Thursday, May 13, 2010

What Was I Thinking?

This story is more truth than fiction, even the ending, as I just may be joining my husband and the youth group for this trip once again this summer -sigh!

What Was I Thinking?
by Sharlyn Guthrie

I still don’t know why I said “yes” when he popped the big question. No, I’m not talking about a marriage proposal. The question my husband asked went something like this, “I finally talked the youth pastor into taking the youth to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area this summer. Isn’t that great? He wants us to chaperone. You’ll go along, won’t you?”

I was raised in a hotel loving, all-girl family. I had never been in a motor boat, much less a canoe. Still, my sense of adventure was stirred. When my teenage son blurted, “YOU’RE going to the Boundary Waters?!” something in his tone challenged me.

My husband was like a child waiting for Christmas. He counted the weeks and then the days. He dragged me to stores I had never shopped in before to purchase items I didn’t know existed –collapsible dinnerware, green vinyl rain ponchos and camouflage hats with netting that tied over your face. I laughed, informing him that I intended to maintain my stylish reputation. He laughed back –an evil cackle, really. I should have been very scared.

We began packing. “I’m having a little trouble over here,” I informed him. My pack was bulging, while another sizable pile of necessities waited to be included.

My husband quickly pinpointed the problem. “You packed too many clothes. You only need one set to stay dry and one to get wet.”

“For a whole week?” Doubts were mounting, but the next item to go was my make-up. “You’re kidding me!” He wasn’t.

Thirty one teens and chaperones launched fifteen canoes into Farm Lake, following prayer and a few instructions. “Don’t stand up or shift your weight suddenly. Remember the phrase ‘up a creek without a paddle?’ It can happen here. Tents don’t float.” Halfway across the lake those instructions were demonstrated with much more clarity than any flight attendant’s oxygen mask routine.

The occupants of two canoes playfully lunged at each other as they passed. One canoe flipped, depositing two teens, their packs, and tent into bone-chilling water. Ignoring the shrieks of bobbers in life-vests, the guides grabbed their packs instead. But the tent had already sunk. The canoe was righted and repacked, though one paddle had drifted away unnoticed amidst the commotion.

At camp two cold, wet boys solemnly spread their wet belongings on tree branches, then huddled near the fire. Although they were sheepish in their request for tent space it was soon granted. Three now had to squeeze into tents designed for two.

“Let’s go for a walk,” my exultant husband called, grabbing a shovel.

“Okay,” I responded, skipping ahead of him. “This is fun. How far are we going?”

“How about over here? It’s off the path for privacy’s sake, but not too far away in case of bears.”

I hesitated. “Just what are we talking about doing over here?”

“We’re digging the latrine.”

Speechless, I just stood there watching him dig that hole. My husband ignored me, but a sinister grin played at the corners of his mouth.

Meanwhile, the contents of a bag labeled “beef stroganoff” were dumped into boiling lake water. The resulting substance convinced most of us to skip supper and retreat to our tents early. It was a good thing, too. The stroganoff moved swiftly through those who ate it, resulting in many trips to the now totally disgusting latrine.

We awoke to rain. Grudgingly I donned the ugly green poncho, casting sideways glances at my gleeful husband. On day two of drizzle I became openly hostile. “What were you thinking? What was I thinking?” His smirk remained intact.

The sun broke through just before going down on that second day, creating a spectacular sunset. My husband raised his arm, attempting an embrace. “You stink!” I snapped, and reality hit. We hadn’t bathed for three days, yet we had paddled hard, sweating under ponchos. Using a tarp my husband fashioned a shower, then poured cold lake water over me as I yelped and hollered. Then I returned the favor. It was a high price to pay for cleanliness.

Mosquitoes as large as hummingbirds converged on us at dusk. Out came the funky hat my husband had selected for the occasion.

I wish I could say that things improved after that. They didn’t. Joyfully I returned to the land of warm showers and flush toilets.

Yesterday my husband asked, “Are you going back to the Boundary Waters with us next summer?”

I have no idea why, but I said, “Yes!”

