Monday, May 12, 2003

A Dearth of Drama
Went up to Dionne's folks' place in northern Missouri this weekend. For those of you without a scorecard, that's my best friend's wife's parents (AKA Jan and Jim). It's not where Dionne grew up, however. That would be Kansas City. It's more or less a retirement home, a little log house on a hundred acres or so that they're gradually reforesting. So Saturday was a beautiful drive up two lane highways and a walk in the woods, followed by fried morel mushrooms and lasagna. Sunday morning it was cinnamon rolls and coffee, a 4-wheeler ride through the woods, then more morels, grilled venison and, for the traditionalists, hamburgers and hotdogs. Of course, there was more to the weekend than just playing outside and food, but those were the tentpoles of the weekend, with everything else strung off them. Or is it more accurate to say that good friends and family were the tentposts, and the food and fun came from there?

I don't know that it really matters what comes from where, as long as I can revel in good times with the people I love.

This is three weekends in a row of playing outside. Three weeks ago it was an Ozarks ropes course with Theron's instructors and black belts. Last week was Marni's Mayday party at her place at the edge of the bluffs, near Easley, along the Katy Trail. And this weekend it was the Dulys' place in the hills and hollows of northwestern Missouri.

Years ago, somebody got Jim a bunch of letter blocks. When we arrived on Saturday, he'd spelled out "THE CIRCUS IS IN TOWN" on the kitchen counter. Christie and I didn't know it when we accepted the invite, but not only were Theron and Dionne up there, but also Dionne's two aunts, which meant eight people under one roof. No stress for any of us, though, as we're all big fans of the circus. More people meant more food, more conversation, and, paradoxically, more alone time, as it was easier to sneak off if you wanted (or needed) to. When I got hit with a headache Saturday night, I was very glad of the crowd, since it meant I wasn't abandoning Christie completely, just abandoning her with a bunch of near strangers (and Theron and Dionne). And as much as headaches suck, that meant I was up and walking under the stars at four in the morning.

And then there was the delight of watching tough girl Christie squeal and jump every time she felt a creeping itch. She was fine at first, but after she found her first tick, she got a little jumpy. She was in the kitchen with the rest of the circus when she found it crawling up her arm, which led to a general discussion of ticks, and whether they were worse this year than they have been in the past (I produced some wild-ass theory about fluctuations in the deer population as a result of decreased hunting leading to more ticks in the woods, with not enough large mammals to feed them). Jan's city-dwelling sisters were a bit squeamish about blood-sucking parasites, but Jan was very matter of fact about it: "You just have to do a tick-check when you get back from hiking."

To which I responded, "That's the best part of the hike!" Then Christie, still grossed out from finding her little hitchhiker, insisted we go do a tick-check, which she described as the most unerotic nudity she's experienced since, well, possibly ever. Jim had rejoined the group while we were gone, and asked where we'd been when we came back in the room. "Tick check," we said.

He grinned and said, "Oh, that's the best part of the hike!"

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