Lukewarm Spaghetti and Love
I decided to share some of my earlier unpublished writings on here. I wrote this in the 1980s. It is based on a true story of a happening in my life. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it:
Lukewarm Spaghetti and Love
“There’s a cop behind us.”
“So. We didn’t do anything wrong.” Annoyed, Joe rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. He was definitely not a morning person.
Abby leaned over and glanced at the speedometer.
“I was NOT speeding is that’s what you’re thinking.”
“Sorry.” Abby Palmer should have known it was going to be a bad day when a police car followed them down the road that morning. Maybe they did look a little strange. Camping equipment filled every inch of space inside the mini-van; plastic covered suitcases ballooned over the edges of the luggage rack; and four small children slept, stuffed in back like sardines in a tin can. And, it WAS four-thirty in the morning!
The patrol car pulled up as close as it could get to them and stayed right there for nearly ten miles.
“Maybe you should pull over,” Abby suggested, trying not to panic.
“Relax, Abby. He doesn’t have his lights or siren on.”
Just then, the trooper put his left turn signal on and was gone.
Abby breathed a sigh of relief and tried to settle down so she could begin to enjoy the trip. It would be a combination vacation-business trip. A business trip for Joe and a well deserved vacation for all. Married nearly eleven years with a large young family, the Palmers hardly had the time or money to go anywhere. That’s why Abby jumped at the chance to go with Joe when he suggested it.
First, they would have four days of vacation consisting of their travel time down to Florida with a one day stop in Williamsburg, Virginia. They both loved history and had always wanted to visit the colonial village. When they reached Florida, they would be spending two weeks there, where Joe had some work to do for his job. A visit to Disney World on one of the weekends would be a special treat for the kids. The day began so early because Abby had made reservations at a campground outside of Williamsburg and they planned to be there in time for supper.
This trip would also be their first experience with camping. They had a brand new tent, a new lantern, a new camp-stove and new sleeping bags waiting to be christened. Joe was always eager to try out something new. Abby was more cautious but agreed when he suggested camping, to save on motel fees. Now she wished they had reserved a room instead. The cost of the equipment would have covered it. Why was she such a worrywart? Thank heavens Joe was easy going. They balanced each other out.
Since their van was so full, they couldn’t bring many groceries; they planned to purchase more along the way. They carried all the food they needed for the day including the home-made spaghetti sauce for the supper they hoped to enjoy on a picnic table at the campground.
The rest of the morning progressed quite normally after that strange start. At one of the rest areas, they stopped for a breakfast of homemade cinnamon coffee cake and milk from their cooler. The girls colored and napped off and on in the back while Abby tried to entertain their six-month-old son, Joey, in his car seat. Joe drove.
Abby eased into being a stay-at-home mom by default. It certainly wasn’t popular in this day and age. When Jenny, their first child, was born, Abby was overwhelmed by the love she felt for her baby and wanted to be with her as long as she could so she kept putting off getting back to work. Soon she discovered she was pregnant again and having some problems with the pregnancy. Joe stepped in and insisted she stay home. As the family increased, she never did return to work.
Joe liked having her there to be with the kids and to take care of him. Abby loved being home. She liked growing vegetables, cooking up tasty dishes, knitting sweaters for the kids, and reading. Her friends didn’t understand and often bugged her about letting Joe boss her around. Joe wasn’t like that. He often told her to do what she
wanted to do. The choice was hers. She chose to be with the kids and enhance their family life.
At lunchtime, they stopped at a roadside picnic area and feasted on ham sandwiches made with homemade bread, some potato chips, and pickles. Abby breast-fed Joey and then they were ready to go.
“We’re running a little late,” Joe announce as he studied the map. “About an hour but we should get there around six instead of five.
“That’s okay. We’ll still be there in time for supper,” Abby replied hopefully, but she wasn’t as certain as Joe was.
With the afternoon came a fill up at the gas station, a lot of bathroom breaks, and an unexpected construction project. The road narrowed down to one lane for the next 30 miles with the cars moving at a snail’s pace. That put them another hour behind. Two hours now.
“We’re going to be late,” Abby stated trying to control her distress.
“We’ll just have a late supper,” announced Joe, the eternal optimist.
Abby began checking off the towns on the map as they passed through them. Each one seemed to take longer to get to than the one before…a lot longer than she originally thought when she planned the itinerary.
