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We knew better than to eat lunch and leave.  Or maybe we didn’t.  Because we ate lunch, and then left.  Roast beef sandwiches, that is. 

Then we’d shoved what we thought ought to go in a backpack–water bottles, food snacks, the camera, and a jacket for everybody.  And we got as far as the driveway before we stopped and I ran back in for a box of bandaids and my Leatherman.  “You just never know,” I shrugged.  And I climbed back in.

Then we were off.  For a family hike.  Somewhere in the direction of Mt. Rainier.  Only four turns in, as we wound down through Orting, our son started whimpering about his back.  I reached as far behind me as I could from the front seat and slid my left arm around him.  But my little pats did nothing to soothe his back or quiet his sobs.  And so the dilemma seemed obvious– to wisely turn the truck around and give this poor child a nap…or keep driving and try to outlast his tears. 

We continued snaking our way on the back roads.  Our gut instincts playing second fiddle.  And within minutes our son was hot and wanted all the windows down. After his third window request of, “a little bit more, daddy,” he was silent.  I turned around and saw his small face staring past me out the front windshield.  His tears from a moment ago stopped in time on the edges of his eyes.  And that’s when I noticed he’d turned yellow.  The sort of yellow that says to anyone paying attention, “I’m going to barf in a mere three seconds.”

One…

“We’ve got to pull over, NOW,” I insisted.  But the shoulder was too skinny for even a bicycle.

 Two… 

“We can’t,” my husband countered.  “There’s no safe place.” 

 Three…

And then it happened, our yellow, car sick son began upchucking his lunch.  His roast beef, his cheese, his watermelon and anything else that had gone down his throat an hour ago.  Anything.  Or everything.  All of it.

And though the urgency was past, we skidded to a safe spot in the road and bailed faster than a fire drill.

I wanted to get mad.  In fact, I started to.  But when I surveyed the depth of the damage–puke all the way to the front seat, puke on my husband’s pants, both kids’ hats, the whole of my left hand, and in every crevice and strap of my son’s carseat, I couldn’t.  And when I realized we had just three wipes, a roll of toilet paper and a used sandwich bag to stuff it all into, I laughed harder than I have in a month. Here was my son stripped to his drawers and barefoot, his skin  more gray now than yellow.  My daughter still reading a book about dolphins, only now standing in a ditch to do it.  And my husband and I swabbing the carseat with crumbling toilet paper squares.

There would be no hike today.  Just a 34 mile round trip with the windows down and a near-naked child with his hand over his nose asking, “what’s that smell?”

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