O my God, every morning is fresh and lovely as if You, the Artist, stayed up all night just to surprise us. The trees, with lush greenness, shifting shadows and sunshine, shout, “Hallelujah!” OMG, borrowing Your air, I just have to join in.
Sixtyish adults who tent camp with grown children and grandchildren ranging from six months to age ten are certifiably insane. But my husband and I reached new levels of lunacy when we accompanied a large percentage of our family group to cave.
A forest hike would bond generations, educate little descendants, and keep them off campground roads inhabited by dinosaur-like RVs. They would view a cave like those immortalized in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
However, half the campground’s population also had braved this wilderness journey. Unlike Aladdin, we stood in line … then remembered we hadn’t brought flashlights.
Despite my Boy Scout husband’s protests, the herd crept forward with only dim illumination from our phones and a son-in-law’s small flashlight. The temperature dropped 15 degrees. Chilly water dripped down my back.
Who knew what might dwell within these cold, drippy underground walls? Injun Joe, the murderous cave-dweller who terrorized Tom Sawyer? Dragons breathed down my neck. …
“I’ll bet this cave has bunches of bats!” my grandson enthused. “I think cave spiders just crawled up my leg.”
Shades of Shelob! With The-Lord-of-the-Rings passion, I brushed him from head to toe.
Now shaking off a hundred imaginary crawlies, I fervently wished he’d kept his scientific curiosity to himself.
The ceiling dropped. Walls closed in. My hips, still inflated by Christmas fat, might wedge in a fissure forever.
Would my skinnier descendants return to camp, mourning my demise, and console themselves with the four buckets of chocolate chip cookies I had baked? Would they not bring me even one to ease my passage into the next world?
Primeval fears solidified when someone called, “Time to crawl.”
My sanity finally kicked in. “No. I’m going back.”
Others turned thumbs down. The grandchildren registered a vehement protest. Our son-in-law sided with the kids. He pressed on, taking them and the only flashlight.
Now gripping my husband’s belt — I hoped — I trailed him through the darkness. Eventually, we arrived at the cave’s mouth. Whew!
Hiking to the cave’s exit, we awaited the adventurers. Anxious minutes dragged. …
Fortunately, they appeared before we summoned the National Guard. Everyone returned to camp to celebrate survival with an appropriately unsafe hot dog roast — and cookies.
Have you ever taken your kids/grandkids spelunking?
Homemade posters taped to its front windows warmed our hearts. We had not arrived at a restaurant that demanded we share an appetizer and a dessert, the kind John Steinbeck said took pride in serving food untouched by human hands. Instead, the signs shouted all-you-can-eat nights. A picture of Mr. Blaze himself adorned one window — wearing a suit and tie fit to make his mama proud, with a tortured smile to match.
The poster said he was running for mayor.
What better way to please his public than to cook up the world’s best barbecue?
Inside, I poofed my ’do because big hair and hardworking blue jeans obviously were required. The dining room smelled yummy-in-the-tummy-smoky, as it does at a family reunion cookout, when Mom tells you to go play with your cousins until supper’s ready.
The waitress, upon greeting Casey Jack and Junior Lee by name, skipped menus. She handed them shovels and steered them toward the barbecue and fish bar.
Bankrupting the Piggy Pit on our first visit wouldn’t be neighborly. So my husband ordered a slab of ribs, and I selected pulled pork. With our first bites, my husband closed his eyes. My taste buds fell in love. We paused for a moment of silence.
Then Hubby proceeded to ruin the family name. Even a Yankee knows a true barbecue connoisseur picks up ribs. Instead, my husband not only used knife and fork, he surgically removed every shred of gristle and/or fat.
Mayoral race or not, it’s a wonder Mr. Blaze didn’t toss us out of the Piggy Pit.
I ordered cheesecake for dessert. Steve overdosed on pecan cobbler, suffering sugar-induced hallucinations.
However, we turned down complimentary golf cart service that hauled blimpy customers to their cars. I am proud to say we walked out of the Piggy Pit on our own two feet.
Does Mr. Blaze know about tax rates and sewer systems? I don’t know. Still, anyone who bestows that kind of barbecue on mankind — plus infinite hush puppies — for a reasonable price must be a man of mayoral vision, with deep concern for friends, neighbors and even hungry Yankees.
Definitely a winner, in my (burp) book.
When (and where) was the last time you ate bodacious barbecue?
Having finished writing a novel, I crave ice cream, human conversation and sunlight. A Moose Tracks sundae proves perfect therapy. My husband, still awaiting a coherent word, takes my grunts as portents of better things to come. Then — ah, the sunlight. Fresh summer air. Green, living things.
