This morning I spent a couple of hours at the club. Started out on various machines for the first hour, then headed over to the pool. Ahhhhhh. I had it all to myself for 25 minutes. Perfect. Sat in the cuzzi for another five, then headed over to the locker room for a quick shower.
There was something about the women's locker room that brought to my mind the memory of the first vacation I ever took with Sam, Amy and Kari. It was, without a doubt, the vacation from hell. Sam wanted to take me to Canada because I had never been that far north. Amy and Kari, who were 14 and 12 at the time, were not keen on the idea. Canada was the place they always went as a family, when their Mom was alive. They protested every day before we left and throughout the trip.
Sam & Kari at Lake Louise Camp Ground, July 1992
We traveled in Sam's Dodge pick-up and 8' camper; Sam and I in the cab and the girls in the camper. We left at 6 am on a Saturday and by the time we reached Lake Louise on Tuesday afternoon, the trip had already gone sour. I found five "I hate Dona" notes left in various places in the camper. Every day, Amy and Kari complained about how the trip was gay and what a stupid idea it was...blah, blah, blah. They wouldn't even try to have a good time. The camper had a toilet, but not a shower. The campground at Lake Louise had toilets but no showers. We asked around and learned a local grocery store within walking distance had public showers. So we grabbed our stuff and headed over. On the way Kari and I played a game of kick the stone as we walked along the asphalt trail (Kari was the author of those notes).
Amy, Kari & Sam. Lake Louise in background upper right.
We arrive at the store and are told the public showers are downstairs. Sam heads off in one direction (lucky dog!), the girls and I in the opposite. I'm thinking to myself, God help me, as Amy bitches about the location of the store, having to walk, the lack of showers at the campground and why don't we have one in our camper? Can it get any worse? We reach the bottom of the stairs and as the public showers come into view, I start laughing. Yeah,it justgot worse. I turn to Amy and Kari; Amy's eyes are as wide as saucer's and her jaw is now on the floor. Kari is unphased (at 12, she's too young to understand). "Well I'm NOT taking a shower in there!" Amy announces as she stomps back up the stairs (at 14 she's at that age...the 'developing' age). Remember the showers in high school...you know, the really private ones? When the sign said 'Public' it meant public, not private. No doors, no stalls, not even a vinyl curtain; just two tiled walls lined with shower heads on both sides. This is not what I had in mind to ease the tension between the girls and I. Oh, lets just get everything out in the open, what the hell!
Lake Louise, Canada
Now, I don't know where Amy thinks she's going to take a shower, and I know she really wants one because the entire walk over that's all she talked about. How dirty and grungy and filthy she felt, and how wonderful a shower will be. I'm not all that thrilled about taking a shower in plain view of two adolescent girls...who already hate me, but what choice do I have? I've gone two days without a shower and I am ready. I grab a locker and Kari follows my lead, then we head over to the shower area. We take the two showers nearest the door and about the time I'm wondering if the world is going to change just for Amy, she shows up at the bottom of the stairs. She's pissed, I can tell. Nope, the world didn't change. Over the spray of water I can hear her ranting and raving about what a stupid town this is. Oh well, I think as I turn my back to her. This is a 'take it or leave it' situation. Amy disappears, then returns with a towel wrapped around her and walks past Kari and I, still complaining. She walks to the farthest end and turns on the shower. Clearly, she's not too keen on being seen naked by anyone...at least she and I agree on that.
We finished showering, dried our hair, and got dressed in silence. All the while I'm thinking to myself what an earfull Sam is about to get. True to her nature, Amy picks up the bitching session the second she sees her father at the top of the stairs. As she carries on, I start walking just a little bit slower with each step. Kari picks right up on my motive and hangs back with me. We reached the asphalt path that will lead us back to the campground, and we start another game of kick the stone. Amy's mouth hasn't slowed down, or stopped for a breather, and every once in a while Sam turns his head to look back at me. And he gives me that "Help me" look. When he does, I tilt my head to one side and smile at him. Sorry, but I've already heard it and I had to shower with her...now it's your turn.
The best advice I ever received are four little words I read in Cosmo a few weeks after the trip. Don't take it personally. It's not you, it's the situation. Once I read those words, everything clicked in my mind. It didn't matter whether I was a terrific person, it didn't matter what I did or said. They would hate me. But I always knew that someday Amy and Kari would grow up and become adults. Someday they will both realize it wasn't me, it wasn't them, it wasn't anything we did or said. It was just the situation we found ourselves in.
I was right. But that's another story.