Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Half the fun of picnics is getting there

Published June 16, 2008

At least one day of every weekend between Memorial Day and Labor Day, we have a family picnic to go to.
First there are the holidays — the three patriotic ones and Mother’s and Father’s Day. Those are given picnic days.
And that would probably be enough family gatherings for most people.
But, in our large extended family, every person was either born in June or July or had a child born in June or July. The birthdays are endless.
It’s hard enough for my husband and me to just haul ourselves out of bed on the weekends and actually leave the house.
The drill is always the same. I wake up and look over at the other side of the bed. Empty.
I go downstairs and look out the patio door.
There is my husband, well, the backside of my husband, who is kneeling on the concrete next to the pool with his arm down in the pool filter.
By the time I go and pour myself a cup of coffee and go out in the backyard, he is upright with the skimmer pole or the pool vacuum in his hand.
I sit down to read the newspapers, and he goes about his pool business.
Until one of us eventually mentions that day’s family gathering.
And the food we have to take.
And the present we have to bring.
And how much time we have to get those two things before the picnic.
We’ve got it down to a science. Most of the time, we’ve had the foresight to have already gone to the grocery and purchase the ingredients for the dish we are making to take with us.
But the present? It’s usually still on a shelf in a store somewhere.
That means one of us has to go present shopping and the other has to cook.
I’m usually the cook because my husband can go to the store and be back before I’m dressed and ready to go — because he is a husband.
Husbands can actually walk into a store and make their way to the item they intend to purchase without getting waylaid by every single piece of merchandise between the door and that item. It’s an amazing feat.
Plus, the gift we were going to buy my dad for Father’s Day — the picnic started at 1 p.m. at my youngest brother’s house — was one that my husband knew much more about than I did.
It was an orchid.
I thought my dad would like to have one. He likes to grow flowers outside, so why not get him the most fussy, finicky — and beautiful — flower on the earth?
And since I have a hard time telling petunias from begonias from geraniums, I thought it was probably best that my husband went to buy one.
And I would stay home and make the coleslaw because I do know my cabbage from my lettuce.
It was only about a half hour after the picnic starting time that we gathered up the beautiful orchid and the bowl full of coleslaw and headed for the party.
We were a little late, but we weren’t the last ones there.
An hour or so later, I asked someone where my sister was.
"She’s in Marc’s, buying the food she was supposed to bring here," her daughter said, laughing.
See? That’s what happens when you send a shopper to do a husband’s job.

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