We were in the car for two and a half hours already. Howard, me, the three boys, Smiles, our bearded dragon and two salamanders we had hijacked on our last visit, who we now intended to return to the wild. The boys had played their video devices and watched a movie. It was time for the badgering to begin.
“Are we almost theeeeere????” Michael whined loudly.
“About 20 minutes.” I called back.
“Lizard check!” Howard yelled.
Smiles tank was precariously positioned in between seats and luggage, with an overhead heating lamp plugged into the cars’ adaptor hanging over it, since it should never be below 80 degrees. Howard had been randomly calling for checks on Smiles every five minutes or so.
“I can’t take it!” Michael cried. He was not a great traveler. None of the boys were but Michael was the loudest. Plus, his distress seemed to morph into physical symptoms. “My belly hurts!!!”
“We’re going to stop at the next exit. You can use the bathroom.”
“Lizard check!” Howard yelled again.
“No!! I don’t want to stop.”
“You can go to the bathroom.”
“I just want to be there!” He howled.
We were stopping at the next exit whether he liked it or not. Already I could feel a restless excitement, my mouth watering in anticipation. It was like, how you can hold in your pee until you finally get to the door of your house, but then the urge becomes unbearable. Getting your keys out, opening the door, it’s almost as if there’s no way you can hold it one more minute when you’ve been holding it for an hour. That’s how I felt one exit away from Twin Cone, my country crack.
Twin Cone is one of those off-the-highway, stand-alone ice cream joints that scream 1950. It has flavors like Panda Paws and Play Dough. We pulled in and I took everyone’s order. My family is too lazy to even get out of the car. The waitress must deliver the goods to their waiting hands. Michael decided it was too much work to even go to the bathroom.
I get in line and tap my foot impatiently till I finally place my order – a cup of vanilla, a cone and a cup of peanut butter chocolate chip, a Play Dough, a Sponge Bob pop and sides of chocolate sprinkles and crunch. I run each ice cream over to the car as it’s completed. I also try a sample of low-fat chocolate yogurt. It is adorable on a mini cone, but tastes borderline disgusting. I dip it in sprinkles and eat it anyhow. I’m not one for waste.
I settle in the car, positioning my cup and the side of topping for optimal dipping. Everyone is busy licking and getting sticky. I place a spoonful in my mouth and let it melt on my tongue. Ah. I’m ready for another hit when Tyler asks for water. I pass it back and go for my spoon again.
“Mommy! It’s dripping!” Julius calls out and I place my ice cream down to rummage through my bag for wipes. I clean his lap and then his face.
“I need one too!” Tyler says. Why does my 10 year-old look worse off than the 4 year-old?
“I’m good” Michael says, by far the neatest of the three.
“Can you check on Smiles?” Howard requests, apparently his scheduled “lizard checks” from the boys not sufficient. His cone is almost polished off, while I’ve barely begun. Checking on Smiles would require a trip to the back of the mini-van, kind of like walking through an airplane mid-flight with everyone’s luggage stored in the aisles.
“Can I eat my ice cream first?” I snap. There was a rising pool of melted vanilla around the edge of my cup that was making me edgy. My crazy needed to be fed.
“My belly hurts!” Michael wails. “I can’t eat this!”
I turn around and see his ice cream teetering on the edge of the seat. One bump and it’s on the floor. “Tyler,” I say nervously, “get me Michael’s cup please.”
After an exaggerated “why do I have to do everything” grimace, he hands it over where I place it safely in the garbage (Howard).
I get two spoons in before the calling winds up again.
“Mommy it’s dripping!”
“Mommy I’m done!”
“Oh no! I spilt!”
I’m about to explode, but decide to just ignore everyone and drink my ice cream. I stir in some sprinkles. It is cool, creamy goodness. I’m not answering anyone for a few minutes. I’m on a break.
“Are we almost there?!” Michael whines.
“Almost.” Howard says. “Less than 10 minutes to the bungalows!”
“Yay!” The boys cheer.
“Who wants to go river rafting?!” He booms.
“NO!” The boys protest.
“Then it’s settled!” Howard roars, with that crazy glimmer in his eye. “We go rafting!”
Everyone in the back seats begin to cry.
I continued eating. There was nothing I could do anyway. We were almost at the bungalows. The fun was just getting started.