...and so at the very end of the day, before we returned to town, sis walked across the McDonald's parking lot toward the minivan carrying a disposable turkey roasting pan holding two label-less mayo jars filled with now melted ice water which was keeping the tub of Mom's homemade potato salad between them, cold. And I carried two disposable plates of chocolate cake covered in foil, my bag, her bag, the baby's bag, and something else in the other hand I can't quite recall now. Sister's hubby had already reached the minivan with the laughing baby (new picture on his page.) Our parents with Granddaddy in their backseat, had just pulled out of the parking lot, headed toward I-85.
Everybody was exhausted but laughing...
It all started weeks ago when my parents were in town for Mr. Pie's first birthday celebration. It was decided he wasn't getting nearly enough time with his maternal grandparents and everybody was going to have to make more effort to remedy the situation. Which, it was decided, could be easily enough managed by "meeting in the middle" every month. Which means the Greensboro, NC family would drive south to Charlotte and the Greenville, SC family would drive north to Charlotte. Picnicing in a park for a few hours every month would be a lovely way to visit and assist in the goal of letting The Sultan of Cool get more accustomed to the company of his grandparents, and surely a fine time would be had by all.
The first of these meetings, eventually scheduled for yesterday, ensured Granddaddy's visit from Alabama would also coordinate and we could all enjoy his company as an added bonus. (Plus it's a hell of a lot easier than driving all the way to South Alabama with this crowd!)
Did you ever pick out a park for meeting your family in a city you don't know? Although Mecklenburg County Parks & Rec has a website that lists every single place that was available to us, it's still like playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Therefore, while we picked a park with a lovely playground for Mr. Pie, there were occasionally sketchy characters coming and going who led us to the realization that next time we'll do a bit more homework before we choose our meeting place. But that's next time and I'm getting far ahead of myself. This time we arrived at the park ahead of our parents because, er, somebody got a little turned around coming into the city. (I'm certainly not naming names. It could have just as easily been me. Not that I was allowed to drive. Again, that's another story.)
Eventually Mom and Dad and Granddaddy arrived, and we learned that Mom had prepared tons of her excellent potato salad and a chocolate cake, too, and all she wanted was for Dad to quick run over to a KFC and pick up some chicken so our picnic would be complete. Wherever that was. But surely there was one nearby and so close it was practically within walking distance. Only they'd just arrived, and we weren't really scheduled to be there for long anyway, so finally we convinced them that it might be better if we just waited a while to deal with the chicken and, Hey! I know! Why don't ya'll stay here a while and hang out with Mr. Pie?! Like the original plan called for? Okay then. Everybody played and talked and had a grand time playing with Mr. Pie. Until Mom decided it really was time to find out about that chicken. So she walked down to Shelter Number 1 (any other numbered shelters remained elusive for the duration of our visit,) and asked the couple who wanted, really and truly, to just have a private lunch by themselves, where we might find a KFC. So they gave Mom directions and apparently added, "You can't miss it. It's right beside Wachovia and McDonalds." Um. If you live in Charlotte, maybe you can't miss it. On the other hand, the only printed directions anybody had with them were the ones that got us to the park in the first place. KFC, and its alleged unmissable street was nowhere to be found on our maps.
Never mind that. Mom and Dad got back in their car and went in search of some chicken. Which left our original party plus Granddaddy to hang out on the playground talking and laughing and eventually showing just how badly we all throw when somebody decided to try and knock that dead tree limb out of the tree above so it didn't just fall on us. (Apparently it wouldn't have...you can't even dream of how ludicrous all the shows of poor throwing skills were exhibited, particularly my own when I got in on the prank.) Then Granddaddy quietly got up and went walking down the hill to get a really long stick for somebody to throw instead of the chunk o' tree we'd been using. And it worked, too. 'Cause he's smarter than the rest of us put together.
