Sunday, August 13, 2006

Everybody Had Matching Towels

It's Grandpa's 94th birthday, and as much as I adore him I despise the long drive to Cape Cod. Daria and I both hate crossing Connecticut with a fiery passion, like leaving Providence, and love crossing the Bourne Bridge. We have been making this drive all our lives and while traffic reports can mitigate stop-and-go suffering, technology now gives us Mom calling every hour to ask questions or chat. By the time we near New Bedford, I am only answering Daria's phone to tell Mom to chill gin and slice limes. Daria says to open a bottle of red and let it breathe. And she means it: for the last hour and a half of the drive, baby Fifi screamed bloody murder unless Daria held Fifi's hand, so Daria's right arm is asleep and I am in a near-panic every time the Ford Exsanguinator crosses white lines.

When we pull into the driveway of the house that was our Grandma's and is now our Mom's on Friday night, Daria crosses herself and I leap from the passenger seat to the gravel without a parachute. We ferry the kids into the house and upstairs to bed, drag in suitcases, pillows and presents, then we flop down in chairs around the dining room table. My stepfather brings me a generously ginny gin and tonic. Mom pours a glass of red wine for Daria. Miss Fifi decides she will remain wide awake and charming for over an hour. Then we all dash off to bed and wake up to party plans in full dither. It becomes my job to help Daria get to the VFW Hall by four on Saturday afternoon. We don't make it. I am not accustomed to the roaring demands of three children and Daria does not remember hearing herself think anymore. By the time we are stuffing children into the Ford Exacerbator and tying them down, I am all for smothering my godson Sandro. He is fresh, asks a million questions and doesn't listen to his mother so everything is up for debate. Essentially, he is four, and I want to kill him.

Friday, the first thing that happened when I got into the car:

Tyler Too: Auntie Ta, Sandro doesn't want you to be his godmother.
Tata: Too bad, bud. He's stuck with me.
Tyler Too: But he doesn't want it.
Daria: And that's because Auntie Ta sometimes scares Sandro.
Tata: Tyler, my darling, Auntie Tata has a heart of stone but if you were talking to someone else what you just said might really hurt their feelings.

Daria stared, thunderstruck.

Daria: Auntie Ta is right, sweetheart. We have to think before we speak because we could hurt someone's feelings.
Tyler Too: Why?
Tata: Got me! Just be careful.

Today, I hope Sandro hitchhikes to preschool. This does not endear me to my sister, though on our way to Grandpa's party, Daria pulls over to adjust Sandro's attitude with a stern talking-to; later, it's me.

Daria: Why are you such a raving bitch whenever we come to Cape Cod?
Tata: Because it's only when we're in a closed vehicle for hours on end that you listen to a goddamn word I say, and then you don't like it.

Needless to say, the little boys are breathless with this display of foul language in the front seat. This is very exciting!

Daria: Why are you acting like an angry shit?
Tata: Why are you such a smug, judgmental bitch?

We park and kiss our Grandpa with these mouths. It is only a matter of time before Tyler Too rats us out to Mom. I look forward to the day I can keep him quiet with promises of liquor and porn. Sandro, however, may do a lengthy stint in Time Out before this little old lady buys him a carton of bargaining smokes. Even so, I love these little boys madly for the surprises they spring on us, as on Friday night, somewhere in Connecticut.

Tyler Too: 'Ox' is the perfect word. It has an X!
Tata: One of my favorite words is 'vex.' It has a V and an X. I love them both!
Tyler Too: How do you spell 'vex'?
Tata: Let's sound it out.
Tyler Too: V - X - E -
Tata: Wait. Let's start over and listen to the sounds in order.
Tyler Too: vvveeeexxxx. V - E - X.
Tata: Very good! Very good!
Tyler Too: How do you spell 'vexing'?
Tata: At the risk of repeating myself, let's sound it out.
Tyler Too: '-ing' is I - N - G. And 'vex' is V - E - X.
Tata: So 'vexing' is...?
Tyler Too: V - E - X -
Sandro: I - N - G.

Daria and I stopped breathing for a second and turned in our seats to stare at the four-year-old and the newly seven-year-old. Then we shouted for five minutes.

Tata: Good boys! That was very good, both of you!
Daria: My smart boys! That was amazing! So smart!

Seeing as how the insomniac driver had taken her bleary E - Y - E - S off the road, it was a miracle this spelling bee didn't end in a D - I - T - C - H.


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