Some more from that thing that I’m working on…

Interlude: Road Trips with the Grandparents

Part One

 

In the summer of 1984, his grandparents, perhaps sensing that his mother could benefit from some time apart from her precious son, took the boy on a road trip to California. When he was told of the impending vacationary travels, he insisted that they take his grandfather’s truck down on the trip. When his grandfather asked him where his grandmother was to sit, he helpfully suggested that there was room in the cargo bed. Sadly, at least to him, he was overruled. He couldn’t understand why she wasn’t interested, and in fact, the only reason that he hadn’t offered to ride in back himself, was that his grandfather seemed wholly obsessed with the notion of seatbelts where it came to his diminutive passenger. For the entire run-up to the day of their departure, the child could feel his excitement grow, filling him to nearly bursting with a smug sense of glee and four-year-old entitlement.

But on the day of his departure, he briefly lifted up his mask of self-importance, and asked his mother if she was sure that she would be all right without him. He couldn’t say exactly why he came to feel the way he did, but the look upon his mother’s face as he was being bundled into the car seemed wholly inappropriate considering that he was going to be going away. He felt that she should be wracked with apprehension, tear-stained eyes betraying the sense of loss she felt, seeing her son, her only son!, being taken from her. Instead, he caught only a barest hint of a smile which was quickly hidden behind her “serious face”, and then the door was closed, and the journey begun.

It would be his first trip to Disneyland, as well as his first extended period of time away from his mother. It was also, according to reliable sources, a time when he subsisted almost entirely upon air and various bites of food from off his grandmother’s plates, much to her growing fear and consternation. As the miles rolled by, and the boy became an official Interstate traveler, he found himself caught between the realization that he would soon be arriving at the “Happiest Place On Earth” and the worry that his mother would be cast adrift without him. Every other night, as he and his grandparents settled into their motel, he would call his mother and ask her if she was all right.

Far be it from a simple narrator to interject his personal opinion, but it is entirely plausible that he was using these conversations not to reassure his mother, but rather, to reassure himself. It was, after all, his first time so far away from her, and though he dearly loved his grandparents, he was also ill-equipped to deal with change. Of course, once he made it to the Magic Kingdom, the majority of his worry began to melt away, and his conversations with his mother, while still framed in the pretense of concern, were now more about assuaging his growing sense of guilt at having an amazing time and leaving her at home in utter boredom.

As for his grandparents, he didn’t give a second thought to whether they might be bored, as he could not conceive of how someone might remained untouched by the sheer splendor of it all. In later years, the only thing which he was able to recall was a brief moment of stark naked panic at the sensation of flight above a miniaturized London as he and his grandparents glided along upon the Peter Pan ride. And though he never truly got over his fear of heights (either real or of a forced perspective), it made him feel immeasurably better to discover that his grandfather had also reacted similarly. His grandmother, on the other hand, had thought that they were both acting just a bit ridiculously. But at the time, Tex was rather shaken by it, and demanded almost immediately upon exiting the ride that they make their way back to the Small World ride again.

According to his grandparents, if there is a hell, then it is going on a trip to Disneyland with a four-year-old child. And, if one has truly lived a vile and horrid life, littered with depravity and sin, then the special place reserved for him is the Small World ride. For a child, its repetition and simplicity were the pinnacle of innovation; for the adult accompanying him each and every consecutive visit, mind-numbing would have been more preferable than any term which I may try to insert here. Throughout their visit, they managed to take a ride on the Peter Pan exhibit, the Pirates of the Caribbean (decades before anyone considered turning it into a film franchise), and very nearly managed to get on the Teacup ride. In contrast, they were forced to queue up and suffer through (at minimum) forty-eight trips through the smallest world of all: their rapidly shrinking sanity. Suffice it to say, that when the vacation was drawing down, their joy at never having to take that ride again was the direct inverse of the child’s despondency, but at that point, they may have even been willing to pay another visit to the Tiki House.

By the time that they had finally gotten home, each of the weary travelers was anxious to go spend some time apart from one another. The boy’s anxiety had gotten the better of him, and once all of the fun had been extracted from his visit to the Golden State, he began to feel a keen and biting sense of urgency to return home. As there was no constant barrage of diversion to keep him occupied, his mind returned to the plight of his mother, and how terribly lonely she must have been. His grandparents managed to keep it together just long enough to drop him off at home, and only then by retreating into their inner sanctums and imagining a world where tiny people did not feel the urge to speak from the moment when they woke (entirely too early to be wholesome), until the moment when they finally passed out, mid-sentence.

The car pulled into the spot in front of our hero’s home, and as soon as he was unbuckled and set loose, racing toward his mother, a tangible weight lifted from each and every one of the three vacationers. No sooner was the boy’s luggage extracted from the trunk and set briskly upon the porch, did his grandparents get back in the car and drive back to their home. It might have seemed a bit bizarre, if the boy had noticed it, for normally his mother and his grandparents lingered interminably before departure. He, however, was awash in the comfort of returning home, having nobly cut his adventure short so that he might rescue his mother from her doldrums.

“I’m home!” the boy said with genuine enthusiasm. “Did you miss me?”

His mother only stared at the falling dust which her parents’ car had left behind as they’d driven away. The smile upon her face turned down ever so slightly, and then she snatched up the boy in great big hug, and said into his ear, “Of course, honey.”

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