Playing Underpants Chicken, Losing.

I remember looking at the clock on the dashboard, and seeing that it was exactly 9:38 in the morning. And I was proud. I’d made it 33 minutes into the trip without wanting to pill-up.

My two best friends here in town have my daughter over for sleepovers and play dates often. I seldom reciprocate, because my husband is whatever you call it when a misanthrope and an agoraphobic become one person. Also because I live in mild filth, and the Child Protective Services people can get all up in your face about stuff like that. Best not to advertise.

So to the coast! The first Saturday of Spring Break, with three 6 year olds. Overnight! This was a martydom, and it would even the score.

The girls were all sweet and obedient.


Eeny. Marlene’s daughter, Eeny. A smiling, smart little poppet with absolutely no sense of self preservation. If a strange man holding a bloody ax invited her to jump naked off  a pier to pet a shark, she’d have her mismatched socks off and be tumbling toward the edge before he could finish the sentence.  I learned this the first time I had to pull her out of the ocean, after yelling four times that she could only get her feet wet. She smiled in oblivious joy and squelched in up to her knees before I caught her. She wasn’t even wearing shorts. Words like “rip tide” and “under tow” were met with the same smile.  She called out to every stranger we passed! “I HAD COCOA WITH WHIP CREAM! I NAMED MY STUFFED DOG PRINCESS BARK!  POOPY POOPY POOPY!”

The town is called Seaside, and it has been a tourist destination since apparently 1806, when Lewis & Clark ended their voyage right at their monument on the promenade.  On any warm weekend in 2014, people, all of whom silently hate each other for being there, walk the sidewalks pressed together like commuters in a Tokyo subway. Cuz we allll need to buy polished agates that were mined in Mexico and the same genuine salt water taffy that was made somewhere in Texas, and not, as we dearly hope, by affable sea captains out back behind the shop.

I promised them a candy store. The experience was very beach-like, providing that beach was Normandy in 1945.The noise, the exhaustion, the body parts everywhere.  I made them circle the store once to see everything before picking. Eeny found fake candy teeth, stuck them in her mouth and laid down on the aisle. Ara, the hyper-competent child of my dear and hyper-competent Amelia, found a 5 ft gummy snake. My daughter wanted black licorice and refused to believe that even though the stuff marked “salt licorice” looked pretty, it tastes like diesel and is only eaten by people who breed reindeer.

After that everything pretty much went ok until breakfast. I told the kids they couldn’t take a toy down to breakfast.

“No. No Princess Bark. I don’t want you taking anything down there.”

This devolved quickly. Anything? ANYTHING!

It was a game of chicken, one I couldn’t possibly lose.

“Fine Eeny. Go down in your underwear. Go right ahead. Just put your shoes on first.”

To show my sincerity I opened the door to our room, my eyes locked on hers.

“Go on. Do it.”

Eeny had been laughing as she stripped down, but now she was thinking about food. She velcro-ed her sneakers, popped up, and bounded out the damn door with a look on her face that told me she had either forgotten, or truly didn’t care she was naked. I thudded my head against the door a squeezed my eyes shut.

“Eeny. Get inside. Put on your pajamas. NOW.”

I looked to see how far she’d gotten to the elevator. Halfway. To the spot where a man stood desperately focusing on the vending machine. His attention utterly devoured by choosing a flavor of Gatorade, his body squeezed against the glass.

“Oh Jesus,” I hissed, pushing Eeny, her sneakers and orange flowered panties back into the room. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t see you there. It was chicken and I lost.”

He answer was directed to the vending machine glass. “Oh. Oh it’s fine. I didn’t even…yeah. Fine.”

Hours later I sat on my lawn waiting for my friend Marlene to pick up her daughter, who was rolling around on the grass. I was exhausted.

Marlene said hi. I said,”YOUR DAUGHTER IS FRICKIN’ CRAZY.” I detailed the whole adventure, and Marlene, who is my friend because she never ever gets upset at anything, laughed with absolute pride. “Yup! That’s our girl!”

She said, “There is a fine line between bravery and foolhardy, and Eeny never even looks for it.” I was exhausted and still partially in shock from the trip, but even I have to admit…

Eeny is awesome.

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