All week, we had plans to go to Laurel Caverns on Sunday. Because that’s just where good parents want to take their hyperactive four-year-olds: 40 feet down into the earth, surrounded by 16,000 ways to injure or kill oneself.
But first, I had to go through this panic-riffic hour where I was convinced Henry was dead. He has a second job on Sunday mornings, just to give us some extra cash since I screwed us all up by not working for so long. He usually gets home from that job around 7am.
It was nearly 9am. I began to notice he wasn’t here only when I found things he did wrong around the house and my need to berate him began to grow impatient. I called him and it went to voicemail.
Then I called him 28 more times and texted him saying, “If you’re not dead, please reply.”
At this point, I really started to feel scared. All the things he does around the house and in life in general began skull-fucking me and my stomach took on a fast descent as I realized, “Holy shit. I might have to do things for myself. Who’s going to make my non compos cards?!” I kept envisioning his work van, engulfed in flames, and how bleak my future looked when filled with chores and financial responsibility and single parenting (yeah right, I’d find a new daddy, and fast).
I was trying not to get too crazy around Chooch, because he’d only end up feeding off my panic and then there would be two hyperactive people panicking and crying and wondering who they’d find to take care of them.It was complete pandemonium inside my chest.
“Can we still go to the cave even if Daddy doesn’t come home?” Chooch asked, quite sincerely.
“Yes, but let’s make sure he’s alive first.” Then I had horrible visions of me taking Chooch to the caverns without Henry and one of us “accidentally” pushing the other down the Devil’s Staircase. Maybe we would just go to the park instead.
Henry wasn’t dead. He pulled into the parking lot a little bit before 10 and Chooch and I raced across the street to meet him. I could see the look of fear on Henry’s face, because we never go out of our way to greet him. He probably thought the house was on fire.
“I thought you were DEAD!” I yelled. Turns out it was his phone that was dead, though. Or he had it off while he was having sex for money, whichever. Plus, he didn’t get to his job until late because he slept in. I was really clingy for the rest of the day. No, that’s a lie. Only for about an hour, then it went back to the normal with me bitterly suggesting that he just stop breathing altogether.
So yeah, Laurel Caverns! I love that damn place, but haven’t been there since 2004 with my brother Corey when we stalked a yuppie couple in the gift shop. We made sure Chooch peed before entering the caverns, and then had a few minutes to kill in the gift shop. There were people already lined up, waiting for the tour to the start and I noticed they kept looking at Chooch with expressions seeped in disdain and disgust.
“These people already hate us,” I whispered to Henry. “Let’s make sure we stay in the back.”
And you know, for as chatty as my son is, he really wasn’t all that bad. There were moments where the guide would stop us to point out stalagmites and Chooch would start to fidget. I mean, I was fidgeting too so I can’t really hate on my kid. He was pretty good about not talking while the guide was talking though, which is more than I can say for the family with two kids behind us who ended up being the collective Chooch of the group. The kids weren’t really being that bad, just asking questions, which inspired both parents to shush them with such intensity that it was like the entire Slytherin house was behind me hissing. Their dad was some geology geek and really wanted to make sure everyone knew it.
Ten minutes into the caverns, Chooch started to do a slight pee writhe. “I have to pee,” he whispered. Let me remind you that we were in a CAVERN. Even if pissing over a ravine was an option, the shitty family behind us kept lingering behind to take pictures so there was no whizzing opportunity.
He made it sort of almost to the end before doing a pee-jig so grand scale, the tour guide stopped mid-sentence and asked, “Do you guys need to leave?” Luckily, it was at a point near the end of the route where there was a quick way to the exit.
You best believe I stayed for the rest of the tour. Laurel Caverns is my jam.
Not having Henry and Chooch there for the rest made me focus more on the rest of the group and I realized they were all assholes. Except for this one guy who pointed out a bat to me.
I spotted the top of Henry’s bandanna undulating through the gift shop when the tour ended. Then I saw the rest of his face and it looked strained and annoyed. Apparently, Chooch made it to the bathroom. Just not the toilet. So Henry had to wash Chooch’s shorts the best he could in the sink and dry them under the dryer.
“And now I’m not wearing any underwear!” Chooch cheered. Just add negligent mom to the list of other flaws I was given yesterday.
Pissy Pants. (I was referring to Henry, but I suppose it works for either.)
Walking out into the parking lot, I was bitching angrily about the shushing geology family when I noticed they were only a few feet away from us. I don’t think they heard me, because the mom offered Chooch a fruit roll-up.
“I feel bad now,” I whispered to Henry as we approached our car.
“No, you don’t,” he swiftly corrected.
Laughing, I said, “Yeah, I know.”
We stopped for lunch at some crappy family restaurant in the mountains where I had the least satisfying grilled cheese ever and our waitress with little green gauges asked to read my tattoo.
“It’s Chiodos,” I said, and she smiled and walked away.
To Henry, I muttered, “I thought maybe she would know, since she has gauges.” And then I pouted every time she came back because she wasn’t all “OMG CHIODOS” like I am.
And of course we would get a flat tire on the way home. It was actually a good thing, because we’ve needed new tires in a very bad way, so now Henry has no choice but to get that done today. We pulled over in the Gene and Boots candy store parking lot. What magical timing.
Chooch, who had been sleeping when this happened, flipped out.
“I don’t want the tire to be flat!” he wailed, as though I had just told him one of the cats died. I couldn’t get him to stop crying, so I was left with no choice but to take him inside the candy shop and get him candy. The perils of being a mom.
There was some broad in there who watched Chooch and me like hawks from the moment we entered the shop. Oh I know, look at these two raggamuffins, right? Make sure we don’t steal anything! I didn’t even bring my purse with me, just my wallet, and Chooch was clearly tossing items into a basket so I don’t know what the issue was. But it almost made me want to chuck the basket at her and leave.
There’s an ice cream shop there too, and when Henry was done with the tire, we all went inside. That same broad was behind the counter, taking her good old time scooping ice cream for someone who wasn’t even in there, and never once said, “I’ll be with you a minute” or even turned to acknowledge us with a smile. Nothing.
And then I took a picture. She whirled around and very tersely said, “Oh, you can’t take pictures in here.” The way she said it triggered something in me, something 16-years-old and disgustingly petulant. I looked at Henry, smiled fakely and said, “Let’s not buy anything here!” and stormed out the door. I wondered why he wasn’t following me and saw that he was waiting to buy a Mountain Dew. I stuck my head back in the door and said shittily, “Just buy that at a store, she’s taking too fucking long.” Henry dejectedly put it back and stopped at a convenience store down the street.
The inside of Gene and Boots. All their secrets revealed on the Internet in ONE PHOTO! PASS IT ON!
Passing an Exotic Dancers sign outside of a seedy bar, Henry felt inspired to regale us with his history of strip clubs.
“You were eleven the last time I went to one,” he laughed. The thought of that made me cover my breasts.
He went on. “I got kicked out of one in Texas for giving a stripper a quarter.”
“You can get kicked out for that?” I asked incredulously.
“Yeah, when you throw it at her,” he clarified.