Three months ago, my husband and I took our second solo vacation since the advent of our children.
I don't count the first getaway as a quixotic renewal of passion, since the entire sojourn revolved around the annual Georgia-Florida war of our way of life against theirs. Still, I eeked what romance I could out of shushing for radio announcements of college game day scores, tailgating for 10 hours, high-fiving total strangers, and relentlessly chanting, "It's great to be a Gator hater."
Unfortunately, our boys lost, the romance died, things got ugly, and I had to tactfully point out to my dearest that the 300-lb. fellow dragging the bulldog effigy on a chain tied to his belt loop didn't look amused when taunted with the words "reptilian pantywaist."
Manipulatively, my other half pledged that our second escape would make up for the first - if only he had made his mother, who graciously agreed to keep the grands, privy to his promise. But his words wafted on the wind as our car skidded wildly out of her driveway.
Thus, she phoned the next afternoon to let us know what rotten, lowdown, self-centered schleps we had become since the day before. We neglected to call my father-in-law on his birthday.
Then, to doubly shut down the idyllic moments we had heretofore enjoyed, my husband, rattled by his mother, said to me, "Come to think of it, did you ever get me anything for my birthday?"
The hum of chirping crickets filled the silence between us, because, as you probably know without me saying it, both errors were entirely mine. Consequently, I must tread the path to eternity bearing the bulk of blame upon my shoulders, while my mother-in-law, who suffers only from ill-timing, will cross the threshold of the pearly gates unscathed.
When St. Peter says to her, "I see your faith has wavered, why should I allow you to pass," he will soften at her convincing reply:
"We kept four grandchildren over a long weekend so their parents could do whatever it is parents do without children. During our heir's stay, we visited 42 public restrooms, mopped 12 glasses of spilt milk, put 359 worms on fishhooks, caught 69 crickets allegedly escaped from a cricket catcher in the car, washed eight loads of laundry, suffered upper arm fatigue from pushing a swing 6,919 times, maintained a 24 hour self-serve snack buffet, blew 88 kisses, gave 142 hugs, and held hands that had cradled pet slugs to death.
And on top of that, my daughter-in-law didn't even remember to remind my son to call on his father's birthday."
As soon as she breathlessly finishes, trumpets will blast, a choir of angels will sing and St. Peter himself will escort her to the foot of the golden throne, assuring her, "We have a special place in heaven for people like you."
As of going to print today, I still haven't made restitution to my father-in-law or given my husband a birthday gift. And now, three months and the point-blank question later, I don't really see how I can slip it in as a surprise, although it would be.
So, I'm hoping they have a special place in heaven for people like me, and that it isn't situated on a trap door over Florida.
But if it is, I pray that the Lord pulls the lever at a blessed moment, allowing me to land in the world's biggest cocktail party at the very instant that my Gator-hater way of life wins out.