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Time: July 2006

It was a unanimous family decision that we all needed a vacation, but none of us were quite sure what destination was least likely to make us go bat-shit crazy. I suggested a cruise, where we could eat 24/7 and re-enact scenes from Titanic. Then when we got tired of each other, we could scatter to different parts of the ship or simply jump overboard. This was apparently the worst idea my mom and step-dad had heard since the last time I suggested we take a cruise.

In a maniacal, bitter frenzy to think of somewhere to go, I blurted out, “Fine then, how about a trip out west?!”

“OK!”

Soon we were ass deep in AAA books about the wondrous sightseeing destinations of the west. Mom and step-dad decided on Zion, Bryce and Arches National Park – three places in Utah that we had already been to on a Grand Canyon excursion six years prior.

If we had re-watched the video footage my step-dad took on that trip, it probably would have stopped us from making such a horrible mistake all over again. About half of our hiking footage is commentated by my mom’s out-of-breath cursing and sudden bouts of appreciation as she observed nature’s beauty.

“Oh, wow, this is absolutely gorgeous! ………Jesus Christ, look at that god-damned hill ahead of us we’re gonna have to climb up. I’m never gonna make it. That fucking sign that said this trail was a mile was full of shit!!”

mom hiking

But we ended up going anyway, and to preserve some of my sanity, I invited one of my friends who I knew was able-bodied enough to go on some of the more strenuous hikes with me. So me, my friend, mom, step-dad, sister and nephew all piled into the van with all of our shit and endured 16 hours of family merriment as we drove to our vacation destination where I figured at least one of us would either a) die of of dehydration, or b) get eaten by a mountain lion.

Fortunately none of those things happened, although my inevitable constipation was triggered by the fact that we were over a thousand miles away from the toilet my bowels were accustomed to. I couldn’t go for anything until the night we had dinner at a place that gave me diahhrea and made me vomit simultaneously, so that was certainly somewhat of a relief.

Sleeping arrangements were made even more awkward with my friend being part of the equation. It was always three people to a bed, and we had to keep switching it up as my baby nephew apparently wanted to sleep with a different combination of people every night. Otherwise he’d complain – a lot. And I wanted to hate him for it, but then he’d say something cute like, “We have a drawer!” everytime we got a new hotel room. Like that drawer or that chair was the most awesome thing he’d ever seen.

So anyway, it was the second to last night of our vacation that I had to sleep in the same bed as my mom and sister. My step-dad, friend and nephew were in the other bed. We were all lying there and waiting for our Tylenol PM to kick in. My mom had passed them out to everyone, and if someone had walked in at that moment, we could have been mistaken for a suicide cult.

The room was a little too quiet for my liking, so I decided to say one more stupid thing before we all fell asleep.

Me: Anyone up for a dutch oven?

Mom: Lord, I could probably use one of those right now.

Me: Um, do you know what a dutch oven is?

Mom: It’s a drink, isn’t it?

Me: ………

Mom: It’s not a drink?

Me: It’s when someone farts and pulls the sheet over your head, which forces you to smell it.

Mom: Oh, nevermind then. Good night, hon.

And it’s conversations like that that pretty much make up for any discomfort or inconvenience I have to put up with on a family vacation.

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My mom continues to baffle me on a regular basis – and it’s not just when she’s throwing her panties away at department stores.

I’m always learning something new about her that just makes me stare at her with a mixed bag of emotions – horror, intrigue, and confusion to name a few.

Some of it’s small stuff, like when she finally told us she doesn’t like bananas or broccoli. Nobody in the family knew this until about a year ago. For 20 years, I’d seen this woman eat banana pudding and broccoli and cheese soup countless times for dinner. Then one day, I noticed her broccoli and cheese soup sat untouched, so I asked her if she felt alright.

There was a dramatic pause as she slowly looked up at the family with mournful eyes.

“I’m not a big fan of broccoli,” she said quietly. “Never have been…”

It was like her soul couldn’t take one more bite of the broccoli that we had seemingly been forcing her to eat all these years.

