In this crazy time where most of us are sequestered to our homes and going a little stir crazy, I thought I'd share a short story I wrote about a mom who gets a fresh outlook and invents a way for her family to have a really good day together. It's a feel-good piece that I wrote when I was still living in California, and I cleaned it up today for you.
Everywhere I looked I could see them. On the walls, in the shelves, above the mantel, even attached to refrigerator magnets. Pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Dean Morgan on their exotic vacations. According to their photographic exhibit, these two had been all over the world, to every fascinating destination one could imagine.
The cocktail party at the Morgan’s house quickly grew tiring. I didn’t think I could handle hearing another tale of finding off-the-beaten-track sights or staying at lovely bed and breakfasts with gorgeous views and splendid hospitality. Watching my husband, Craig, nod his head over and over again, then hearing him repeat, “We’ll have to check that out when we go,” made my stomach tighten. A world of bills, responsibilities, children, and tight schedules swirled around me, making me desperate for some fresh air.
“Let’s go outside and see the garden,” I said to Craig, tugging on his arm.
“I’m sure it’s precious.” I felt certain that some of my bitterness escaped with that sentence, but neither Mr. or Mrs. Morgan seemed to notice.
“Oh, do have a look,” Mrs. Morgan said. “All of the Birds of Paradise were imported from Fiji.”
I smiled as politely as I could and tugged my husband away, pausing only to refill my wineglass on the way out.
“I can’t take this anymore,” I said as we stepped into the tropical garden of imported flowers probably kept up by imported gardeners. “They make me feel like the most boring person on earth. Do you realize that I’ve never been out of the country? Not even to Tijuana or Vancouver. I haven’t even been to Hawaii!”
Craig put his arm around me and gave me one of his comforting squeezes that hurt sometimes when he does it too hard. This was one of those times. “We could go somewhere if you want.”
“Really?” I asked. “Where? When will we have the time or money?”
“Um…” he hummed. He always did that when he had no answer. “We could always win a trip from the grocery store sweepstakes.”
I felt my eyes roll up into my head. “Can we leave before I hear any more stories about hidden paradises?”
Craig agreed, and ten minutes later we walked out the front door with this haunting farewell to follow us: “Let’s do it again,” Mrs. Morgan suggested.
“Yes,” Craig agreed, adding, “but at our house next time.”
We argued all the way home. We argued into the night. The “How could you say thats” and “What do you means” went round and round for hours.
Finally, exasperated from it all, I muttered, “I just can’t bear for them to see that we have no life.”
“But we do have a life, honey,” he assured me. “Look at our pictures. We have tons of them.” He pointed at framed pictures around our bedroom. “There’s us with the kids at that massive family reunion picnic at the lake. There’s the one of Kelly’s pony ride at the fair. Remember this one, when Kenny graduated from kindergarten?” He pulled the picture off the dresser and put it in my hands. It was one of my favorites, little Kenny standing there in his oversized gown, wearing a cap made out of cardboard and black construction paper. We called him, “our little scholar.”
“It’s not that,” I told Craig. “I didn’t even notice our lives were lacking anything until standing in the Morgan’s house with this constant reminder that there is a world out there—a world we haven’t seen even the slightest piece of.”
At that, Craig threw up his hands. “Well, I don’t know what to do about that.”
We turned out the lights and went to sleep without saying another word to each other.
In the morning, after feeding the kids and sending them outside to play, I cozied up with the Sunday Times on the couch. Purposely, I hid the Travel section from myself and instead pulled out the Calendar. I thought I might find a carnival or kids’ show that we could go to that day to ease my mind and give us all something to do. Glancing through the events pages, I came across an advertisement for Huntington Gardens.
According to the ad, this was a huge garden in Pasadena designed painstakingly by the best groundskeepers in the nation. Plants were brought in from all over the world and raised in environments that resembled their foreign habitats. Kind of like a zoo for flora. Supposedly, if I went there, I would see a Japanese tea garden, a Chinese bamboo forest, a New Zealand jungle, and a Moroccan desert.
This gave me an idea.
Within an hour the family was packed into the car along with a couple duffel bags full of hats, sunglasses, some changes of clothes, and a camera. Craig thought I was crazy at first, but he soon got into the spirit of it. After all, my plan was anything but boring.
We spent the whole afternoon exploring the garden. Each time we found the perfect location, we’d call on some stranger to snap pictures of us standing there. I put Kelly in charge of wardrobe, Kenny took care of making sure no people stood in the background, Craig was in charge of finding the best angles, and I just had a great time.
At the end of the day, exhausted but giggly, we headed over to the convenience store and uploaded our digital pictures into the kiosk and clicked the box to have them developed in one hour. We ate at the burger place across the street and waited for our pictures to develop. As the sixtieth minute passed, we raced over to tear open our results. The pictures couldn’t have been more perfect.
A few weeks later Mr. and Mrs. Dean Morgan came to our house, along with some other work friends, for a get-together. Our new “worldly” pictures hung on the walls, rested on bookshelves and the mantel above the fireplace, and a couple sillier ones were held in place by refrigerator magnets.
Mrs. Morgan ogled a pose of Kelly and I standing in front of a Zen rock garden. “Isn’t Japan wonderful in the summer?”
“Quite,” I agreed, sipping my wine to keep from giggling.
“And Australia,” Mr. Morgan said, studying another picture. “You really had to take one of the hidden trails to get this shot, didn’t you?”
“The kids loved it,” Craig replied, winking at me.
Originally, I had only planned to put those pictures up for the cocktail party, just for the purpose of impressing the Morgans. After the party, though, I decided to leave them up.
As I look at them now, I realize that although we may have fooled our jet-set friends, the photos would never fool me. I’d never look at them and think, “Wow, look where we’ve been.” Instead, I’d always look at those photos and remember how much fun we had together as a family, right here in our own home town, traveling around the world in a day.
I hope you enjoyed that short story. I have other ones in my blog if you feel like scrolling down a bit. You might also enjoy my short story "Ticket to Her Heart" published in the anthology Second Chance for Love. Please take a moment to pop around on my website and read excerpts and reviews of my published work. You might find something to help you pass the time.
All my best wishes for you,
D. G. Driver
Author D. G. Driver's
Write and Rewrite Blog
“There are no bad stories, just ones that haven’t found their right words yet.”
A blog mostly about the process of revision with occasional guest posts, book reviews, and posts related to my books.