Tag Archives: summer

Summer Fun or Sordid Tale?

I have just a few weeks until my oldest daughter leaves for college. As a result of that, I’ve thought about little things we can do on the weekends that can get us all out together.  I have great ideas.  It’s just that the outside influences of the world around us seem to make the best laid plans just fall to hell without my actually being able to do anything.

Before the Drive-In Debacle
Before the Drive-In Debacle

Take, for example, this last weekend. In an effort to be slightly nostalgic, but more than that, to have an “event” of going out, having an experience, fun in the Summer, like I had as a kid, we went to the drive-in theater.  That’s right, the bastion of the old 1950’s era, now moved to digital projection with FM radios replacing the clunky old cast-iron speakers that hung from the window. Oh. . . if only the old days of analog with a film projector were still around.

We got there when the theater said to arrive: 2 hours early.  So 6:45, we’re in line to get tickets.  I’d stopped at the grocery store, gotten a whole 6-pack of root beer, some bottles of Coke (see…lots of nostalgia) and put those in an ice-chest.  We had Milk Duds, licorice, Skittles, Sour Patch Kids . . . name the movie candy we had it.  We’d driven to the screen (there were 6 at this particular throwback to the 20th Century) and parked.  We had a great spot.

Then, Abbi gets attacked by fire ants. Yep…I thought we’d left them behind in Texas.  We really did . . . it’s just they must have hitched a ride on somebody’s car because here she was, swarmed on her sandal-laden foot, with dozens of ants, all stinging her.  That should have been our first indication.  Then the manager comes over and says “we put you guys in the wrong place, we’re showing The Wolverine over at screen 6.”  So we move, get into position, less perfect than what we’d hoped, but still okay.  A bottle of water and icing Abbi’s foot we’re seemingly okay.  She’s grumpy, angry, and rightfully sore.  Still…here we were, waiting to see the movie, the radio on, pop in-hand and then I go get a giant tub of popcorn. Then night comes, finally, right around 8:30pm, and the trailers start. They’re not what I’d have expected for a PG-13 movie.  A Mark Wahlberg movie about Afghanistan with a bunch of cursing and shooting in it.  A risque trailer that features a bunch of scantily clad women.

Then the movie distributor’s logo comes up and we are set and sitting . . . when Mark Wahlberg (why is he in everything all of a sudden?) and Denzel Washington hit the screen.  I look over at the screen that we’d originally been parked at and see the Marvel logo flipping by and realize…they moved all the customers but never moved the film.  We’re seeing the wrong movie. The theater erupts in honks and shouts.  The crowd is less than pleasant nor are they enthusiastic.  More than that . . . nobody tells us what’s going on.

After about 30 minutes I head over to the back of the lot where there’s a ticket booth and a bunch of other angry customers say “we’re not going to see the movie.  They say they have no idea how to rewind the film or switch it.”

Now…I have no idea if the West Wind Drive-In in Rancho Cordova, CA, has any idea how to do this . . . but the debacle continued when they continued to take tickets from a mile-long line of cars trying to get into the theater while a line of probably 50 people stretched back trying to get refunds for a film they never saw.  The refund line…at the same ticket booth taking tickets to get in to the theater.

You see the problem.  Abbi texts me the kids are going nuts and could I skip it.  I just couldn’t. By the time I’d gotten to the front of the line, another hour later, the general manager – two hours into the mess – shows up and informs the guy in front of me that “we’re going to show it, you can get your money and watch the film anyway.  That’s good, right?”
“You’re kidding me, right?  I’ve been here three hours, haven’t seen a flicker of a film, and you say that?  Are you joking?  That’s really not very funny, man, you got some messed up people here.”

By the time I’d gotten to the refund booth I had nothing more to add.  I got my money gotten in the car . . . and three other movies had finished showing.  I was trying to get out of a lot filled with hundreds of cars with the people who actually did see their movie.  On the way out I notice…the movie starts on the screen we’d just left.

