“Hey Bunny, thanks for taking care of the cats for us while we were gone,” I said giving her a hug. “I brought you back a present.”
“What is it?” Bunny asked with her refined Texas accent, her long blond hair swept back into a pony tail that crowned her statuesque figure, holding up a doll with a pumpkin head with hair hanging over its eyes and a black furry body.
“It’s Momo,” I said laughing, “ he’s the Missouri equivalent to Big Foot.”
“Thank you, I think,” she said furrowing her brow. Looking at Richard she asked, “how was the trip, you look like you shrank.”
“Don’t ask,” Richard said his shoulders slumping. Dark circles under his blue eyes he said, “I should have listened to Fannie and let her go with her parents.”
Bunny looked at me raising one eyebrow.
“I tried to convince Richard, he would be better off staying home but he didn’t believe me,” I said smiling.
The day before the trip. . .
“Richard, are you sure you want to do this?” I asked searching his eyes.
“Fannie, I don’t see what’s the big deal,” Richard said smiling.
“I don’t think you’re grasping the magnitude of what you’ve volunteered for,” I said running my fingers through my short brown hair.
Richard crossed his arms.
“Richard, you’re talking about being trapped in a car with my parents for over 4,000 miles,” I said shaking my head. “I know you love me, but that’s stretching it to its limit.”
“Fannie, I get along great with your parents. I can handle your mother,” he said nodding his head, “I’ve been in the car with them before. It’s only eight days.”
“Your family rides in the car in silence,” I said trying to drill my point into his head. “My family talks non-stop except when they’re singing, sleeping or eating.”
“Fannie trust me, I’ll be fine.”
“Divorce is not an option,” I said standing on my tiptoes while poking him in the chest, “I want to make that perfectly clear.”
Hugging me he said, “Fannie, I’ll be fine, don’t worry,” he said, “we’re just going to a family reunion.”
The alarm sounded at 6:30 a.m. The heads of two orange cats popped up from under the blanket at the foot of the bed looking at Richard. He threw the blanket from the bed. The cats scrambled to the floor and out of the room.
I opened one puffy eye and looked around. “Why am I so cold?”
“Fannie it’s time to get up, we’re leaving for the reunion today, remember?” Richard said shaking my shoulders. “We need to get moving if we’re ever gonna get out of here.”
“Richard it’s 6:30 on a Saturday morning, I can assure you my parents aren’t going any where without us, how about ten more minutes?”
Richard removed the pillow from under my head. “I know better than to believe that, you promised you’d get up, now get moving. I’ll go make the coffee.”
Groaning, I climbed out of bed and shuffled toward the bathroom. In the mirror Phyllis Diller looked back at me with brown hair and swollen slits where green eyes should have been. By the time I reached the kitchen Richard held out a travel mug filled with coffee and a couple of breakfast bars.
“I packed the truck while you were in the shower,” he said handing me my coat. “Oh and your mother called. I let her know we’d be on time.”
“Richard, it’s not too late, you can stay home and I can take my parents.”
“I’d worry about you the entire time, now get a move on,” he said angling me toward the door.
“The fifteen minutes it takes to get to my parents house is the last peace you’ll have for eight days,” I said searching his face. “I just want you to know I love you because this will test our marriage.”
“Fannie, I love you too, but you’re making excuses not to leave, now let’s go.”
Richard guided me out to the Love Wagon, a red Ford F150 complete with queen futon and disco ball. The sun kissed the tree tops above Gig Harbor, Washington. The cool morning air smelled of cedar. A flock of gray bushtits flew out of the huckleberry bush next to the truck as Richard opened the door for me.
“How up are you on your Burma-Shave lore?” I asked jumping into the cab and not smacking my head on the door frame.
“Burma-Shave lore?” Richard asked looking at me like I’d lost my mind.
“One of my parents’ favorite games on a cross country road trip is to call out the beginning of a Burma-Shave ad, then you have to know the rest of the jingle.”
“You’re kidding me?”
“I wish I were,” I said smiling, “you’ll know a few hundred by the end of the trip.”
“A few hundred. How many are there?”
“My father claims there’s close to 7,000, but I’ve never fact checked on that one,” I said laughing.
Fifteen minutes later we arrived in University Place. We parked in my parents’ driveway. A neatly manicured yard surrounded a small white house with blue trim. I rang the doorbell. My mother answered the door wearing her favorite light blue pant suit with matching scarf and sandals and her Betty White wig.
“I can’t believe you’re on time,” my mother said giving me a hug. Looking at Richard she asked, “what did you have to do for this miracle?”
“Very funny,” I said pretending to be awake.
“Your father has the car all packed, we just need to load your luggage,” she said leading us into the house.
My father sat at the kitchen table drinking a cup of coffee and reading the newspaper. He wore a light blue Polo shirt and khaki pants coordinating with my mother’s outfit. The kitchen light reflected from the top of his head framed by his close trimmed gray horseshoe style hair.
Looking at his watch he said, “You’re on time, it’s my lucky day. I should buy a lottery ticket.”
“My allergies to mornings are greatly exaggerated,” I said kissing him on top of his head.
I caught Richard shaking his head behind me.
“Tattle tale,” I said poking him in the ribs.
Looking at Richard he said, “I’ll take the first stint at the wheel, once we get over the pass, you can have the next stint.”
We loaded our luggage into the abyss of the sky blue mobile land yacht’s trunk. Even if we packed for a year, I’m not sure we could have filled it.
As we pulled out of the driveway my mother said, “does your husband, misbehave.”
My father and I said, “grunt and grumble, rant and rave, shoot the brute some,” we paused for a moment for every one to join in, “…Burma-Shave.”
My mother laughed with delight. “This is going to be a great trip.”
Smiling, I looked at Richard. He wore the stricken look of a deer in the headlights.
On our way to the freeway, we passed the sign for Drum Intermediate School. My father said, “Past school houses.”
My mother and I said, “take it slow, let the little, shavers grow.”
Together we said, “…Burma-Shave.”
Ten minutes later we merged onto Interstate 5.
It was my turn. I said, “Road, was slippery.”
My parents said, “curve was sharp, white robe, halo, wings and harp.”
In unison we said, “Burma-Shave.”
By this time Richard relaxed a little. I squeezed his hand. As we passed the Tacoma Dome, my father started a rousing round of “John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt.” I could see the whites of Richard’s eyes.
Just before we reached the pass my father said, “Every shaver.”
“Now can snore, six more minutes, than before, by using,” my mother and I said.
I leaned over and whispered to Richard, “that’s the signal he’s going to take a nap.”
Only he didn’t. He handed Richard the keys and we swapped places. Then my mother lead “Row, row, row your boat.”
“Bunny, by the time we reached George, Washington, I thought Richard was going to slit his wrists,” I said laughing.
“I started having nightmares about Burma-Shave every night,” Richard said shuddering. “It drove me to listen to opera.”