On such a winter's day..."
-The Mamas & the Papas, California Dreamin'
11:30 AM, Saturday
Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk merry-go-ground, where you sit on one of the outer ring horses and then grab a metal ring from an outstretched metal and wooden arm to throw at a big clown's mouth on one of the walls. I missed each time; I think I've only hit the hole once in all the times I've ridden it. However, with each revolution, my wall of exhaustion loomed dead ahead.
Beatrice and I exited the ride and started walking toward the bumper cars where the Mama (what I lovingly call my wife), Bryce and the rest of the Brownies and parents were.
"Dad, I want Dippin' Dots now," said Beatrice.
"No," I said.
"Dad, Dippin' Dots!"
"No, we'll check in with Mom and see what's up about snacks."
"Dippin' Dots! Dippin' Dots! Dippin' Dots!"
Each time she said it, she yanked on my arm. Not too hard, just insistent and playful enough to be really friggin' annoying.
We met up with the rest of the crew and I gave the Mama a kiss.
"I gotta go," I said.
And with that, I went home to nap. That's when it started to rain.
11:00 AM, Saturday
Beatrice and I rode the Sky Glider above the Boardwalk. The gray cloudy sky made it feel colder than it really was. I counted less than 10 people walking along on the beach beyond. Beatrice screamed and waved at the Mama directly below us.
"Dad, let's go on the that ride down there," Beatrice said a minute later.
She pointed to a ride where cars went round and round on a track with loud popular music blaring overhead.
"Goodness no, Bea. Daddy doesn't do rides that go round and round."
"C'mon, I don't want to go on it by myself."
"Ask one of your friends then. I can't do it. I'd throw up all over the place."
"C'mon, go on with me."
I looked down and vertigo's gravity clawed at my frontal lobes. "Beatrice, sometimes I really don't like heights."
"I know. Me either. Let's go on that ride, though."
I gazed out across the steely ocean to settle my nerves. "On such a winter's day," I sang.
"An old song, Beatrice."
10:00 AM, Saturday
Bryce hit a wall and started crying.
"What's wrong, Sweetie?"
Through the crying and whining a each gasp of air she said, "I -- want -- to -- play -- laser -- tag -- again!"
With the Bryce-specific snacks nearly gone, I knew satiating her hunger to curb her frustration wasn't going to happen.
I asked the young girl running the laser tag counter if there any more spots -- there were not.
"Bryce, let's go do something else."
"Kevin, let me ask my daughter if she can give up her pass. She's already done it more than once," said our Brownie troop leader. "We're all pretty strung out."
"Thank you. I know."
A minute later she returned with the laser tag pass.
"Bryce, you get to go again!"
"Okay, thank you," she said with a sniffle.
And as it worked out, another mom with kids had two extra passes to give us, so even I got to go again along with Bryce and our Brownie leader's daughter. Sometimes the universe works out and extinguishes the wildfires of the id-driven childhood.
8:30 AM, Saturday
The first girls' team started their sand castles and made them in the shape of a sea turtles. The other girls' team was closer to the water and they went the traditional route of castle towers and turrets. I was tempted to help, but the girls were supposed to make it themselves for the contest.
"Those turtles are great, girls. Why don't you add some walls and towers around them to protect them?"
No response. They just kept on decorating their turtles.
"Here, use this to make the towers with," I said and handed Beatrice one of the tower-making sand toys.
"No, thank you," she said, decorating her sea turtle.
One of the other moms said, "Let the creativity commence."
I nodded. "Right on."
7:30 AM, Saturday
"Where's Bryce?" I asked.
One our troop moms pointed towards the hot chocolate table. "Bryce just dropped her plate over there and spilled her hot chocolate. I think she's getting back into line to get more breakfast."
"Sorry, Daddy," Bryce said behind me, grabbing a new paper plate and utensils pack.
I turned around. "Are you all right, Sweetie?"
"Yes, I just dropped my plate. Sorry. It was too heavy with the hot chocolate."
