I have to say I was super excited to see that today's topic was picnics. Yesterday's submission for Creativity Boot camp was a tough one, but today flowed out of my fingers faster than I could type it. Again, sticking with writing as my medium, I wrote a super short story. Please don't forget to head over and check out some of the other submissions these very talented folks have submitted over the last couple of days!
"Not Your Average Ordinary Picnic"
"I love the way you smile at me. I love the way your hands reach out-"
I reached out and jabbed the button on the radio in anger; or maybe it was frustration or sadness. The kids sat sulking in the backseat as the rain pounded away at the windshield, the wipers swishing back and forth hypnotically, lulling the car to sleep with its steady lullaby.
As I crossed over the bridge, ten-finger death grip on the steering wheel, I hit a pothole, the same one I hit every time I crossed this darn bridge. The picnic basket in the cargo area of my ancient Blazer popped up, its wooden handle peeking over the top of the back seat before landing again. The scent of fresh cut fruit - pineapple and strawberry, watermelon and banana combined in the confined space of the car creating a heady, tropically intoxicating scent.
Gazing into the rear view mirror briefly, I saw the disappointment etched into the faces of my two children. The picnic was something we did every month. We marked another month gone by without Jim by having a picnic and not letting our grief swallow us whole.
Try as I might I felt the grief start to wash over me, the stress of raising two kids on my own, working a full time job and juggling bills, a mortgage and a million other things all beginning to wear away at my carefully crafted façade of happiness. I wanted to close my eyes, to press my fingertips to my temples and rub away the fear and sadness.
Instead, I gave myself a firm mental shake, shedding the coat of self-pity. Where is it written that you have to picnic outside? I thought. Hell, who says the sun even has to be shining for a picnic? We can set up a blanket in the living room, push all the furniture out of the way and have an opposite day picnic. It’s already raining, we can eat dessert first, then our sandwiches and vegetables. Play board games, but celebrate the winner before we even play.
The little voice in the back of my head whispered to me softly, "You can do this," she says. "You've always been able to do it." Then the song from that Nemo movie popped into my head and I said in a soft voice, "You know what you gotta do when life gets you down? Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming. What do we do we swim, swim, swim."
I stifled a giggle and let out a long exhale as the car tires bounced onto the smoother surface of the highway, the grey sky cloudy behind me. I glanced up in the rear view mirror again and said, "Who wants to have a wacky picnic?" in a voice full of honest to goodness cheer and happiness.
Helen and David looked up, their interests piqued. "What's that?" Helen asked.
David’s eyes shone with definite interest. "Can we make a tent and watch movies and eat lots and lots of snacks until we feel like our insides are going to burst?"
"Sure," is what I said, "no way mister, I don’t think so," is what I thought.
"How about it Helen?" I asked, meeting my daughter’s gaze in the mirror. She gave a tiny smile and nodded. "Well that settles it then. A backwards picnic it will be!"
As I signaled and exited the highway, I realized that you had two options when life handed you lemons. You could peel the rind and take a bite of the bitter pulp, make the face and vow to never again eat a lemon, or you could cut them up and make yourself a refreshing glass of lemonade, sit back and adjust your perspective.
Opening line is a line from a Sarah McLachlan song titled, “Elsewhere.”
And of course, the song from Finding Nemo, I don’t know who wrote it but Ellen DeGeneres sang it in the movie.