Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Death in the Mojave, or Why I'm in Awe of People Who Don't Kill Their Kids

(Re-posted from November, 2004)

As the eldest child, one of the ways I amused myself while growing up was to devise new ways to make my brother and sister scream. While I was always pleased with this game, my parents didn’t find it quite so amusing. One such time nearly killed us.

It was the Great Family Vacation of 1974. I was 9, my sister was 7 and my brother was 5. The parents decided we would live the American Dream. We packed up the two-door Chevelle (with no air conditioning) and began the trip from Cedar Falls, Iowa to Los Angeles, California. Destination: Disneyland!

Each day we would drive for a hundred hours (kid time), stop and see some historical/educational shit, drive some more, and then spend the night at a motel. Mom was wise about insisting the motel have a pool. She could relax with a cocktail at poolside while her car-crazed offspring burned off enough energy to pass-out before she did.

Several days into the trip, somewhere between Yellowstone and Los Angeles, I found myself bored and seeking amusement in the backseat of the wretchedly hot car. Although tensions were as high as the temperature, my egocentric little 9-year old ADHD mind could have cared less. I completely ignored the random warnings from my father about making us walk to Disneyland if we didn’t settle down. Instead, I searched my little micro-world for anything more interesting than looking out the window at the fucking desert.

Our Barbies and Ken doll were spread chaotically across the back window. As a testament to the heat, Barbie had turned a golden peach color in the sun. I looked from peachy-Barbie to little brother’s Ken doll and finally settled on my plan. It occurred to me that Ken would look fantastic in Barbie’s chiffon ball gown and matching tiara. While brother was distracted, I stealthily turned macho Ken into a stunning cross-dressing Princess. Proud of my success and creativity, I presented the new and improved Ken to the rest of my sweaty clan. However, little brother was not as impressed as one would have thought. So, while little sister and I immediately began the ever-popular, keep a-way game, brother launched into blood-curdling screams.

That was the proverbial last straw. The car pulled over to the shoulder of the highway and my father got out. Everyone instantly became silent; except for mother, who turned about to give us a hastily whispered "I told you not to push your father too far" mini lecture. We knew she was really saying that conditions had gone beyond her ability to protect us. As we pondered if one or all of us would get a spanking right there on the side of the road, Dad slowly re-opened the door.

"Get out." he said calmly.We were frozen, hoping if we didn’t move he would forget we existed."All of you. Get out of the car." he repeated.

I was the first one out. I quickly moved past him, in case one of his huge hands meant to crack me on the ass as part of the punishment. My brother and sister joined me, hovering close, as if I was now their great protector.

Dad got back in the car. He turned to Mom and she nodded as he turned over the ignition and put the Chevy into gear. The three of us stared blankly at the tires which were actually moving. He leaned out the window, and with a surprizingly pleasant look on his face said, "I warned you that you’d have to walk if you didn’t settle down."

As we watched the car slowly pull ahead of us, brother began to whimper and sister began to wail. We shared the same fear. Soon, we would all be dead from multiple rattlesnake bites. The only thing to do was chase the car and hope we made it to Disneyland before dark. So with the car moving slowly ahead of us, and narrowly avoiding many imaginary rattlesnake attacks, we walked . . . and our parents finally had a chance to enjoy the scenery.


At 10:27 PM, Blogger Ron Southern said...

Sometimes life is tough even for a super hero.

signed, the not hot snot chik, Ron.

At 6:31 AM, Blogger Anonymous Assclown said...

Oh, I like your dad already.

At 8:13 AM, Blogger theresa said...

Ron - Superhero or not, it's all one great big adventure.

AC - Yeah ... I can't even imagine what the man would think of you.

At 11:41 AM, Blogger Al said...

Wow, someone who followed through on the "Don't make me stop this car" routine.
I once made a "Help I'm being kidnapped by Moonies" sign on a cross-country trip.
Folks didn't find it amusing

At 5:03 PM, Blogger Sumeeta said...

I think that is a great story. BTW, I love your blog.

At 6:38 PM, Blogger Dick the Boomer said...

I love this story! Once again I LMAO when I imagined the looks on your faces as the car pulled away. Your dad must have a great sense of humor. And his technique probably worked too - for awhile.

At 9:12 AM, Blogger theresa said...

Al - Considering I had very little self-control as a child, my folks did a damn good job on follow through. I still have to give my Dad crap about the "stop crying or I'll give you something to cry about." threat. What the hell?

Kidnapped by Moonies? You and I would have been good friends even as kids.

Sumeeta - Thanks. It's one of my favorites too. I sent it to my Mom, but I haven't heard back from her yet. Maybe she wasn't as amused.

Dick - I used to think the only reason my Dad had kids was so he had people to terrorize ... but then he's also been the sweetest guy in the world too.

At 9:34 AM, Blogger naive-no-more said...

You seriously have to submit this story somewhere. It can't be wasted on us lowly bloggers. Seriously, you're an awesome writer/story teller.

At 2:01 PM, Blogger Shephard said...

I wonder how many fathers resorted to this somewhat more humane and thought-provoking punishment.
Funny story!
~S :)

At 3:09 PM, Blogger Spin_Doc1 said...

I hate the desert, it is so dead and there is nothing to look at. I grew up in the desert.

At 3:36 PM, Blogger Polyman2 said...

Can ID with that story, my Dad would drive the family from NY to FL every few years in a similar car with no ac or radio and my Mom a smoker. My 2 sis & I found out what hell is like at an early age. great post.

At 7:10 PM, Blogger theresa said...

Naive - just for that, you're my new very best friend.

Shephard - When I hear other people say it to their kids, I have to stifle my laughter.

Spin - After my childhood experience, I don't think I'd like it much either.

Poly - That sounds really yucky.

At 1:29 PM, Blogger ZooooM said...

As usual, the bestest stories are here.

At 2:52 PM, Blogger J said...

My mom does that exact same thing; wait I mean she used to do the exact same thing! It really makes you enjoy riding no matter how bored you get!


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