I once, as a child, vomited an Egg McMuffin in the backseat of a car belonging to a friend of my dad's. I suspect, since no other kids accompanied us, that this particular man had none and wondered why my dad wanted to bring me along. (After I threw up, my dad also questioned his own motives.)
The owner of the car, who at that point probably no longer considered my father a desirable traveling buddy, had to continue the winding journey through the Blue Ridge Mountains with the fragrant smell of wretch wafting over his right shoulder.
I rode with regurgitation residue drying on my shirt. Still, I recall feeling much better.
I relate this account to demonstrate that experience isn't always the best teacher. The following events harbored clear warning signs that I failed to note. What clouded my intuition, I suppose, is that I have always blamed the Egg McMuffin.
Somewhere in the mountains of West Virginia . . .
"Mama, where can a kid buy a spear? Can we stop at the next store and get a spear," said my youngest boy, who intermittently needled me about daggers over the course of a 30 minute, slow coil up the side of a mountain. I couldn't understand why, at this time, above all others, he fixated on lances. Despite my rebuke that sharp implements pose grave danger for small children, especially in moving vehicles, he performed a rear seat soliloquy under his breath about spears.
We reached the summit and began a whirling descent with loops, tunnels, and hairpin curves. The subject of "what is throw-up" replaced the spear theme. Naturally, I commended his curiosity and explained that vomit consists of undigested stomach contents and hydrochloric acid. His curiosity led him to inquire "What if there's nothing in your stomach?"
So, we discussed bile. As sordid as all this sounds on the surface, I assure you that it is far more pleasant than threatening, through clenched teeth, to pull the car off the side of the cliff if he touches his sister one more time. In the name of peace, I acquiesced to my budding scientist's attempts to gross me out.
Yet, I should have feigned more repulsion, because he announced "I need to throw up." When I turned to laugh at his joke and saw his white, perspiring face, I hit the deck searching for an appropriate container in which he could catch his specimen. Surfacing with the snack bin, a clear plastic container, I immediately shoved it under his quivering chin as we swirled down toward the valley.
Through the sides of the transparent tub, I saw him heave and splatter a sample for close study. Stoically, he requested a napkin to wipe his face. Then he examined the fruits of his labor and declared "throw-up is juice too!"
As we traveled into valleys and up mountains he gripped his napkin and bucket of sloshing stench. This intimate encounter with his partially digested breakfast prompted him to reminisce about previous similar occasions. "Remember that time I threw up yellow throw-up all over my sleeping bag and it wasn't even night," he said, with renewed verve in his voice.
I reflected on how, if we had stopped to purchase that spear, he could have relieved himself outside of the minivan. And, if not, I could have used it to alleviate my despair.
While he mused on whether or not we could eventually put the trip snacks back in the urp reservoir, it occurred to me that it wasn't the Egg McMuffin, after all.