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Native Californian, biologist, wildlife conservation consultant, retired Smithsonian scientist, father of two daughters, grandfather of 4 small primates. INTJ. Believes nature is infinitely more interesting than shopping malls. Born 100 years too late.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Labor day with air heads

There wasn't much wiggle room for our three generations in the car, but there were blue skies and we were in high spirits. We were off to spend the Labor Day weekend in the Sierra.

About half way up the Feather River canyon, the redhead, ever-attentive to details, called out from the back seat, "Did you pack the camp stove?"

"Oh no!" my daughter moaned. " I knew I forgot something."

There were a few moments of silence.

(me) "Do we have matches?"

(the redhead) "What does that have to do with it?"

(me) "Hey, we can cook over burning sticks. We're camping, remember?"

(the redhead) "Let's stop in Quincy. If there's a K-Mart we can buy a cheap camp stove."

My oldest daughter and I share this kind of absentmindednessness, and she also uses my excuse. "I'm not 'a detail person'. I'm a big picture person". It's a family joke.

My father was a 'detail person'. He became quite blustery when bills from Pacific Gas & Electric or Sears came with a surprise. My mother gauged his anxiety and responded accordingly.

If she consoled him, we knew it was serious. If she launched into a flurry of house cleaning with a tolerant smile we just waited for the storm to pass. But sometimes she defused his angst with a comment -- usually a humorous reference to a similar issue from the past that proved his views were not always incorrect.

Like reminding him about the morning the toy poodle showed up on the front steps wearing a sweater. It was a dog from nowhere, and my father was so taken with it that he lured it into the living room.

"Connie, come here! You have to see this. You won't believe it!"

I should mention here that my mother was in the bathroom at the moment, and that my father and grandfather had just finished sanding the hardwood floor in the living room. The dog quickly sized-up the place, crapped on the floor, and left. It had 'the trots', as we used to call diarrhea.

When my mother came out of the bathroom the only sign of the dog was the dogpile.

"Is this what you wanted me to see?"

Well, the thought of camping without a stove soon had us telling similar stories and laughing our butts off.

Lauren recalled the time she worked for The Nature Conservancy, and packed her lunch one morning while half asleep. "I was eating my sandwich and thought, "Gees, you really went light on the peanut butter". Then I opened the sandwich and there was nothing there. It was an 'air sandwich'.

Or the time she and a friend went to Grand Marais to band plovers, and ran out of Coleman fuel before the water boiled. "The pasta was really 'al dente'".

This is the good thing about being an airhead, or as we prefer to call it -- a 'big-picture person'. Goofing up doesn't necessarily get you down.

And you know what? We bought a new stove in Quincy and didn't have to cook over burning sticks.


Jayla said...

I saw the air sandwich story coming. As you know, I'm a detail person (which means I'm almost certain there is peanut butter on my sandwich I packed today). Hadn't heard the al dente pasta story before.

Camera Trap Codger said...

Hi Jeebers: I decided not to say that these personality traits seem to alternate between the generations.

Hugh Griffith said...

The sweater-wearing poodle is the funniest thing I have read in ages. Thanks.

Owlman said...

Very funny - thanks for sharing!