife bursts into the room and begins to wax irrational.
"I want to go on a family hike," she proclaims.
I nod encouragingly. "Then you should go. I´m sure there are plenty of families who would love to accompany you."
"I mean us."
"Why a hike?" I demand. "Don´t they have a web site for that?"
My children are equally astounded, but, like any responsible parent, I´ve decided to present them with a unified front. "Your mother is crazy," I explain. "We´d better do what she says."
"But I have plans for the weekend!" my oldest daughter howls. "Why do I have to go?"
"Well, you ARE technically part of the family," I observe. "Pretend you´re walking at the mall."
"You are ruining my whole life," she snaps. (I don´t tell her what having two teenagers has done to mine.)
My other daughter tries a different approach.
"Can Brittany come along?"
"How about Whitney?"
The family packs as if we´re never coming back. Everyone is carrying enough water to wash the car. Our backpacks bulge with extra clothing suitable for both a day on a dog sled and an afternoon of beach volleyball.
. My son wants to know why he can´t take his hamster. "Because all pets have to be kept on a leash," I explain.
"I WILL keep him on a leash!" he promises eagerly.
An hour later we´re at the base of a hill. "This is crazy," I tell my wife supportively. "Why couldn´t we pick a downhill path?"
"It will be downhill on the way back," she says, as if this makes any sense.
I cast a look at my kids. My eleven-year-old is carrying a walking stick and wearing ski goggles -- he looks like a sherpa. My youngest daughter is plugged into CD headphones; my oldest is talking on the cell phone. "We´re coming up on a big, big rock," she reports.
I step into a mucky bog and my shoe is sucked right off. "Hey! The trail is eating my feet!" I protest. Only my son stops to help. He has changed into a hockey helmet. I frown. "Where´d you get that?" I ask.
"In your backpack, under the ant farm."
"You brought your ant farm? Why?"
"Because I couldn´t bring my hamster," he explains logically.
After we´ve hiked across a couple of time zones, my knees begin muttering to themselves about the ordeal. "We need to take a break, I´m bleeding internally!" I call out. I´m ignored.
I´d still be up there if it weren´t for a sudden storm (shows what happens when you send your prayers marked "urgent"). My son pulls umbrellas from my backpack and we run down the hill.
"That was a once-in-a-lifetime, never-again experience," I announce as I start the car.
My wife, gazing out the window, pretends she doesn´t understand the significance of my phrasing.