"That's okay. Get a new plate and make sure to get some of those eggs and bacon you like. And maybe only get a small hot chocolate. Don't fill it all the way up though so you can carry it all."
"Okay, I will."
"I got you some oatmeal to try."
When Bryce got back to our table, she had a big portion of bacon and eggs on her plate, as well as a completely full cup of hot chocolate.
7:00 AM, Saturday
I helped the girls pack up all the things they brought from where they had slept with the rest of the Brownie troop.
"Kevin, Bryce was up running around last night around 12:30," said our Brownie troop leader. She tilted her head disapprovingly, but with a smile on her face.
I closed my eyes and shook my head. "Why am I not surprised. She had come into see me at 11:30 saying she couldn't sleep."
The Brownie leader smiled. "It's okay. I guess she was running around by herself swinging glow sticks and tripped over another parent."
"Ugh. Of course she did. So sorry. Bryce and her own personal rave."
"It's fine. She went right to bed after that I guess."
I looked around to find Bryce to ask her about it, and there she was, dancing around the room with burnt out glow sticks.
6:45 AM, Saturday
"Here Dad," said Beatrice.
She had brought her and Bryce's blow-up beds and bedding into the Dads/Family room where I had slept.
"Thank you, Bea. That's such a big help. Did you sleep okay last night?"
"Yeah, I slept."
"I know it was late. How did Bryce do?"
"I don't know. I think she slept all night."
6:00 AM, Saturday
I laid there on my back, my blanket pulled up over my head. Someone touched my arm.
When I looked out from under the blanket, Bryce stood there smiling at me. I removed the headphones from my ears.
"What's up, Bryce?"
"Is Beatrice awake?"
"Yes, everyone's waking up now."
"Okay, what would you like to do? Breakfast isn't for another hour or more."
"I'll go play some more."
"Great. Love you."
I pulled the blanket back over my head.
4:30 AM, Saturday
When the coughing and hacking started, I couldn't pinpoint from which direction it came. I knew it was near me, the child coughing that is, but couldn't triangulate. My blanket covered my head and I had the white-noise fan noise cranked up into my ear bud headphones. The coughing and hacking continued; the child was on my right I finally figured out.
Every five minutes it came and went. Followed by low whimpering and sniffling. I felt bad for the child, girl or boy. I empathized about being in a strange place and feeling so horrible while you were there. I assumed that the kid had been hopped up on cold medicine earlier in the night until it ran out, as there was no coughing and hacking until this point.
Every five minutes it came and went. And the whimpering increased in intensity. The white noise in my ears just didn't make a difference either way at this point. I wasn't mad, just over-tired and strung out and hoping that the kids' parents were tending to him or her.
Every five minutes...
4:00 AM, Saturday
First, I heard one pulsing beep.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
It came from my left and I knew then it was the CPAP machine alarm the woman sleeping next to me was using. Earlier in the night she had asked if she could use the other plug in the outlet I had my blow-up bed plugged into. She said she needed it to help her breathe in the night so she could sleep. I said no worries, and that my mom had used one for years.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
But something was wrong with the machine now. The alarm meant something was off. No one stirred. Then the beeps increased in cadence -- two beeps at a time.
Beep-Beep. Beep-Beep. Beep-Beep.
Still no one stirred. I wondered what the hell was going on.
Beep-Beep. Beep-Beep. Beep-Beep.
I sat up and couldn't see anyone moving. I laid back down and covered my head again. Now it escalated to three beeps at a time.
Beep-Beep-Beep. Beep-Beep-Beep. Beep-Beep-Beep.
Finally I heard one of the woman's kids mumbled something and a minute later the machine went quiet again.
But of course, I was already quite awake.
2:30 AM, Saturday
My father used to snore like an old bear with a sever sinus infection. Sometimes in the middle of the night we could hear his snoring ground its way through the walls of the house and into our heads. Crazy loud.
I woke with a start thinking I was a teenager again with my dad's snoring drilling through my ear drums. But it wasn't my dad, it was three other dads on all sides of me snoring like old, sick bears.