The van was hot and the kids were getting edgy; they did not like being stuck in the vehicle for so long. Abby and Joe needed another van in a hurry when their vehicle broke down in the middle of winter last year and didn’t think it would matter when they found one that didn’t have air conditioning. Now they were sorry.
“I’ve got to stop for a bit,” Joe announced as he wiped the sweat off of his forehead and rubbed his eyes. He pulled into the next rest area.
Abby wanted to say, “No, you can’t stop now. We’ll never get there.” But she caught herself in time and said nothing. She was grateful that Joe did the driving. Abby hated the interstates; there was so much traffic. Besides she was better at keeping the kids entertained. So she took them out for some exercise while he rested.
When they got back on the road, it was almost five o’clock. They were nowhere near Williamsburg and the children were starting to get hungry. Abby found a large bag of green grapes and a box of saltines and hoped it would satisfy them until they got to the campground. It was the last of their supplies. They drove the next two hours in total silence.
“I guess I must have underestimated the distance,” Abby confess nearly in tears. She knew the trip was going to be long but not this long.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get there sooner or later.” Nothing ever seemed to upset Joe. He always made the best of things. It was one of the reasons she married him.
At eight o’clock, they stopped for ice cream and soon afterward saw a sign that said: “Williamsburg, 25 miles.” The girls clapped and Abby felt relieved until they turned onto what proved to be a winding dirt road.
That was the longest twenty-five miles Abby had ever traveled. The girls alternated between, “I’m hungry” and “When are we going to get there?” The baby, who had never been on a trip before, whined and whined and could not be consoled. The sun slowly sank out of sight and darkness began to surround them. Abby had to fight back tears, again. Even Joe’s mood began to go down hill at this point. She wished they had not taken this trip that was supposed to be such fun.
Then they saw it! The large sign said: “WILLIAMSBURG CAMPGROUND.”
“We’re here,” Joe announced, his spirits lifting immediately.
“Yeah!” The girls cheered in the back seat.
They turned onto the road, stopped at the office to check in, and drove up to their assigned spot. It was now quarter to ten.
“Good thing we have our lantern.” Joe said as he started unpacking the camping gear. “At least we can see what we are doing.” Before he could finish speaking the mantle disintegrated right in his hand.
“Oh no,” he said, “without this we can’t light the lantern. But, I can go down to the park store that we passed on the way in and get another mantle.”
He was back in five minutes.
“The store closed at nine thirty for the night.” He tried to smile when he said it. “Where’s the flashlight, Abby?” He asked.
“Oh, no. I forgot to put it in.” Abby put her head in her hands. “I’m sorry,” she added.
Somehow Joe thought of shining the car lights on the spot and began to put up the tent. Leave it to Joe to always think of a solution. The two oldest girls, Jenny and Maggie, helped as much as they could at ages eight and seven. Four-year-old Alyssa sat on a blanket nearby watching Abby try to cook a spaghetti dinner on a camp stove in the dark. The baby cried himself to sleep and lay near Alyssa. Abby didn’t even want to think of what time it would be when they would finally get to bed.
At eleven o’clock the tent was up and the family sat down to eat their lukewarm spaghetti on paper plates. They devoured the entire pan of food in minutes. They were so hungry at that point, even the paper plates would have tasted good.
Ten minutes after they ate, the children were in their sleeping bags, in the tent, asleep. Abby threw the last of the garbage into the trash can and sat down at the picnic table. Joe came over, sat down beside her, and hugged her.
“Quite a day. Wasn’t it?” he said.
“Worst day of my life,” Abby said as a tear rolled down her cheek. Now that all of the activity had ceased, she realized just how really awful it had been. Soon she was sobbing. “I wish I had made better plans for this trip. I really didn’t think it was that far and I didn’t make allowances for construction and dirt roads,” she continued on.
Joe let her cry for a minute. Then he held her away from him forcing her to meet his gaze. “At least it didn’t rain…” he said as he kissed her forehead. “And we are HERE…” he kissed the tip of her nose. “The kids are asleep…” he kissed her lightly on the lips. “And we have each other…” he added, hugging her tightly, trying to cheer her up.
Abby looked into Joe’s eyes. Suddenly, she knew he was right. Maybe the day had been pretty bad, but there was a lot of good things, too, and tomorrow surely would be better, because she made up her mind to focus on the good things from now on instead of moaning about the wrong ones.
“I love you Joe Palmer,” she said, hugging her husband tighter and planting a huge kiss squarely on his lips.
Copyright: ©1980 Dorothy Stacy