The Family That Hay Rides Together

31 Oct

There’s a family I know of that runs together. Mom, Dad, the kids, all tie on their kicks and hit the streets together. I picture them, run complete, trekking into the kitchen together. Glowing with health and familial esprit de corps, they share a glass of orange juice while Mom starts breakfast. Dad helps the kids set the table, pausing to give the youngest a hug and a noogie.

Never mind that I come home from a run stinking, trail dust stuck to my skin, glued there by sunscreen and sweat. Never mind that no one in my family even likes to run and half of us don’t drink OJ. I want to be that family.

I’ve tried to arrange family outings with my own gang, mostly with disastrous results.

For years, I tried to turn us into a Christmas Tree Cutting family. My sister’s family cuts a tree every year. It’s a big deal for them and they speak fondly of it. I thought I could get my own family into it. The last year we cut a tree as family, my son came down with a fever at the tree lot but insisted that he be involved in tree selection nonetheless. I no longer let fevered four-year-olds push me around, primarily because there are none in my home. But he was our starter kid so he stayed bundled in the car while my husband dragged specimens that I had selected over to him for his approval. We have an artificial tree now.

Autumn seems to bring this family outing urge strongly to the fore for me. Every year, I resist the urge to pile us all into the car and drive miles away to pick apples. The realization that after driving twenty-five miles I would feel compelled to pick entire pecks of apples and then have to do something with them other than watch them rot holds me back. So I visit the local Farmstand, alone, where I can buy a reasonable number of apples minutes from home. Sometimes, I can drag my daughter along if I promise to buy her a honey stick.

Actually, my daughter is game for any number of bonding opportunities. She’ll even run with me. This spring, she accompanied me on a windy, rainy day and ran one-and-a-half miles before bailing. We saw Bob o’ Links in their mating plumage. Apparently, this is something of a treat in the bird-watching world. I feel like a massive geek even typing the words. If I’ve written of this before, though, indulge me. It’s a fond memory. But it still doesn’t count as a family outing.

No, family outings must involve my entire family. My husband claims I suffer from Norman Rockwell Syndrome, the sickness that has one believing that a painted vignette is a realistic model for modern family interaction. To which I say, “Yeah. So?”

My most recent syndrome-induced lunacy was signing us up for a hayride. I was inspired by a field trip I chaperoned for the fourth grade of my daughter’s school. A highlight of the trip was the hayride through a working farm. Why I thought an activity enjoyed by 120 screaming fourth graders was tailor made for my crew, I’ll never know. My daughter was gleefully on board, though.

Presented with the news that we were going to have fun, damn it, on a family hay ride, my son said, “That might be ok if you take the redneck out of it, like the hay. . .and the ride.” He advocated, instead, for something with concrete and skyscrapers that ended in deep-dish pizza at Uno. While that sounds appealing, it also sounds expensive. Twenty-eight dollars for a hayride for four sounded great to me.

We arrived at the hayride site and my “oh, crap, this was a really bad idea” radar started beeping. There was no hay in site and no apparent imminent arrival of hay. I opted for a cheerful “hay will arrive soon” attitude. My husband and son, being manly, opted for the “we’ll figure this thing out” approach. They wandered off in search of hay. Time passed. I began casually approaching random strangers until I found someone who looked like she knew where she was going or at least looked like she was wandering around with purpose. She had her head down, reading instructions, the instructions for finding the hay ride that were included in the reservation confirmation, the confirmation that I left at home. My bad idea radar started beeping more insistently; I ignored it.

Eventually, we found hay in wagons and groups of people waiting to pile onto the wagons and have a wonderful family outing. First, though, we were offered hot chocolate, which my daughter scurried off to find, father and I tagging along though I noted that I did not want hot chocolate.

I have been getting things for other people for so long that now, even though they are probably very capable of getting things for themselves, I still get them for them. So, I scooped the hot chocolate mix into a little foam cup, added hot water and began stirring it. I turned to hand it to my daughter just as she jumped for joy again. “For Christ’s sake,” I said, as the cocoa spilled on my glove. I turned to make my husband’s cocoa as another family, clearly happy, arrived at the cocoa station. Though there clearly was room for more than one cocoa maker, Mr. and Mrs. Happy stood watching me make cocoa. I grabbed another cup, now in a hurry so as not to inconvenience the happy, waiting couple. As I stirred the cocoa prior to handing it to my husband, he scooted around me and started filling a third cup. Still being surveyed by the Happys, I said, “Jesus Christ, I’m making this for you!” At which point Mrs. Happy said, “Wow! Maybe you should just step away from the cocoa.”

I chose not to ruin our lovely family outing by accidentally spilling cocoa on Mrs. Happy. Walking back to the hay wagons, though, my son, who looks like Jesus and dresses like a Ramone, said, under his breath, “Maybe you should just step away from my fist before it hits your face.”

Now, I know this is a completely inappropriate thing for a young man who looks like Jesus to say and that I, as a responsible parent, should have been mightily appalled. But I wasn’t because at that precise moment I realized we were having our version of a fun family outing.



4 Responses to “The Family That Hay Rides Together”

  1. The Hook November 22, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

    Family time rocks, right?

  2. Deb Beaupre November 23, 2011 at 10:32 am #

    You are living my life. Ony it would have been me saying that to my kid. I would then go cry in the bathroom thinking that we cant even go on an ff-ing hay ride without drama. I should blog about our super expensive total disaster vaca to Block Island. I took all pictures as soon as we got anywhere, before the fights started. Tip I learned from a mental health mag.

    I have been looking for a writer who tells the truth about parenting and does it well- thank you! You are the first blog I am subscribing to!

    • jmlindy422 November 23, 2011 at 11:22 am #

      I absolutely love the idea of taking all of the pictures first. Thanks so much for your support.

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