"How about a weekend away at a spa with your girlfriends?" I asked Sharon about how she wanted to celebrate her 40th birthday.
"No, I want to do something as a family," she replied. Only someone who leaves the house everyday before the kids wake up could say something like this and mean it. Sharon meant it.
So that's why Friday afternoon found the five of us driving north to the Catskills, chasing an ice storm, to spend the weekend with four other families in the cabins of Big Indian, New York, a town so named because apparently a large Native American man was found dead there long ago, too far from the ass end of anything to survive alone. As a favor to us, Victoria waited until we were on the Interstate before she horked all over herself. The birthday girl grabbed a box of tissues, unfastened her safety belt, and climbed into the back seat, saying "Keep driving. Just keep driving," as she went.
It was a rocky start to what turned out to be a fantastic weekend. It was my job to bring the food, and every one else's to bring the alcohol. "Bring enough for everybody," I told each person separately, and they did. I think. It's all pretty blurry now. We ate, played, drank, hooted, and hollered for the whole three days, pausing only rarely to wipe tiny bottoms and noses. The child-ridden among us tried to pretend we were childless and the childless tried to pretend they were charmed by our small people's dirty faces and unkempt hair.
And everybody simply kept their distance from Victoria.
The birthday girl, all forty years of her, was toasted every which way but up, and topped the weekend off the last night by cooking for us her signature dish: Assorted vegetables boiled in kelp broth. It tastes much better than it sounds, but how could it not?
On our way out of town Sunday, we drove to the only hill nearby that we were told would enough snow for sledding, and it did, just barely, but what it had in greater numbers were "No Sledding" signs and, after thirty minutes or so, security guards. And let me just say that, if you are ever wondering how to make a newly-middle-aged woman feel twenty-years younger almost instantly, you should arrange to get her kicked off private property by a security guard. She made us all high-five her before we got back in the car.
In fact, the whole weekend was such an unparalleled delight that, on our way home, Sharon challenged me to come up with a better plan for my own 40th birthday, less than a year away. She had to speak her challenge loudly to be heard over Victoria singing Christmas carols into the puke bucket we tied around her neck, but I didn't need to think long on my reply.
"I want a weekend away at a spa with your girlfriends," I yelled back.