I remember those lazy days…sitting around a farmhouse table, playing board games with family, kids splashing in a kiddie pool, adults laughing, sipping cold drinks.
Last summer, my niece Kathy, her toddler, and my daughter Sally, a preschool teacher, planned a trip from NYC to visit me in Maine—the baby’s first vacation. My niece is a Broadway performer who deserves “Mother of the Year” for educating her toddler in the arts. I mean, the child already says “shuffle” and actually does that tap step. In perfect rhythm.
Soon, we—three capable adults and one baby—would experience the true spirit of a relaxed Maine vacation. I already felt younger, lighter. I ordered an inflatable kiddie pool, bought children’s books including my favorite—“Curious George”—and called my niece.
“Aunt Kathy, as long as there’s coffee in the morning, nothing else matters,” my niece says.
They arrive, so tired they go to sleep early. I haul out the board games for the next day.
In the morning, I stumble downstairs at my usual 9 a.m. (the crack of dawn in Netflix-Binge World) to find the coffee I’d pre-set the night before consumed to the last drop, bathing and dressing done, and the admonishment to “Hurry! Smiling Hill Farm!” cheerfully called out by someone who’s wide awake.
“Yay!” I say. “Ice cream!”
“Animals, Aunt Kathy—maybe lunch, we’ll see,” my niece says.
“I cree?” asks the baby. I give her the thumbs-up when her mommy isn’t looking. She smiles at me and does a shuffle with her right foot. I try one and nearly fall over.
At the farm, the 40-year-olds rush me in. I’ve barely uttered “Senior rate?” to the cashier when Sally efficiently pops out her credit card to pay for everyone. The show-off.
I immediately find myself swept into Old McDonald’s Farm, complete with so, so many areas in which one needs to dodge animal poop. I search my purse for anything that might sanitize shoes.
“Look, sweetheart!” my niece says to the baby, pointing to some brand of caged rat. The three move in closer, as I reach way down into my psyche to pull out a bit of nonchalance, a microbe of courage. I watch them, keeping my eyeballs focused on the sweet face of my great-niece meeting nature. The caged mini-beast probably looks cuter here than in the NYC streets, scurrying between garbage bags.
Next, they enter the Three Little Pigs’ pen, despite the sign “Pigs may bite.”
“My name is Albert” “My name is Mabel” read the other signs.
“My name is Kathy,” I say aloud. Sally gives me a look I haven’t seen since she was 15.
I give her back the look that says “I’m your mom, and I spoil you at Christmas, now shhhh!”
From afar, the pigs are adorable. Less adorable is the stench. I’m roasting, sweating and dehydrated. I put on sunscreen, organic bug spray and despite my sterile technique, I have an allergy attack from a stray animal hair. And all this fun comes with the price of admission. I daydream about giggling with the girls, like we used to, playing a card game during the baby’s nap.
As my niece and daughter sing “Turkey in the Straw” to the baby—in harmony—we move to the mini-vehicles built for the tiniest of children—and Kathy and Sally, it turns out. I look down at my middle. Not the youthful feeling I was hoping for.
“Lunch!” announces my niece.
“Ice cream?” I ask. There’s a stern “lunch first” look—this time from the baby.
On the way home, I start to tell her about Curious George. She promptly falls asleep. As do Sally and Kathy.
Each day holds two major activities, set meals, three healthy snacks between each meal, naps, nature walks, music time, books and baths. The baby discovers the Uno deck, expertly bending, chewing and scattering the cards. Two books and a banana peel end up in the laundry hamper.
My poolside fantasy ends abruptly with the discovery that the new toddler pool smells like poison. I arrange a return with Amazon, performing an heroic deflation of said pool with, possibly, my last dying breaths. Where’s that blasted Curious George when you really need him?
At night, by 8 p.m., I hear gentle snores from Sally and Kathy, so I do the dishes and laundry.
I’m exhausted from all the, uh, fun.
I’ll go to bed earlier. I promise this to myself at 2 a.m.
Bet you think I’m gonna say that when they leave I take a big nap.
But not ’til I find out how Curious George actually saves the day.
Kathy Eliscu, a retired RN, received a National Society of Newspaper Columnists Humor award in 2012 for her Maine Women magazine column. She is the author of “Not Even Dark Chocolate Can Fix This Mess,” a humor novel. She blogs at www.kathyeliscu.com and lives in Westbrook.