Friday Fiction is hosted this week by Catrina Bradley on her blog, A Work In Progress.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Baby Blues

In honor of Mothers Day I thought I would share a story I wrote about becoming a new mother. Sure, it has been a while since this happened to me, but some feelings are easily recalled. In case you're wondering, the baby in the picture is none other than my new little granddaughter, Josie Jean LaRue Guthrie, born April 26th. She was one day old here. Isn't she precious?

Baby Blues
by Sharlyn Guthrie

As I reach up from the wheelchair to accept the tiny bundle my eyes widen and my heart seizes. “Are they really going to let me take you home, little one? What makes them think I can care for you properly? I killed all my African violets, for heaven’s sake! And last week I totally slept through Roger’s raucous card game. The cat nearly trips me before I remember to feed him. What if I forget to feed you?” Anxious thoughts erupt one after the other, causing my raised hands to shake.

“Are you okay? A little tired, perhaps? Maybe I should push him down in his bassinette.” As if my own worries aren’t enough. Now I’ve managed to alarm the nurse.

“I’m fine.” The infant moves only slightly as his cocoon is nestled into the crook of my arm. He draws my attention like a magnet, making me barely aware of our procession down the hall. He is warm and beautiful. Delicate eyelashes rest on sumptuous cheeks punctuated by a comma for a nose. The shape of a heart adorns his upper lip, resting on the beginnings of a pout. “What was it that Grandma said about his chin? Ah yes, ‘an angel must have kissed him there, for a perfect dimple remains as evidence.’”

“My son is beautiful, not handsome.” The sudden revelation, or else the jolt of the descending elevator, causes my stomach to lurch. “Will the other children think he’s girly? Call him names like ‘wimp’ or ‘pretty boy?’ Will he get picked on at recess and eat his lunch by himself, causing his teachers to whisper among themselves and shake their heads with pity?”

The door has opened again and my son and I are wheeled toward the lobby. I relax a little as onlookers pause, regarding us tenderly. Apparently I don’t look as inept as I feel. Maybe I’m not an unfit mother after all.

That thought evokes an unwelcome memory from three Sunday nights ago. It was time for my hourly trek to the bathroom to relieve my restricted bladder. The dog whined to relieve hers as well, so I picked her up and waddled to the back door, whacking her in the head with the door as I opened it. She leapt from my arms and cowered, whimpering under the picnic table. She still tucks her tail between her legs whenever I approach. “What if I accidentally harm my own child? Or worse yet, frighten him by losing my temper? Will he someday wince when I raise my hand? Will he run to hide when I call his name?”

A kiss on my forehead interrupts my frightful retrospection. “Motherhood suits you,” Roger whispers. “You positively glow.”

Touching my flushed cheeks, I smile faintly. Oblivious as usual, Roger is simply being his easy-going self. Yet somehow at this moment his jovial, laid-back manner irritates me.

“Here, honey. Why don’t you take your little prince and fasten him into his car seat?” Sarcasm rolls off my tongue with the words. “I assume you have it properly installed and all the straps sorted out and adjusted.” I watch for any hint of trepidation, but there is none. Roger calmly lifts our son, placing him gently into his seat, only slightly fumbling with the straps he is fastening. All the while he croons a soothing lullaby.

Un-beckoned tears squeeze out, streaming down my cheeks, releasing my worries, my doubts, my fears like a flood. Whether it’s unbalanced hormones or a bad case of the jitters, I don’t know. But I do know that I don’t have to do this alone. The God of the universe has promised never to leave me. And Roger, my amazing, even-tempered, God’s gift of a husband, promised the same thing.

I settle into the back seat next to our son who continues his peaceful sleep, totally unaware of my inexperience and insecurities. He absolutely trusts in my ability to care for him. Surely I can rest as peacefully in God’s strength and trust as fully in His power.

Glancing sideways, I note that our baby’s pout has turned into a lop-sided smile, and fresh concerns tumble through my mind. “Is he still breathing? Are his nerves and muscles all connected right? Will the left corner of his mouth always droop like that?”

Be still, my fretful soul.

Fiction Friday is being hosted today by Karlene Jacobsen at Homespun Expressions.