I found out about the bananas when I was clearing the table and picked up the bowl of banana pudding she had been eating. She had consumed everything but the banana slices, which remained perfectly intact. I questioned her about it, similar to the way she questioned me the time she found a Playboy in my sock drawer.

“What is this?” I asked, holding the bowl in front of her face.

“I’m….not a big fan of bananas.”

“But…all these years…you’ve never said a word about it.”

“I know,” she said. “I know…”

Her most recent WTF moment was yesterday. She was regaling the day’s events to me and my step-dad, and in her usual fashion, she made sure to leave in every mundane detail.

“I was meeting the girls for lunch today, but I had to get gas and was running late. When I went inside to pay, there was a line! It was so frustrating, because I was in a hurry, ya know? Anyway…”

I interrupted.

“Wait, why didn’t you just pre-pay at the pump?”

She stared. Cue dramatic pause.

“I…I don’t know how.”

My step-dad, who had been deeply involved in an episode of Property Virgins on HGTV, turned the television off and stared at her, mouth agape. I stared as well.

“What do you mean you don’t know how to pay at the pump?” I said panicking.

“I just…never learned how.”

“My God, it’s not sign language! You put your card in, and that’s it!”

“I’ve just never taken the time to learn the instructions, and when I’m in a hurry, it’s just better to go inside and pay…”

“No, mom, you don’t understand. What you just said makes absolutely no sense, and I can’t even find the words to express the frustration I’m feeling right now. You just got done saying there was a line inside the station, so wouldn’t it make more sense to pay AT the pump, without ever having to bother going inside the gas station?”

“Well, I suppose, but I’ve just never learned. Don’t get mad at me.”

“Quit saying you never learned! It’s ridiculous of you to even think paying at the pump requires enough effort that it would be considered ‘learning’!”

So tonight, on our way back from my nephew’s kindergarten graduation, I stopped at a gas station with my mom and forced her to learn how to pay at the pump.

“Go slow so I can watch and learn how to do this,” she told me.

Exasperated, I took my debit card out of my wallet, held it in front of her face, slid it into the pump, chose my fuel, and began pumping.

“Well that seems easy enough” she said excitedly. “I can’t wait to try this tomorrow on my van!”

My mom is officially a big girl now.

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A Little Worried

The following is an actual phone conversation my mom and I recently had:

*ring*

Me: Hello?

Mom: Hey, honey…

Me: Hey.

Mom: You need anything here at Wal-Mart? I’m fixin’ to leave.

Me: Nope…um, what’s wrong? You sound worried.

(Whenever my mom is worried about something she sounds really out-of-breath and exasperated. She should have been a soap opera actress.)

Mom: Well, I just went to the bathroom here, and it wasn’t very pleasant.

Me: I would imagine a Wal-Mart restroom isn’t exactly pleasant.

Mom: Well…when I went in the stall, I saw the toilet hadn’t been flushed, but I was having one of my emergencies – you know, one of my famous emergencies. There was no time to flush, and it was the only stall that wasn’t being used…

(My mom is known for having to take a shit at the most inopportune times, especially when out shopping. And it’s not your typical shit – we’re talking explosive diarrhea. Like that time when I was 12 and we had to suddenly leave Sears. I believe her exact words as she pulled me out the door were: “I had to throw away my panties.” Do you know how psychologically damaging it is for a 12-year-old boy to hear their mother say that?)

Me: Um, Mom, do I really want to hear what happens next?

(Apparently she took this as an invitation.)

Mom: Well, when I sat down, it came out so suddenly that it splashed the toilet water…and some of the toilet water…splashed up inside of me. The toilet water with someone else’s pee splashed up in me, Sam, and I’m a little worried.

Me:

Mom: I mean, do you think I could get anything from that? Lord, no telling what kind of person used that toilet before me – I mean it’s Wal-Mart for Christ’s sake.

Me: I honestly have no words for how disgusted I am by this right now. So…you’re actually worried you might have contracted an STD from using the bathroom at Wal-Mart? Does this mean you’re going to get tested or something?

Mom: No, I’m just a little worried.

Me: OK…well thanks for sharing.

(“A little worried” – story of her life.)

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