2002.09.11 Forget the expectations, surprise me with bubbles

Written by David Green.

I am giddy, expectation whirls me round.

The imaginary relish is so sweet

That it enchants my sense.

—Shakespeare

By COLLEEN LEDDY

My kids and I headed to New York last Wednesday evening to celebrate my Aunt Mary’s 60th birthday. Her children arranged the affair: a Saturday night surprise party at a Knights of Columbus Hall in the Bronx.

David and I had been to the funeral of his Uncle Bill earlier in the day and the gravity of that occasion made me wonder what I was doing devoting the next few days traveling to and being in New York for just a birthday party—and merely a 60th one at that. But the death of my mother has made me realize the importance of family and maintaining connections with them, being there for landmark events, sharing happy times as well as sad.

My kids surprised me by wanting to go also—even though it meant missing two days of school. We’re an odd lot—I’m a mother who encourages them to skip school for worthwhile excursions and diversions, or even just to take a break from the routine; they are kids who enjoy school and hate to miss class.

So we set out, eagerly anticipating our first stop, the Panera restaurant at the service plaza about two hours from Morenci. And what a disappointment to discover they were not serving food—they’d had a power outage and were not yet back in operation.

“Oh, I’m so bummed,” I said to the kids. “I had just been contemplating my soup choices—black bean or lentil.”

“Yeah, cream of broccoli or potato,” said Rosie.

She was in the same boat—the one where eager expectation drops to deep displeasure. At times like that, I have a tendency  to think, Is this a sign? Is this how the whole trip will go? It seemed it would after having to settle for McDonald’s at the next service plaza. But my outlook improved when we stopped for the night in Clarion, Pa., where our favorite cheap, clean, quiet, comfortable hotel, Microtel, came through with its usual high quality service.

I’m more likely to keep expectations low so I won’t be disappointed—especially after missing out on lentil soup—so it was such a treat to lie back in bed, road weary but without worry, and just contemplate the events of the day—from the solemnity of the funeral to the silly snatches of conversation heard along the way. Conversation with my daughters that uses very few words:

“Are those Munchables, Maddy?” I ask about the crackers I hear her eating in the back seat.

“Munch ’ems?” she asks, the one word standing for a whole sentence: Do you mean this box of sour cream and onion Munch ’ems here?

“Wheatables?” says Rosie with a smile, meaning “Are you talking about the box of Wheatables crackers and you’re just a little mixed up?”

 High expectations, low expectations...and no expectations. Sometimes having no expectations in life elicits the most fun of all—like this scenario at the service plaza on the turnpike:

I attempted to wash my hands but the soap dispenser was empty. I tried the next one in the long bank of sinks but it was empty, too.

“I’ve got the soap down here,” a woman said. She’d been fixing her hair in front of the mirror and I thought she was just a fellow traveler.

But she was the attendant and boy, did she have soap—a great gallon jug full of it.

“Here honey,” she said and tipped the jug as I held my hands underneath.

“Whoa, whoa, that’s good!” I said, laughing at the massive gob of liquid soap in the palms of my hands. As I lathered and blobs of soap fell into the sink, she went back to looking at herself in the mirror.

“Oh, I look tired,” she moaned.

“It’s the lighting,” I said.

“And my hair,” she said, as she ran her fingers through it. “It looks terrible.”

On the other side of the attendant, another lady pumped the soap dispenser to no avail.

“Here! here! I’ve got the soap,” the attendant called out. I laughed to myself knowing what was coming: the tip of the jug and then...

“Whoa, whoa!” the lady said. That’s enough to take a bath.”

“Yeah, let’s just plug the sink and take a bubble bath,” said the attendant.

Now wouldn’t that be an unexpected surprise for a weary traveler.

    – Sept. 11, 2002 
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