There are a few perks when you live in Southern California. One is that my second graders took a school field trip to Legoland today. That’s a pretty awesome field trip destination. As I waved them off on the bus I felt relief that they were the ones destined for adventure, while I could just head home, remembering…
Years ago my father offered to take all of his grandkids to Legoland for the day. I balked. Eight kids darting through a theme park chased by a cautious, diabetic man seemed a recipe for disaster. Not so, according to Grandpa. He called to say he’d bought all our tickets on-line. “Surpise the kids,” he said. So Tuesday morning I woke everyone up and told them Grandpa George was treating them to a play-hooky-and-go-to-Legoland-all-expenses-paid-day! My kids whooped and cheered and literally jumped for joy.
As we drove the hour south with Peter, Paul, and Mary’s ‘Daddy’s Taking Us to the Zoo Tomorrow’ blaring, we sang like wild banshees, happy and excited. Until about five miles shy of Legoland my cell phone rang.
“Guess what?” my sister Lorraine said grimly. “You’ll never believe it…”
“What?” My heart thumped. Something was wrong.
“Dad’s at Legoland right now. The gate is closed. They’re no longer open on Tuesdays or Wednesdays.”
“What?” I gasped. “How can that be?”
“New Policy? Since when?”
“I don’t know. Budget cuts. Dad is there right now and says to turn around….”
Turn around? Are you kidding me?
“Shit!” I yelled, overwhelmed with irritation. “We’ve been in the car for an hour. We’re almost there!”
I hung up and broke the news to my suddenly silent, horrified children. Four of the five kids cried. One screamed in high shrieking bursts as if being stabbed. One wailed, “But this was supposed to be the best day ever!” The more the older kids carried on, the more panicked the three-year old twins became. They didn’t understand why Legoland was ‘closed’ now. They quickly went from quiet panic to terrified screaming, then on to kicking and hyperventilating. Meanwhile, I had to navigate the circular on-ramp to the I-5 freeway. Kids screeched and wailed and choked while I swerved and tried to avoid being nailed by a semi-truck. “Calm down!” I screamed. “Calm down, Calm down, Calm down! Everything will be ok!”
I looked in the rear-view mirror at Juliet. She had stopped crying long enough to take a deep breath. Except she wasn’t just breathing. She was vomiting. Out it came, in violent bursts, flying straight through the air onto everything – my purse, her sister, the back of my head. Now Katriel stopped crying. She, too, opened her mouth and hurled.
As my screeching barf-mobile raced towards the closed gates of Legoland, I felt a sudden twinge of clarity. Damon worked one block away. He would help. We could go to his office, clean up, calm down, figure out a plan B. So minutes later, in we trod to Buffini & Company, kids still crying, smeared in vomit, all of us dripping filth and despair.
The lobby of Damons’ office is faux-classy with a soaring ceiling, gurgling waterfall, and rotunda shape. But the real feast for the senses are the enormous letters that proclaim, “Life is GOOD!” and “I Can, I Will, I Believe!” Now I believed I would vomit, too. Immediately the secretary ran to locate Damon and usher us back to his office. Damon looked at me from behind his desk in stunned belief.
“I have a meeting in here in four minutes,” he said quietly.
I logged that sentence into my marriage roster under the column: Exactly the wrong thing to say at the worst possible time.The words bounced around in my head. I looked at him aghast. Tersely he helped me find the bathrooms, where kids were changed into fresh clothes and vomit was wiped out of hair. Then we were quickly ushered back to the hideous, odoriferous car.
As I drove my dejected crew home I rolled the windows down to diffuse the smell and muffle the sound of weeping. I quickly decided I must perk everyone up. I pulled through the drive-through at Jack-In-The-Box and ordered six chocolate milkshakes. I knew this was risky, but I chalked the earlier vomit up to carsickness and hysteria, both of which were behind us. Hopefully. I explained to the kids that milkshakes were for special occasions, and this qualified. This was exactly the time when milkshakes were good and decent and necessary.
The music went back on (Every Little Thing is Gonna Be All Right by Bob Marley). Kids slurped up sugar milk. I began to feel the day could be resurrected. We would go home, put on pj’s, watch junk TV all afternoon.
But as we drove along Rainbow Canyon road – BOOM – something smashed into the middle of my windshield. I swerved and screamed. Half-drunk milkshakes went flying. Terrified shrieks sounded once again. As I pulled off to the side of the road everyone whimpered like sad pups.
My oldest son Jacob sat in the front passenger seat. Incredulous, he eyed the cracked windshield.“Was that a rock that just fell out of the sky and smashed into our car?” he gasped. I nodded mutely. I couldn’t even talk.
Jacob sighed. “Wow, Mom. I have to say… this has been the worst ‘best-day’ ever!”
As I crept home at ten miles per hour along the shoulder of the road, my hazards flashing, milkshake and vomit dripping from the dash, I had to agree. Bob Marley was the only one of us not crying as we inched into the driveway that day.
But today, as the kids’ faces faded away on the big, yellow school bus and I turned to walk home in the sunshine, I sang the song happily to myself: ‘Don’t worry, about a thing…’Cause every little thing is gonna be all right….’