Jesus H. Christ, I thought.
The white-noise fan noise app I had on was cranked up into my ear bud headphones -- and it still didn't help quiet the bears around me.
But I was trapped, because this was the Dad/Family sleeping room and there was nowhere else to go.
Nowhere. Else. To. Go.
The irony was that, while the Mama and I joked that it would one or both of the girls wanting to come home in the middle of the night, in the end it was me.
1:30 AM, Saturday
I awoke with a start wondering where the hell I was. I had only been sleeping for about two hours and the late evening had already weighed on me like an imaginary elephant learning to sit on my head.
One of the other 10 dads in the room snored away loudly in the far corner, but otherwise it was quiet. Almost too quiet for the over 600 Girls Scouts and Brownies who were there for the overnight campout at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
I tried to meditate but couldn't quiet my mind. Farts and other unearthly body odors permeated the stale, air-conditioned room. I winced and rubbed my nose. The ear plugs I wore weren't doing a thing for me, so I switched to the ear bud earphones and turned on the white-noise fan application on my phone.
I read a few pages of Purity, the latest novel I'm reading, and finally fell back asleep.
11:30 PM, Friday
I turned over, half-asleep, and there was Bryce standing next to my blow-up bed. She leaned down and put her elbows on the mattress, her head in her hands.
"Hi Daddy. I can't sleep."
I took out my left ear plug so I could hear her better. "I'm sorry, Sweetie. You can either sleep here with me or go back to your bed."
"I'll go back to bed," she said, but didn't move.
"Bryce, you can either sleep here with me or go back to your bed."
"I'll go back to bed."
"Bryce, what are you going to do?"
"I'll go back to bed."
"Okay, love you, Sweetie."
Bryce didn't move. She just stared at me.
10:45 PM, Friday
Lights out finally. Most of the dads and those with families who were going to stay together in the Dads/Family room were already in bed.
I saw Beatrice walk into our room. She came over and laid next to me in bed.
"Dad, when is everyone going to sleep? I'm so tired."
I hugged her. "I know, Bea. I'm tired, too. Everyone should be quieting down now. It's time for bed for all of us."
"Okay," she said, getting up.
"You can either sleep out there with your troop, or in here with me. Your choice."
"I'll go back out there."
"Sorry, Sweetie. Hopefully everyone will be asleep soon."
"I know. Love you."
"Love you, Bea."
10:15 PM, Friday
The movie Sing was just about over. Thank goodness, because Beatrice and I were beat. After dinner and arcade games, the Girl Scouts did a general meeting and then we set up our respective troop sleeping areas. Everything went pretty smoothly overall, although it was clear that most of the girls weren't ready for bed.
Especially not Bryce. She danced and ran around in front of the screen with about 50 other girls, all of them wearing or swinging glow sticks of all colors. Shrieks and other decibels of varying laughter surrounded us all like the rainbow neon lights of the glow sticks.
"Dad, do you see what Bryce is doing?" Beatrice pointed out.
"Yes, I do. She's having fun."
"I'm so tired, Dad. I wish Mom was here to rub my back. Will you rub it?"
I smiled. That was a nightly ritual to help put Beatrice right to sleep, although I doubted it would work in this chaotic environment.
And it didn't.
"Sorry, Bea. I've got to go to bed now. You're welcome to come in with me if you want. Otherwise, it's lights out in about 30 minutes."
"Okay. I'll be fine."
6:50 PM, Friday
Beatrice didn't want to do it, however.
"I don't want to do it," she said more than once.
I knew it was partly to do with her still being sound sensitive at times and being anxious about new experiences in general.
I empathized and yet cranked up the pure pressure anyway. "C'mon, Bea, you'll be fine. Everybody's doing it. We're doing it as a troop. It'll be fun. I promise. I'll be right there, too."
"I don't want to."
"C'mon, Bea. Really, everybody's doing it. You want to be with your troop, right?"
"C'mon. It'll be fun."
