Osius column: The getaway — and the going back
Midnight: B.A. got a creeper report that her 19-year-old was at a beer party. 1 a.m.: Rin wondered where her older son, a day shy of 18, was; he was out and not texting in. 2 a.m.: an urgent message from my younger son, who was at the airport near his college in the East with a bike, two enormous duffels and sky-high baggage fees. His debit card was being refused. He was going to miss his plane.
A getaway. Five years ago, Rin, B.A. and I tried for days if not weeks to plan a trip, and were never free at the same time. Yet somehow this spring my two longtime friends, both my former roommates, and I made it happen. We three had not gotten together since Rin’s wedding two decades ago. Yet we had once shared the tightest of living quarters: my red four-person tent in Yosemite’s Camp 4, the historic climbers’ camp. We were there for weeks.
In this recent iteration, we originally arranged to go to Reno. B.A., a county judge, was taking a course at the National Judicial College there, in order to become a president judge (in other words, B.A. was going to become even more of a BA). Rin, a physician in Salt Lake City, was able; and if B.A. was out West and Rin and I could both go, it was a miracle. We grabbed the chance.
Then Rin, whose son was graduating from high school, emailed. “I was willing to miss the track meet,” she wrote. “I was willing to miss his 18th birthday. Then I saw his face when I said I would miss his senior recital.”
She invited our votes. Should she be a bad mother and wife and still go to Reno? Should we come instead to Salt Lake? Should we cancel, delay? I was fine with Salt Lake, but shouted, “No!” to delaying. It would take another five years to converge.
The time grew closer, the texts giddier and more ribald, as we joked about times past, the days in Camp 4, and that party when we commandeered a cabin after its rightful occupant left early. Visitors nearby complained about the noise, officials banged on the door, and B.A. went outside and told them calmly, insincerely, “Now we’re all 21, and we paid good money for this cabin.” The complainers themselves were moved: seen carrying their pillows and blankets through the night to another cabin.
This round, Rin picked B.A. and me up at the SLC airport, and we exulted and hiked and fixed meals. We read and traded books; laughed about old times, old flames, misadventures, car breakdowns and one car fire. We interjected old song lyrics into the conversation, quoted movies. One allusion led to another. We also talked about losses, including of peers.
Rin attended domestic events as necessary, and B.A. and I, like fond, dotty aunts, came along to the now 18-year-old son’s recital and lurked in the back. Rin’s son, with a sweet and easy presence, played trumpet in a jazz band. Teenage modern dancers whirled around with moves I admired and studied and covertly practiced then and there. A girl got up and read a poem that was, confoundingly, about rabbits, carrots, blood and semen. More poetry, music, dance. All was well until I walked out and found nine texts on my phone.
My son had bought another duffel bag, had repacked, was still in a pickle. His rebooked flight was at dawn. He had been told at check-in that he couldn’t use our credit-card number without the “physical card” in hand, for what would still be steep baggage fees. He and my spouse were madly, simultaneously trying to reach me.
B.A.’s phone plinked. “Come back!” her 19-year-old implored from home with her father and sister, whose rainy-day behavior displeased her. “I need a normal person in the house!” Meanwhile, Rin’s dog had diarrhea.
The next day B.A. went away to judge school, and Rin drove Mungo through a late-spring snowstorm to the vet. I flew home to the return of the son (thanks to intel from Rin, we’d found that advance check-in online allowed use of our credit card), and in time B.A. arrived back to find her daughter had a new boyfriend who drives a motorcycle.
We three, used to talking again, swapped long texts.
One (it could have been any one) of us wrote: “Still smiling after the great times visiting and laughing. Smile wiped off my face after recent interactions with my two mutton-brained youth.”
She signed it, “Yours in advance of future get-togethers.”
“Femaelstrom” appears on the third Friday of each month. Alison Osius lives in Carbondale, where she is a climber, skier and magazine editor. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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