Monday, March 5, 2012

The River Wild

During my childhood, my mom would set up remarkable family vacations.  Unlike common families who went to the beach in the summer, my family traveled all over the U.S., and even Canada, visiting national parks, riding in trains and going on multi day horse riding trips.  At the beginning of every summer Mom would sit my sister and I down;

Mom:  Your father and I have a surprise for you!

Dad:  We are going to take a cross country trip, in the minivan, and visit your aunt and uncle in Colorado and then travel to Arizona and ride mules down into the Grand Canyon!

Mom:  Doesn't that sound great!  What an opportunity!  You will be required to keep a daily diary.

Me and my sister:  Awww, man!  That sucks!  Why can't we just stay here and hang with our friends for the summer like all the other kids?  Ugh, I thought summer time was for not thinking and learning!

Mom:  Well tough shit, that's what we are doing.  And you will have a good time.

What can I say, we were kids.

Looking back, we did have a good time, we were very lucky to have parents who took us on such great adventures.  It's just that we didn't always show our appreciation.

When I was twelve the summer vacation that was planned included a five day raft trip down the Snake River (yeah, you're jealous).  The only request my dad had was no rapids.  So it was a five day float trip, which was great, but would have been better had I been old enough to drink alcohol. 

Mom had arranged for our family of four to have two rafts and two guides, the teams had long ago been determined: 

Team 1) Puck and Mom (the fun, interested boat)
Team 2) Me and Dad (the others)

After our guides got through telling us how to survive every possible  deadly scenario Mom, Dad and Puck climbed into their assigned rafts.  I tried to flee to the safety of the minivan, but apparently this was a part of the vacation the whole family had to be there for.  All I could think was "how is almost dying a vacation?"

Fortunately I had brought a book (or two) with me.  So while everyone else in my family had nothing better to do than look around at the scenery for dangers like bear and lightning and killer fish and pterodactyls, I was able to relax and read.

In pretty much every picture my mom has of this trip, I am sitting in the raft, hunched over, reading a book.  Whether it's sunny or rainy, no matter the amazing scenery, or what animals we came across, I was reading a book.

That first night was the most traumatic.  We had to sleep in tents, and I was pretty sure there was a spider in mine, so there was a lot of screaming and crying involved.  I just hope my parents left a really big tip for those raft guides.

Meanwhile, my sister took the whole thing in stride, like she was having a good time, traitor.

In the end we survived, and I actually have fond memories of that trip, somehow.  The real irony of this story is that I went on to get two degrees in natural resources (B.S. Natural Resources Management, M.S. Rangeland Ecosystem Science), and I work for the U.S. Forest Service, and about ten years ago, I spent a summer as a raft guide, and yes some of the people I had on my raft were absolutely horrible.  I believe that is the definition of karma.

And my sister, she works in finance, in Manhattan.

Christmas was like two months ago.

A few weeks ago, my boyfriend, Charles, informed me that his father Bob and Bob’s lady friend (let’s face it, when you’re in your 70’s she is no longer a girlfriend), Sally, would be coming for a visit.

Me:  When are they getting here?

Charles:  I don’t know, maybe sometime next week.

Me:  How long are they staying with us?

Charles:  I don’t know, a week or two, maybe.

Me: Oh good.

I like Bob and Sally, they are very nice.  Bob is quiet and happy with a couch and a T.V., so basically he is low maintenance.  Sally makes up for Bob’s taciturn ways.  Sally has lead a very interesting life in her 75 years, and I am pretty sure she is trying to get the story out there to anyone who will listen, in a second by second retelling of her life and times.  I am always excited to have guests, especially if they are family, especially if they are staying with us during the week, when I have to work (“Sorry, I just don’t have enough leave to take time off!  I know, bummer, you’re going to have to go antiquing without me, sucks!”).  So I was cool with the short notice of Bob and Sally’s impending welcomed visit.

Then Charles brought up the Christmas card.

Charles:  Sally was upset by the Christmas card we sent. (we = me, Charles doesn’t do cards)

Me:  Seriously, it’s February.  I mean…What was wrong with the card? (I am pretty sure there was an eye roll accessorizing that question).

Charles:  I don’t know something about leaving her name off the card.  I shouldn’t have brought it up.

Me:  Her name was on the card, I clearly remember writing “Dear Bob and Sally”.

Charles:  Then I don’t know.  Forget I said anything, why are you getting so defensive, GOD!

I couldn’t stop thinking about this horrible and offensive Christmas card I had sent to Charles’ father and his lady friend, what had I written (or not written)?  And as the day changed into night I was no closer to realizing my folly.  Had I written some hidden message in the text, one that if you held the card up to a mirror in a candle lit bathroom while playing Led Zeppelin backwards, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer would appear and sing (out of tune) Christmas Carols forever?, because that could make some people a little upset.  And as similarly rational thoughts raced through my head at 1:30 in the morning, it finally dawned on me…

They never sent us a Christmas card.