"Okay, I'll do it."
And mercy me, did we all have fun, Bryce included, although I wasn't worried about her. We ran around in the black light lit room with fluorescent colors everywhere, our light-colored clothes aglow, shooting our laser guns at each other, constantly being told by the attendant to not run or they'd cut our time short, laughing and hiding everywhere we could.
Afterwards, Beatrice said, "Dad, that was awesome. I want to do it again."
"I know," I said and smiled.
6:00 PM, Friday
Then it was dinnertime. C'mon, who doesn't like chicken fingers and pasta with red sauce?
5:20 PM, Friday
"This your first time?"
I had been blowing up my bed in the Dad/Family room when I heard the voice. I looked up and a very large white man smiling with a very toothless upper gum, waiting for me to answer. He wore an old nondescript baseball hat and had a country twang in his voice. When he said "your first time" it sounded more like "yo furst tahm".
"Yes, it is," I said.
We introduced ourselves and shook hands.
"It's stuffy as all get out in here," he said.
"Yes, it is. Will they let us turn on the air? I noticed the windows don't open in here," I said, knowing full well I wasn't going to have a pleasant night if it was going to be this hot.
"Yep, it's purty stuffy, but they'll turn the air on. Last year they turned it on and it got real cold in here."
I nodded. "I'd rather have it too cold that too hot."
"I hear you," his wife said. She was setting up a CPAP machine to help her sleep at night. "Can I use your other plug to plug my machine in?"
They had two daughters with them and they were all going to sleep in the room next to me on my left. They were very nice people and we talked a little more about expectations for the night and how much fun it was for the kids.
"Good luck," the father said to me with another toothless smile.
"Thanks. I assume I'm not going to sleep much tonight."
"Nope, you're not. You got ear plugs?"
"Yes, I brought some. Have fun tonight."
"You too," he and his wife said.
As I left, I eyed the CPAP machine, and I hoped that the alarm on it wouldn't go off if her mask got skewed on her head. I remembered it all too well happening with my mom's machine years ago.
4:50 PM, Friday
I don't make beds and the Mama doesn't do campouts. Over the years there are specific activities that each of us simply refuse to do.
Can we do them? Of course we can. Would we do them? Of course we would, in a pinch that is. For the most part, there are really very few things each of us don't want to do for the other and the family.
But again, I don't make beds and the Mama doesn't do campouts.
So when it came time to register for the Girl Scouts campout at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, an overnight that consisted of team-building, games, food, movies, sand castle building and rides -- I said I'd take the girls.
We would be "camping" indoors, although they've had other campouts at the Boardwalk with tents outside, which we hadn't participated in. The Mama had gone on one African safari about 20 years ago with one of her best friends and just can't do the tent camping thing. Or any camping for that matter. They had all gotten diarrhea and were confined to their sweltering tents for a few days, with little to no sleep.
Traveling together around the world in varying qualities of hotels and motels? Great, we're both in. Camping overnight with 600 Girl Scouts of all ages on air mattresses and in sleeping bags? No way for the Mama. We agreed that, going forward, any literal camping or semblance's thereof would be the Daddy-Mama's responsibility -- and that's me.
As I drove the girls to the Boardwalk, I was excited to be responsible for and share in this new experience with them -- their first true overnight campout away from home. The Mama had a nice evening planned with one of her best friends, a much-needed respite from parenting for her. (The Mama does it all, you know -- I just work here.)
"Are you girls excited?" I asked, glancing in the rearview mirror.
"Yes!" Bryce shouted. She was good to go the moment we said we were doing the campout.
"Yes," Beatrice answered, less emphatically. We knew she was apprehensive and a little anxious about the event.
"It's supposed to rain tomorrow," I said. They didn't comment.
"We'll have a great time either way, since we'll be indoors mostly until the sand castle contest tomorrow morning."
"I hope I can sleep," said Beatrice.
"I'm sure we'll all get a little sleep."
Little did we know until we knew, the experience itself that makes it all worthwhile.