It was like a hangover without the hanging over. You wake up in the morning and wonder what happened, what you aren't remembering.
I awoke to find a sparkly acorn sticker on the top of my head, firmly grasping hair. That wasn't all. I found a sparkly maple leaf on my pants.
I made my way to the bathroom for my morning shower, and when I finished, I dried off and stepped to the mirror, then searched for my wife's hairbrush. We were on a mini-vacation for the Thanksgiving weekend and I knew her brush had to be hiding somewhere in the carrying case of bathroom supplies and equipment.
There was no brush to be found and my hair was about to dry in a very strange post-toweling pattern. So I did what any resourceful man would do: I brushed my hair with my toothbrush and it worked surprisingly well.
We were back in Kentucky for a rare confluence of our children—at least two of three. Maddie didn't make it in from California, but Ben and his wife and child flew to Lexington to join Rosanna and, as they say, a good time was had by all.
As we drove south, I thought about how if our house were to burn down while we were away, the material loss would not be too great because we seemed to have most everything in the back of our small car. Apparently, our kids are not yet prepared to cook a turkey. They don't own the proper cooking pan and they don't have a pan the right size for massive quantities of mashed potatoes. I remember the year we flew a Zachel turkey to Ben's house in Miami, but this time the turkey rode in the back of the car, patiently awaiting the oven while keeping cool under ice.
It wasn't too long after our arrival in Lexington that I was ushered to the toy room where Caroline and I got to work on the stickers. These aren't ordinary stickers. They're pieces of foam with a paper backing, and they stick well enough to stay overnight in someone's hair.
Caroline spends great amounts of time patiently peeling off the backing of each piece. If her father comes to the doorway, a hand will shoot up and wave him off. "Private party," she will say.
I watched her pour half a bottle of soap down the bathroom drain before I realized what she was doing. I watched her stare down at the floor, then spit before I understood what was going on. Always a step behind.
But everything went well until The Interloper arrived on Thanksgiving day. Caroline, 21/2 years old, vs. her cousin Ryland, at 17 months. She shared a lot over the long weekend, but she suffered a lot, as well. Those were her toys, after all. But she got in a few digs when she could.
What looked like a loving kiss to her young visitor was actually accompanied by a painful squeeze. Fingers were pulled a little too hard. We all still remember the visit they had several months ago when she aimed one finger from each hand into his eyeballs.
I'm making Caroline out to be a monster, but she's actually just a preschooler. Ryland will get his turn in another year. He quickly discovered the joy of biting the little foam stickers. And the foam fish and the foam ball…I'm sure all of you know the pleasure of biting into foam, and if you don't, I want you to stop reading right now and go find some foam to chew.
There, isn't it great? It's really fun.
I arrived back in Morenci late Sunday—still thinking about hearing Santa Claus speak with a southern accent—and I aim to produce a newspaper on time. It's a vacation issue: 12 pages without any interesting feature story written. I thank you for allowing me that rare treat of leaving town.
As I placed my camera bag on the back seat of the car Monday morning at the elementary school, I noticed a little brown piece of something on the seat. I took a closer look and sure enough, it was some of Caroline's foam. It probably fell out of my hair.