With four days left of this 68-day-long summer vacation, I’m trying to squeeze in a few random last-minute activities. More for my sake than my homebody boys, who would never go anywhere if I left them in charge of familial entertainment.
‘What if we had a dinner picnic?’ I called out from my perch on the concrete patio beside their sandbox; flipping leisurely through the Vogue September tome.
The reception was lukewarm, but I’m like Jim Carrey in Dumb and Dumber [‘so you’re telling me there’s a chance] I don’t need unbridled enthusiasm from my troops.
Just as I was formulating my picnic-plan, the professor walked outside. Home, unexpectedly, from a cancelled meeting. He had an hour-ish to spare before his soccer game. ‘Ready to go for a walk?’ he asked, unaware of my mental plans. ‘No, we’re going for a picnic,’ I clued him in. ‘Where?’ ‘Chicken on the Way.’
With eyebrows contorted, he looked at me – ostensibly to see if I was kidding. After all, it’s not every day – or even every sixteen years – that I suggest having fried chicken for dinner.
But I’ve driven past this 14th Street landmark a few times now, and the Gort had recently asked about Kentucky Fried Chicken…..yada yada yada…we were going to have fried chicken for dinner. At nearby Riley Park.
Upon hearing that we were going to the ‘Splash Park’, the Gort asked if they could partake of the ‘splashing’ bit. I didn’t really think it would be possible to drive, get dinner, consume dinner, splash and drive back all within an hour, but in the off-chance there was a minor miracle in our future, I said ‘sure, grab your suit and one for each of your brothers.’
We threw three towels, three pairs of swimtrunks and one bottle of water in a bag. The professor sprayed the sand off their feet and we jumped in the van. With me in the driver’s seat while he consulted his phone for the details of his soccer game.
Naturally we were smack in the middle of rush hour traffic. It was 4:30pm, after all. I made mental calculations, trying to figure out how much time we’d actually be able to spend in Riley Park. With each, non-moving minute, our picnic was heading into non-existent territory. ‘This is classic Nicola,’ the professor sighed-lamented. ‘Give an inch and she takes a mile.’
Or, in my case, ‘give an hour and she’ll try to squeeze two hours’ worth of activity into it.’
Finally, I pulled into the parking lot with the tell-tale yellow building and gigantic rooster statue. ‘What should I get?’ the professor asked. ‘I don’t know – just get something,’ I offered helpfully, thoroughly unfamiliar with the Chicken on the Way menu.
I snapped photos of the exterior while my better half stood inside waiting for two yellow boxes of fried fare.
Several (too many!) minutes later, he returned and we headed to the blocks-away Riley Park. My vision of a park picnic in golden light morphed into tossing french fries at the boys and barking at them to put their swimsuits on in the car.
They headed directly to the pool while the professor and I sat on the grass nibbling on coated food. Every minute or so, the boys ran back to their parents and nibbled on something before heading back to the calf-deep water. ‘This is the first time you’ll have this, and probably the last’ I gestured towards the novelty food. Lest they thought yellow grease filled boxes would become a regular fixture at our dinner table. Or our picnic blanket.
A few minutes later, I hotfooted it back to the parked car and moved it to the parking lot adjacent to the pool entrance. In hopes I would shave off two minutes from the leaving process. And to grab the much-needed towels we’d forgotten.
An hour and fifteen minutes after leaving the house, we were back.
Some call it stupid, I call it an adventure.