Ha! They do not realize this pale, flabby author will wage a down-and-dirty battle to rescue her oppressed plants. To arms, garden warrior!
I don grubby jeans, “No Fear” T-shirt, and holey tennis shoes.
Hubby: “No pajamas? You’re wearing real clothes?”
For him, it was a long novel.
We bathe in sunscreen, then assemble deadly weapons: hoe, rake and digger.
Weed phasers would be nice additions. But Hubby strikes vicious blows with his hoe. I attack a beleaguered tomato plant’s foes.
Sleek-looking cyclists zoom past. Hubby looks after them longingly, but continues his valiant efforts. Cute runners wearing designer exercise attire and perfect makeup stare as if they hope what I have isn’t contagious.
Whew! After a morning-long battle, we shower and wolf sandwiches. Hubby leaves for work. I decide to savor a rare view of our tidy garden.
My jaw drops.
An overloaded mulberry tree branch has dropped across it.
Hardly a whisper of a breeze cooled us this morning. Yet this beam-like limb collapsed, bending tomato plants’ cages. Branches, leaves and mushy berries smother veggie rows.
The tree providing our sole shade was in cahoots with the Klingon sticker weeds!
The moment Hubby’s truck departed, it unleashed its barrage. Briefly, I wonder if my dearly beloved is in league with them, too. But he did hoe all morning. …
The gnarly branch barely budges.
A swoosh of anger can fuel a woman to do great things, even energize an everyday person to ninja feats. Armed with hedge trimmer, two saws, and Hubby’s old Boy Scout hatchet, I reduce my enemy to sawdust.
Well, not exactly. But by evening, I’ve consigned most of the purply mess to trash cans. And myself.
This ninja still can’t move the big branch. Later, Hubby saws it into sections and hauls them away.
Miraculously, the garden suffered little actual damage. We wish we could we say the same.
But now I savor the rare sight of tidy vegetable rows.
Ah, the colorful sunset. The fragrant summer evening. Green, living things that are legal.
A tired writer’s perfect therapy.
Guaranteed to send her back to her laptop forever!
What has been your biggest gardening battle?
Dad’s place in the driver’s seat has always been a given, similar to “Dad reads the newspaper first” or “The sun rises in the east.” Though AARP has ambushed my siblings and I, when visiting, we acknowledge Dad’s inalienable right to drive us wherever he chooses.
Lately, however, Dad defers to his lovely wife, whom he married a year after Mom’s passing. That he permits her to chauffeur him — during broad daylight — demonstrates that the times are a-changin’.
However, on this rare daddy-daughter date, he wouldn’t allow me to drive us to the restaurant. Nor would he let me pay for lunch.
He would as soon wear a tattoo or vote for a Democrat.
We rode in his truck with windows open and air conditioner blasting, Dad’s way of dealing with Louisiana’s heat. Our destination: his favorite Mexican restaurant, to which my digestive system and I privately referred to as El Diablo’s.
Chugging along, I unzipped my 60-something disguise and tossed it away. Once again, I was a little girl, bouncing on the seat, riding with Daddy.
Upon arrival, he greeted the proprietors, using his missionary Spanish. A retired pastor, he runs an unofficial restaurant ministry at favorite spots, hugging owners, servers, and busboys. He often tips them and asks how he can pray for them.
Dad recommended the burritos. I ordered one, though I prefer quesadillas, because I wanted to share his delight. Thankfully, the cook that day possessed un-nuked taste buds.
Mmm, delicious. We munched away and sipped from ice-packed glasses of Pepsi, the way we like them — though as usual, he tried to convert me away from diet drinks.
We recalled Mexico more than 50 years before, when our family wandered town squares, eating tacos or tamales, basking in sunshine and cantina music. I remembered a few less-than-wonderful moments: outdoor bathrooms and icy showers.
He recollected the usefulness of the phrase, “No comprendo.” Once at a checkpoint, Dad handed the officer an Indiana fishing license. Impressed by its stamps and signatures, he waved Dad through.
After such a huge meal, bouncing on the old truck’s seats didn’t hold the same magic. Not sure Dad would remain awake, I poised a hand as close to the steering wheel as I dared.
We returned to the house my great-grandparents built. Dad opened windows, turned on air conditioning, and dropped into his Dad Chair. I flopped onto the sofa, and our off-to-Mexico venture together ended, appropriately, in a shared siesta.
And a drowsy but fervent hope for another daddy-daughter date like this … and another … and another. …
What special time have you shared with your father?