What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon
Travel with Family
[p.132]When my brothers and I were teenagers, we spent an entire summer travelling across these United States with our parents, and do you know what we remember most? The birthplace of Abraham Lincoln? The White House? The Statue of Liberty? The bayous of Louisiana?
What we remember most is that one night in Toledo, Ohio, our mother ate an entire pepperoni and sausage pizza by herself in the motel room while the rest of us went out to buy soft drinks. When we came back, we found her sitting on a bed with an empty pizza carton, doing crossword puzzles and watching Columbo on television.
“DID YOU EAT ALL THAT PIZZA BY YOURSELF?” we screamed at her. “Of course not,” she said.
And to this very day she denies that she actually ate her family’s dinner when they were out roaming the streets of Toledo, trying to scare up a few crummy beverages.
The memory of that night still rankles.
This experience, and others not unlike it, have led me to the conclusion that what families do best on summer vacations is get on each other’s nerves. For instance, my brothers and I frequently had conversations in the back seat of our old station wagon that went like this:
Stop breathing like that.”
“Like that. You’re doing it on purpose to bother me.”
“No, I’m not.” (Breathe, breathe, breathe.)
There were plenty of variations on this theme.
“Your foot is touching me.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Yes, it is.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Mom, John’s foot is touching me.”
“It’s not my foot, duh, it’s my anklebone!” (Touch, touch, touch.)
[p.133]Occasionally, we stopped thinking of ways to bug each other and focused instead on ways to annoy our parents. Whenever Mom and I went into a public restroom together, for instance, I made sure I touched the faucets with my bare hands in front of her because it made her so crazy. My mother just hates to touch anything in public restrooms, so she does things like kicking doors open with her feet, which makes the experience of going into a restroom with her a lot like going into a restroom with a highly trained SWAT team. Whenever Mom and I enter after she’s busted down another bathroom door, I want to yell, “FREEZE! YOU’RE UNDER ARREST!” to all those startled ladies washing their hands.
Of course our parents always got back at us. My mother denied she’d eaten our pizza, for example, while my father always lied to us about the interesting and educational things he’d seen while we were napping in the backseat. Once he came out of the men’s restroom at a service station in Winnemucca and told us that there were magic toilets in there.
“Magic toilets?” we all said, our eyes agog.
“Yes,” said my dad, “all you have to do is point at the toilet and say, ‘One, two, three, flush!’ and then it just flushes all by itself. Magic!”
Well, we said he was lying, and he said he wasn’t, which drove us all completely nuts because he seemed so sincere, and by the time we got to San Francisco, he had us kids convinced that there really were magic toilets in Winnemucca which is something I still believe with all my heart.
Ken’s family also drove each other crazy on vacations, especially when they had to go boating on the Great Salt Lake with their Uncle Mel. Uncle Mel had a houseboat that he maneuvered around the lake at speeds approaching 1.8 mph which gave everybody plenty of time to get on each other’s nerves. Every now and then Uncle Mel would say, “Hey, why don’t we open this baby up!” He made Ken and his sisters put on life jackets and then proceeded to
crank up the houseboat to speeds hovering near 3, sometimes 4 mph. Ken and his sisters used to sit on the deck, breathing through their mouths instead of their noses so they wouldn’t have to smell the lake, muttering things like, “Boy, we wish we’d never been born,” or “Boy, we wish Uncle Mel had never been born.” To this very day Ken can’t understand why all those German tourists wear-[p.134]ing backpacks and black socks with their sandals want to visit the Great Salt Lake whenever they blow into town.
Uncle Mel, on the other hand, is more than happy to give them all the ride of their lives.