Everybody Has a Story: Family vacation proves tough on Mom

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School was out, and we were getting ready to take a road trip to California. Our brand new Plymouth Satellite station wagon was big enough to hold all seven of us: two young boys and a toddling girl, two grandparents, me and my husband, Walt.

I wasn't too excited about the trip. The boys were 8 and 4, ages when nothing held their attention for long. Yes, I read all their favorite books into the tape recorder so they could play it back while looking at the pictures. They had their favorite cars, trucks and anything else that would entertain them for long periods.

Walt did his share. He bought two child-sized chaise lounges. He bolted them to the floor in the back of the car and mounted seat belts for them. A TV tray was bolted in between so they could play card games. These arrangements probably wouldn't pass muster these days.

The boys did great, at first. They found they could pump their arms when we passed trucks and the drivers would blow their horns. Great fun when it worked.

We ended our first day at a Motel 6. Everybody fell asleep except me. The neighbor's TV was very loud. I tried to ignore it, but before long I was listening to the national anthem. I figured I'd be able to sleep at last — but then came the obnoxious buzz of "snow." The manager wouldn't do anything. It all ended with me pounding on that neighbor's door — and waking up my own father-in-law too. The rest of our group slept through it all.

The rest of the trip was uneventful — for a while. Turned out the 8-year-old boy had a rash — an itchy rash — except it wasn't a rash, but chicken pox! He missed out on all subsequent motel swimming pools, which was the one activity he had been looking forward to. He watched the others play in those pools.

Meanwhile, at home, a mystery was playing out. My dad, who lived next door, came over a few days into the trip to check on the house. It was dark, so he tried to turn on some lights — but Walt had turned off that circuit before we left. So Dad wandered around in the dark, and everything looked fine until he came to the kitchen.

It appeared that the refrigerator door was ajar and something was hanging out of it. He went home and brought back a flashlight to see what was going on: A bloody arm hanging out of the freezer door! This couldn't be true!

He came closer and reached out to touch the arm. It was cold. He put his finger out to touch the blood. It smelled like raspberries!

He went out to the garage, found the circuit breaker and turned on the lights. Now he could see that the armlike blob was bread dough. Walt had accidently turned off the wrong circuit. All the food in the refrigerator had spoiled and the bread dough in the freezer had warmed and started rising, breaking out of its cellophane wrapper and through a bag of frozen raspberry jam. That yeast must have been very robust, forcing open the freezer door and continuing to rise as it crawled down the front of the refrigerator.

Dad laughed about it when he told us. He was glad it was only bread dough. Bless him for cleaning up the entire mess before we came back!

When we returned home, each child spent a different week being miserable with chicken pox. The last one was my girl, Shari. I put her in a bath of cool water to speed up the appearance of the pox. When I stood her on the vanity to towel her dry, she looked in the mirror and started screaming and crying, as upset as I had ever seen her. It was hard to understand her, but eventually I gathered that she thought she was getting a bath to wash off those spots. Now she had more than ever!

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