Monday was a really good hair day. Real shampoo and the California dry heat combined to make it bounce into a just-right bob all day. That’s not something you take lightly. Especially not on a day with credit card ills, van trouble, and a kid or two who were almost offered free to a loving home.
I mean, hypothetically speaking if we had a day like that.
Day 8 (Sunday)
And on the eighth day, the Jones Family rested.
DJ got up early to attend service at a nearby church, because that’s what DJ does for fun. At a more reasonable hour, I met two friends for coffee. A. and T. and I have been friends for several years—at least two kids each ago, by our count. Now we’ve actually, you know, met each other. Years of online interaction proved to be a pretty good basis for a really great coffee date. Besides, despite our different personalities and walks in life, we’re all married to lawyers. That forms a bond.
(For anyone who has read my January McLeod stories, A. is married to Swanson the First and T. is married to Swanson the Second.)
Otherwise, except for swimming, laundry, kitchen-stocking, and getting things sorted out after a week of travel… we did nothing. It was a good day of rest. So we were ready to tackle another day of exciting sightseeing!*
*This did not turn out to be very true.
Day 9 (Monday)
Sequoia National Park was on the docket. We planned to get there to have a picnic lunch before driving up to see the giant trees. It was a good plan, but DJ forgot to account for a couple of things. Both of which I gave birth to.
Now, I’ve always made it a policy that I wouldn’t post anything about my children that would embarrass them. So I’m going to sacrifice grammar for their dignity. I’m going to refer to a single person as “they” to avoid using a specific pronoun. I’m sorry, Mom.
Meltdown #1: Child does not want to put on their sneakers because—this was a really fun surprise that they hadn’t really mentioned before—the shoes are too small. We said that flip-flops weren’t a good choice since we’d be doing some walking. Crying occurred. Screaming. Utter, complete despair. Finally I figured out that said child wore basically the same size as their sibling, whose summer sandals had closed toe so would work. The initial crisis passed, but ambient radiation hung in the air.
Meltdown #2: Another child is always difficult to wake up. They regain consciousness in stages ranging from “moving from bed to floor and falling asleep again” to “staggering out of the room yelling at people for existing.” This morning, their usual surliness soured into outright hostility by the time we pulled out of the parking lot. They didn’t want to go anywhere. It was too long in the van. It would not be worth the drive just to see whatever we were driving to see. Screaming occurred. Kicking the seat did too. I finally threatened to scream back—sometimes I match contributions like that—which made them retreat into a sullen, persistent whine.
The shoe-drama child then complained about how annoying the anti-traveling child was being. DJ had to stop driving because he doubled over with a kind of overwrought laughter.
We maybe should have given up right there. But we were committed. We were going to see the sequoias, dang it.
We stopped for gas and water. I tried to pay, only to have my credit card declined. DJ’s worked, though.
It was a two-hour trip into the mountains. Gradually the anti-travel kid woke up and felt better. The shoe-drama kid was happy about 50% of the time, and talked for 95% of it. DJ and I found an alert from the credit card company about unusual activity on my card—oh, that’s the problem. I tried to acknowledge the transactions, but something didn’t quite look right. So I called the company.
We drove a two-lane highway past citrus groves, oil derricks, and soaring golden-brown hills. I spent at least twenty minutes of it on hold, or talking to someone who spent a lot of time getting information to pull up my account. Google interrupted several times to tell DJ to take some turn or other. Finally the woman on the phone said she couldn’t verify my account because I wasn’t calling from the number they had on file. Our home phone. In Virginia. “I won’t be back to that phone in two weeks!” I said. She said she was very sorry, call back in 48 hours.
“I told you can’t use my card! You do realize that this security policy is a serious bug, because people use their cards while not at home. What, precisely, can you do in forty-eight hours that you can’t do now?” That’s what I said. In my head, two hours later. At the time I just kind of lamely said, “Oh. I… okay.” I’m lacking in the assertive snappy dialogue department.
So was a thorny kind of morning. But I kept the important things in mind, namely, that my hair looked really good.
Plus, the time in Sequoia National Park was really cool. We drove up a mountain, saw a young bear, and walked among enormous trees. Sparkler found her lifespan according to the rings on a 2000-year-old stump. I didn’t even try to pawn off the tired shoe-drama child, who found something to squawk about every seventeen minutes, to the National Park Service. Then, just to seal the success, we let them buy souvenirs.
We started back down the mountain. About five winding-turns later, the van started smelling really bad, and something around the front tire was smoking. DJ pulled into a turnout. He and I got out and stood looking down on 5000 feet of mountain. We kind of panicked a little—what if it was brake trouble? DJ had gotten the van thoroughly checked out before we left, but still… what if it was brake trouble?
(DJ knows more about cars than I do, which means that he’s vaguely aware of the mechanical processes involved, while I just think it’s all magic.)
But we couldn’t possibly be the only people who ever had car trouble on this mountain road, right? The National Park Service would be there to help.
So we spent half an hour in the increasingly warm van while DJ made phone calls to people who found our situation difficult and a little baffling. Apparently no other minivan with six people had ever broken down five miles from the Giant Forest Museum ever. I was getting a little desperate. I fingered an empty graham cracker box. I could pitch it over the side of the mountain, setting off the sensors and summoning the NPS who would at least take us into custody, right?
As it turned out, the only way we could get any help was to return to the museum. We got in the van and considered. The AC was off, and the awful smell had lessened. Maybe it wasn’t the brakes. Since we had to drive the van again anyway, we decided to give it another try. *
*Because what could possibly go wrong?
By 4000 feet we decided it was the AC, which in California in June is bad but not definitely fatal.
And by this time, anti-trip child and shoe-drama child had mostly made peace with life. We drove home with the windows open, and nobody really complained about anything. Within ten minutes of getting back to our apartment, DJ and I took Sparkler and Ranger to the pool, while Gamerboy and Bookgirl curled up in their beds with WiFi.
This morning, Swansons First and Second have leaped in to help DJ with the van. Meanwhile, I’m going to hang out at a pool with my friend T. So, you know, things fall into place sometimes. Like sometimes your hair does.
And you can find a lesson in everything. The anti-trip child, after calming down and no longer shrieking, reflected sagely, “I’m kind of regretting drinking coffee and then staying up watching videos of horror games.”
We regret that too, honey.
Stops and Pictures
The four kids in front of the General Sherman. “The biggest tree in the world!” Ranger would exclaim. “Largest tree by mass,” Sparkler kept correcting. Why, yes, it did get old.
“Okay, y’all, this is a silly picture!”
“What? Wait! That was a silly picture? Nobody told me it was a silly picture! That’s not fair!”
This is a fair representation of our day.
If I’d wanted tall, dark, and handsome, I’d have married a Sequoia.
Poor faithful overdone minivan. Her name is Isabella, by the way.
The view was spectacular. That haze you see is the anxiety pulsing off two parents stuck 5000 feet above the ground with four kids and only a box of graham crackers for snacks. (But lots of water, for the record.)
But it was a good hair day for me.