Months ago I asked JoJo how she wanted to celebrate her sixth birthday. Her response crushed every piece of my maternal heart. “Mama,” she said. “I don’t think I want to turn 6. I just want to stay 5 forever … and live here forever … and keep my same clothes and my same blankets and live here forever.” It became very clear very quickly that we would have to bring out the birthday big guns. Not clowns … everyone knows clowns are psychotic. Not the trampoline place … I’d surely piss myself. A camping trip? The sparkle came back to her eyes with an enthusiastic “Yeah!”
In tandem with this conversation at our dinner table, my parents were coming into a sweet little popup camper that needed a new home. Coincidence?
Every week that passed brought more excitement and anticipation. We talked about snacks. We talked about our camper. We put the camper up and sat in it in the rain. We talked about snacks. And finally, the week was upon us.This is where our heartwarming tale takes a super shitty turn. Wednesday night, I heard Sloppy Joan coughing. When Hank went to grab her for a breathing treatment, he discovered an unpleasant, deconstructed version of her dinner spattered all over the crib. This was the first act in what would be a very long night of splats and squishes for Daddy, God love him. She’ll be better tomorrow, we thought. She wasn’t.
Friday was JoJo’s actual birthday, and the long-awaited departure day. I packed all morning, Hank left to load and pick up the popup (Emma we’re thinking of naming her). I took Sloppy Joan and went to pick up JoJo and Spikey for the annual birthday lunch at Old McDonald’s. Something deep in my soul told me to pick up the food and take it home rather than linger for the usual scamper through the urine-doused dome of fun. I knew something was off when Spike just stared at her nuggets. Girl loves her nuggets. Two gulps of apple juice – denied. We had a second puker. Maybe she just drank too fast, we thought. We were wrong. Curly tossed more cookies than a clumsy Girl Scout. With my whole family and a caravan of campers en route, I jumped on the grenade and stayed home with the younger two, while JoJo and Hank went north to nature.
Spike passed out and slept for, literally, 13 hours straight. It was incredible. She woke up like Will Ferrell in the debate scene of Old School, renewed and ready to camp. So, we went camping. It was gorgeous. A sunny 78 and a stone’s throw from the playground. We hiked and we ate … oh, how we ate. I mention the eating now as a cautionary tale to any woman who sits with flu-stricken children just 24 hours before said eating. As the children were nestled all snug in their sleeping bags and the adults gathered to gossip and drink grownup juice, I felt my stomach starting to think over my recent decisions. Best to go to sleep, I thought.
At 2 am, I was jolted awake by a very unpleasant, bitchslap of a truth that I can share with you now: Hell is the flu in a popup camper. The angels were with me in only one regard, and that was my parent’s apartment-on-wheels camper, which was just 15 strides away from our swinging door. I know this because I spent the hours between 2 am and 7 am pacing between their trailer and the soup pot that awaited me in the popup. Just after sunrise, my husband was serenaded by dry heaving and snotty snobs.
Hank comes out as the saint in this story. This man – this sweet, sweet dad and selfless man – had to pack that whole trailer, unpack it, and then pack it all up again, with three little chicks in tow. Not to mention handle his hysterical other half.
But I suppose every party needs a pooper and that’s why we invited … well, the majority of our family of five. It turns out we gave treats to our party guests as well. As of publishing this post, my mom, brother-in-law and niece were down with the BGs (bubbly guts). Happy 6th birthday JoJo!
All crap aside, you are one of the most amazing people I know. You keep me sharp and challenge me to teach and to listen. This year, more than anything, you surprised me with your courage and determination. I saw fire in those eyes, kid, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You were my first timid step into motherhood – and now to see what has come of that adventure … to see this bold soul finding her voice and her place is so overwhelming. But remember, no matter how old you are, you will always be my baby. You promised!p.s.