I’ve just returned from a wonderful four days with the famous Phantom Scribbler and her family. During my visit, Phantom cooked me delicious vegan food, including a whole batch of the chocolate cupcakes with chocolate glaze that are now a tradition. Her husband took the kids out one day and we two women pretty much talked non-stop, except for when I was eating cupcakes.(One of Phantom’s best traits is her ability to listen patiently to whatever drama is going on inside my head and to make sense of it. And of course, she makes the most amazing cupcakes.)
We went to the beach twice: I’d forgotten how much fun it is to play with little kids in a warm, shallow lake. Well, to be honest, being at the beach with my own kids when they were little wasn’t that much fun because I had to watch them constantly to make sure no one drowned. I can remember that the monologue inside my head would sound something like this, “One-two-three-four. All here. One-two-three-four. No one drowned yet. One-two-three-four. Still alive. One-two-three-four. Is it time to go home yet? One-two-three-four. Damn, I can’t wait until these kids learn how to swim.” Staring at the four kids, counting them again and again, worrying that one would drown if I wasn't vigilant, was exhausting.
However, being at the beach with someone else’s kids is great fun. Phantom Scribbler took the parental role of staring at the two kids constantly to make sure no one drowned while I just swam around, pretending to be a sea monster, and then a dolphin, and then a polar bear. I should add that when it comes to water charades, the youngest Scribbler beat me hands down with her wonderful imitation of a penguin.
We went blueberry picking one afternoon at a farm where the blueberry patch had gone wild. We had to fight our way through tall weeds just to get a handful of berries. The adventure would have been more successful if we’d brought a machete, but it did make us appreciate the berries we did get. “Be careful!” Scribbler Son would say as I’d pick three berries and hand them off to Scribbler Daughter. “We can’t afford to lose a single precious berry!” And at least we knew the berries were organic: no way was anyone spraying that patch or caring for it in anyway.
The other highlight of the week? We watched the Brady Bunch. Yes. The Scribbler kids are highly versed in Brady Bunch trivia, despite the fact that the show was aired decades before either of them were born, and they own DVDs of all five seasons. I watched the Brady Bunch on television every Friday night throughout my elementary school years — pretty much everyone my age did — but I don’t think I’ve seen the show in more than 30 years. So I kept asking the Scribbler kids to show me episodes I remembered, and they would obligingly pop in the right disc. Then we’d all analyze the show as it played.
Just hearing the music brought back memories of sitting on the green wool rug in my parents’ house, with all my siblings and extras like Kindergarten Friend, eagerly waiting for the next episode of that exciting show. I felt a little shocked at how many details I remembered after all these years. And I guess I was equally shocked at the stuff I didn’t remember — like what dreadful parents Mike and Carol Brady were, meting out totally inappropriate punishments: “Yes, you accidentally broke a vase: that means you can’t go on the overnight camping trip you’ve been looking forward to for months.” For some reason, both parents would go into stern-lecture moralizing mode if one of the kids broke something, even if was an accident. Lying about stuff and making mean remarks was totally acceptable behavior, but breaking something was this huge sin. The plot of the show seemed to revolve mostly around kids breaking stuff, everyone lying about everything, and Jan’s self-esteem. Oh, and Marcia? She’s still a bitch. That hadn’t changed.
I had to listen to music all the way home in the car just to keep the Brady Bunch theme song out of my head, but otherwise, I’d say it was a pretty successful visit. I just wish Phantom Scribbler lived a few hundred miles closer ….
That's the youngest Scribbler in the crazy blueberry patch.