August 6, 2008
The Weary Traveler.
Last night after dinner, just when Bossy and her husband and her daughter typically call it quits for the day, the trio piled in the Saturn to go fetch Bossy’s son from the train station.
The stars fell downward through the black night, while the scent of the nearby dairy farm settled around the glowing street lamps, and the adjacent villagers walked dogs sporting red bandanas.
Throughout his life, Bossy’s son has had limited patience for camping—he never warmed to the incessant sound of zippering and early morning kickstands, just like he never got used to wrestling his narrow sleeping bag and the accompanying brush of damp vinyl.
Similarly with the rented rowboat—the bait tenuously wrapped around the hook that becomes entangled in the tree junk floating on the surface of the lake.
Ditto with the splintered picnic table bench that holds the storage box that contains the collapsible wire camp toaster that burns the hotdog rolls you must slather with strawberry jelly because there is no more regular bread.
Which is why it surprised Bossy when her son climbed from the train after his 13-hour journey and this was his attitude: lousy.
It surprised Bossy because she wrote a different script and it went like this: as Bossy’s son faces his first year of college he becomes wildly sentimental about the flashlights and hardcover books that crowd and crawl across the floorboards of the car with each bend of the country road, just like he would grow to appreciate the lack of hand towels in the shared restroom, and the hush of the campground at 9:15 p.m. sharp, and the beating rain which returns in time to soak his foam bicycle seat which was not under cover of the trailer’s canopy.
Bossy wasn’t aware that her son was busy working on his own script which went like this: spend a blissful three days alone in the family house cooking chicken piccata for your girlfriend and listening to your carefully chosen iTunes through the living room sound system, before climbing aboard a train that will wind endlessly through New England on freight tracks which impede progress over thirty-five miles-per-hour.
And while on board the train which is held at artic temperatures freezing your flip-flop feet into mini icebergs, eat nothing but potato chips and tortilla chips and other chips until you are up to your ears in hydrogenated fat, and then climb from the seat which held your body in an altogether awkward angle and fall into the arms of three relentlessly cheerful people who talk nonstop about how much you are going to love the new Park Ranger with the earring (hi Park Ranger!), just like you are going to love the pop-up trailer which is easily as big as a house minus approximately 2500 square feet.
Which is how it came to be that Bossy and her son and their opposing scripts stood toe-to-toe last night: Bossy’s son reminding Bossy that it is recorded in the Family Camping ’08 contract that he is entitled to his very own King-sized bunk, and Bossy arguing back that he is not allowed to climb off a train in a sleepy junction and single-handedly alter the barometric pressure of Vermont.
In time, Bossy and her son reached a détente that involved a few attitude adjustments, a handful of compromise, and a detour at the local grocery store for a fat-ass protein-heavy sandwich.