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At the Ballgame

The next day I decided to do it right . . . my work had given us all tickets for the Sacrament River Cats baseball game.  Abbi, I think worried it would be another messed-up Dad plan stayed home with a headache.  I took the other three and went anyway.  This time we got BBQ, free bobble-heads, and drinks.  We got Dippin’ Dots and watched the Cats win their game, staying through the top of the 9th when we knew there was no likelihood that Round Rock would come from behind. Hannah, my middle daughter, put it best about our weekend.  I mentioned that the game was far better than the movies.

“Yeah,” she smiled, “but we have a great story to tell!”

It Works For Us…

I’m almost at the time of year where things go upside-down in my house.

By upside-down, I mean not just for me or that there’s a ton of work, it’s that my kids go to their version of summer camp.  Difference is, it lasts all summer long and I get more benefit out of it than the kids, I think.

Our new house, after we moved in.
Our new house, after we moved in.

Beginning in 2011, out of necessity, my folks picked up all four of my kids and drove them to Nebraska – where I grew up – for the summer.  Now, before you criticize, if you had planned on it, bear in mind that this was not a punishment.  It wasn’t something that was a foregone conclusion, either.  Just over two years ago I was in a frenzy of trying to figure out what I was going to do for the summer.  My oldest daughter, Abbi, was only 16.  My twin sons, Noah and Sam, had just turned 8.  My middle child, Hannah, was 11.

The bigger issue was the fact that those four kids had just lost their mother.  The entire structure, the basic molecular bond of our family was broken.  While she wasn’t the only glue holding together our atoms it didn’t change the fact that somehow they’d been split anyway.  it would have been very easy for our whole family to blow in a burst of energy equivalent to a blast on some Bikini Island atoll.

Instead, thanks to the structure, help, and encouragement of my parents, we got through the first few months.  Eventually summer came, my folks needed to get home to their own lives, and we all came to the realization that I still needed to work.  I was forced to change jobs, lost my house, moved into a rental home and was working out getting my oldest daughter into a different school.  I had no vacation time and my home life was nothing like it had been.

Change.  Lots and lots of radical, unintended change and consequences.  That’s what we faced.

In Nebraska last year. By Hunny Bee Photography's Amy Renz-Manoucheri
In Nebraska last year. By Hunny Bee Photography’s Amy Renz-Manoucheri

But the change was a good change.  Well…not all of it.  I wouldn’t, two years ago, have considered losing my wife a good change.  But the major difficulties we had to face after losing her . . . those ended up being far more positive than we expected.

The kids, in need of structure, routine, and a calm environment got it that first year.  My Mom is the epitome of structure and routine.  That first year the kids and I needed routine.  So for the summer, and last summer as well, my kids got to spend the summer months in a small town.  As a little kid that’s amazing.  They spent tons of time outside.  My Mom had a blow-up pool and bicycles and 3 acres of land to run around in.  They did projects, went to the county museum, and played cowboys and indians outside in the acres of land free of cars, people or rattlesnakes.

It’s brilliant and part of me is a bit jealous they get to do it.  Still, I get to continue working without the minute-by-minute worry the kids are home alone.  It also kept my oldest, Abbi, from having to grow up too soon and act like she is their mother-figure at the age of 16.  That was priceless.

So this year only 3 of the 4 go to Nebraska.  Abbi is working to make some more money for college.  I am working because I took most my time off.  I get to have a couple months with my oldest, like when she was the only child in the house.

Some may criticize and ask how I can let my children go for so long without seeing them.  The difference is, this works for us.  Without doing this, what damage could I be doing to them?  Would they feel alone?  Abandoned? Left to fend for themselves?  I don’t know.  The reality is technology is amazing.  Apple’s FaceTime app lets me see them and tuck them in every night.  Text messages, emails, Facebook, IM . . . all that helps to stay connected.  Is it the physical presence?  No.  Is it worth it to make sure they’re well adjusted?


And it works for us.