100th anniversary of Young Women Camp. In your face, 2014 Division I women's lacrosse at the University of Colorado. Where were you in 1914?
Anyway, today my wife and my twelve-year-old daughter drove a car full of teenage girls to their camp site near Cripple Creek, Colorado, tucked away back there on the sunset side of Pike's Peak. That leaves me alone with the boy for the rest of the week. The following is the account of how our first day as carefree bachelors devolved into a possible homeless situation.
The first point of difficulty was that the drive to camp took a good two and a half hours, not the hour-or-so that I was promised. Or rather, that I assumed. I was never actually told the exact location of the camp until I programmed it into my phone about three minutes before we were on the road. What this meant is that I was heading back into Denver at about 4:00 p.m., more than two hours later than what I had planned.
A quick phone call settled that crisis: Xander was fine. He is not wont to be any kind of problem.
Various traffic jams and one hitch-hiker later (actually, I just had to drive a friend back from the camp site), it was nearly 5:00 when I traded back my father-in-law's truck for my old Plymouth Breeze. Prudently, I had left the Plymouth car keys with my in-laws since, as I transferred my few belongings to my own car, I noticed I no longer had my house keys. A quick scouring of the truck's cab, and I recalled that I had used my own set of keys at the campsite to turn on my wife's car in order to use the lighter to power the electric blower to fill up the small air mattress May, my wife, would sleep on, all of which only happened because May had already become preoccupied dealing with a teenage girl fracas involving who would sleep where. I can only assume that lessons of this sort are why girls come to camp in the first place.
To recap: three hours late, still hadn't picked up the boy, no house keys. But I knew at some time in the past we had given my in-laws a copy of our house keys so they could collect the mail or make sure the kitchen hadn't exploded or something while we were away for a few days. They would surely still have said keys and I would be in no worse circumstances. My mother-in-law, in fact, had a single key on a ring, a paper tag marked "May" attached.
I drove my non-air-conditioned automobile through 95 degree heat and worsening traffic. Windows down, hot wind blowing, Guns N' Roses blaring, and I began to wonder what I would do if this key wasn't what it purported to be. At least I had my wallet, car keys, and a case of CDs. It could be worse. I called my wife to make sure I hadn't lost my keys elsewhere. She found the keys in her car, exactly where I thought they were, and I told her I might have to drive back out to get them. A stalwart pragmatist, she suggested I call a locksmith. But how do you prove you live someplace when all the proof is inside that place and you can't get in? (I still have an old address on my driver's licence, which I did have, but would not be any good in that situation.) My brain began to formulate a plan wherein I would leave Xander with Grandma and Grandpa to finally get some sleep and I would be able to go home around midnight after another five hour drive. Through mountain valleys. In the dark.
The first thing our friend said when I arrived to pick up Xander was that she probably just made a big mistake. She had let him fall asleep. Just now. She insisted he was no trouble, that he played all day, such an amiable child and all that, but that he hadn't napped earlier and had just nearly fallen asleep on the floor. She held him for a few minutes and he conked out. He was currently sprawled out on her bed, dreaming lazily, waiting for morning. He woke up as I strapped him in to his car seat, and he gave me perhaps the meanest look he's ever given anyone or anything. This look said, "Dad, I had a great day, but you were late, so I took it upon myself to rest my weary body, and this is what I get?" Then he frowned and tears welled and mean turned to sad. He only sobbed for a moment, though, probably because Axl Rose was crooning about some sweet child of his, and that rightly stops most people in their tracks.
The boy was asleep again by the time we got home, so I left him in the car while I checked the key. Didn't work. Crud. I tried all the doors for good measure. For some reason our house has about fourteen possible points of ingress. I put the key in everything I could, but there were no takers.
Before I got back into the mobile sweat lodge, I noticed a kink in the otherwise velvet-smooth field of the last hour's events. An outdoor spigot I can't seem to stop from leaking had chosen this day to just outright crack open and spray a steady stream of water into a basement window well. This wasn't the first sign of petulance from this particular water valve. And what I knew from experience was that if the flow of water wasn't plugged, and soon, we would end up with a flooded basement, which meant wet carpet, ruined food storage, and destroyed boxes of old writing. I needed to get into the house TONIGHT.
Now close to 6:00, I drove the freeway again back to my in-law's. Traffic. Heat. Wind. You know the drill. Xander slept still, but his little legs were exposed to the sun, his hair dripping with perspiration.
I tried my sister-in-law first. She lives just a few blocks from her parents. On the phone she said she had a couple of house keys she didn't recognize, but when I got there, I knew they weren't mine. Wrong shape. My father-in-law, however, said he had found another couple of keys with a red tag on the ring. I held out hope that they were what I so desperately sought.
Xander was awake again when I pulled up to the same place I had nearly two hours earlier, where my predicament began. His face was flushed and he sucked down most of his sippy-cup of water. I left him there and procured the red set of keys. Heavy sigh of relief. That red tag was certainly ours. I was sure one of those keys would open my house.
Postscript. We got into the house. All is well. Fortunately, no water came down the basement wall. But I have no swamp cooling available tonight without the outdoor faucet I still need to fix, and I can only hope the "Check Engine" will magically disappear when I next need the car.
I can only dream about a better day alone with the boy tomorrow.