Meanwhile I discovered just how comfy it can be if you climb up inside a tube-esque sliding board and lie down for a rest. Did you know that? 'Cause I did not. But now I do, and I highly recommend that if you should grow weary at an outdoor family excursion and find yourself anxiously awaiting a bucket of fried chicken to be delivered to your party by your apparently-now-lost parents, you should find yourself a sliding board and curl up inside for a nap. You can also let a baby walk on your face while lying there, which solves two problems: you get comfy rest and the baby gets a lot of entertainment. Walking on your face is fun. But maybe you should take his shoes off first.
Fast forward a bit and sis calls parents who admit they're still looking for that road you cannot miss. She convinces them to come back right now and we'll just all load up and go find some food together like normal people. And she reports that they sound somewhat relieved and have agreed to head back our way.
A bit later, all piled back in our respective vehicles, we're off driving toward The KFC You Cannot Miss and find ourselves in a neighborhood none of us really and truly want to eat in, except for Granddaddy who likes Church's quite fine, and didn't we just pass one of those? We tell them (they've called using that handy cell phone, to make their own suggestions) as we meander down the sketchy street we've easily located,) that we're turning around and going the other way. What can they say? We're in the front car.
Much, much later, headed down a street J. and I had actually been down mere weeks ago on our way to hear a band we found with no trouble, even late at night, I'm thinking maybe we can actually eat soon. Since I had a little flash of memory that strangely enough, maybe there really had been a KFC on that busy downtown city street. (I recalled thinking what an odd place to position such a restaurant in such a nice area that was more suited for cafes and bistros. Turns out I'd had the actual memory, but more likely about the Burger King that we did actually pass, rather than a KFC we did not.)
So we're driving and driving and eventually (I know you're keen to know how this story ends but really don't want to relive the whole, excruciating mess with my whole family, now do you?) back on the highway we decide who really needs KFC anyway, or chicken at all for that matter, why don't we just head toward the highway parents and Granddaddy will be traveling very soon since his doctor's appointment scheduled time is looming and they're really and truly gonna' have to hit the road soon, and we'll just find something else that looks good. But look! Up ahead! Remember that place you couldn't miss? There's Wachovia! And check it out! McDonalds! So we pull into the parking lot of the nearby KFC as promised, finally, and Mom's all ready to tailgate in the parking lot 'cause, well, she did make all that potato salad and cake, but we decide no, maybe it's okay if we just take that home and eat it for dinner. So the whole gaggle of us (having just awakened the baby who, I'm not kidding, has just fallen asleep for 4 minutes now that we've been so close to our dining destination,) go piling into the place, only to see that the rating is something like 87 - B, and sister's hubby who's worked in restaurants for years, declares, "I know what kind of stuff happens to make you get an 87. I'm sorry, we can't eat here." So we all turn around and leave and by then decide if anybody's gonna' eat at all, it might as well be at the McDonalds next door. Which is what we do. And it's very clean and tidy and their rating is quite a high A and everybody gets something they recognize and the only disappointment, I learn, is when Granddaddy hands me his cup of coffee and says, "Baby go pour that out and get me some tea or something. That coffee's older than I am!"
Around that time I say, "I'm just sitting here trying to decide whether or not to blog this day." To which my parents declare a unanimous and enthusiastic "yes!" And I reply that if I do none of us is gonna' come across as being very much too bright. But they don't care at all. Further evidence that even if nobody else in the free world reads your blog, your parents are always guaranteed to be popping in to check on things which will give you two steady readers, at very least.
The baby has people to flirt with and the little girls at the next table keep him well entertained and we eat our predictable fried foods and Mom leaves a bit early so she can go repackage all that food she's prepared and we have our goodbyes in the parking lot then the baby thrills and delights her by going to her and waving bye to us, which is this new, exciting thing Mr. Pie now knows how to do.
And we walk off across the parking lot, arms loaded with food we'll each get to eat for dinner, laughing and saying to each other What A Very Watson Day it's been and next time we have to plan better and somebody has to actually be in charge and how is it we're that tired when we were only even in the city for 3 hours?
Which is how I spent my Thursday. Today's list of things I must accomplish is longer than usual. But it's worth it, 'cause I got to spend the day with my family, which is a very, very good thing...