I’m sure it was my mother’s demented idea, what I’m about to tell you. I was eleven, and she and my father had volunteered to join a group of other parents willing to show up at the airport at 1 a.m. to retrieve all of us boys who had spent the past week out west on a Boy Scout Jamboree in Manitoba.
At the beginning of the week, I had been miserably homesick—and that was before I’d even left our house. This would be the first time I’d spend so much time away from my family (although the blissful prospect of being a thousand miles away from my brother could not be overestimated). The excitement of going on the Jamboree was smothered by the dread of leaving my parents behind. As I waved goodbye from the back of the school bus that would take my troop to the airport for our epic journey, I remember thinking that my spirit was lower than a blacksnout sea snail in the Mariana Trench (I’d recently achieved a merit badge in Oceanography).
I am pleased to report that once we arrived in Winnipeg and set up our tents in Birds Hill Park, surrounded by acre after acre of encampments of Scouts from all over the world, I began to happily live in the moment. By the end of the week, I was sad to be heading home.
Now this is where my mother’s crackpot scheme comes in. Neither she, a musical comedy actress, nor my father, a preacher, are shy by nature. If they were going to be part of this late-night parental pick-up delegation then they were going to have some fun.
Our troop, groggy and disheveled from the flight, and no doubt collectively emanating a stench that would tax a dung beetle’s gag reflex, stumbled into the baggage claim area. Bleary-eyed moms and dads awaited us, some holding welcome signs, some bearing homemade snacks, some placing bets that their kid was still wearing the same underwear he’d left home in. And then there were my parents.
Large pink plastic curlers looped through her hair, my mother was dressed in a light-blue nightgown sweeping down to her furry slippers. Beside her stood my father, arrayed like Ebenezer Scrooge in a red-and-white-striped men’s knee-length nightshirt and long pointy nightcap, brandishing a dented old lantern.
I’d lived barely more than a decade, a happy one at that, but I immediately began praying for swift death.
“You must be so embarrassed,” my friend Robbie said helpfully.
A week earlier I hadn’t wanted to leave my parents. Now I never wanted to see them again. I wondered if the Scouts had a merit badge for euthanizing insane adults.
Of course, all the other parents thought my mother and father were hilarious. It would be many, many years of traversing the awkward adolescent stages before I agreed with that view. But eventually, agree with it I did. I now consider my parents to be two of the funnest and funniest people I know. I thoroughly enjoy their sense of humor, their playfulness, their winsome, light-hearted approach to life.
I won’t be with my mom for her birthday next week, but I will see her and dad the week after, at a cousin’s wedding not far from where they live in Canada. I’ve decided to drive there, even though it’s a 7-hour car trip from here in New Jersey. One of the early options discussed with my parents was for me to fly and have them pick me up at an airport.
But naah… I don’t have the guts.