When I was dating my wife (and still pretending to be charming), I once suggested we grab an old blanket, purchase a generous supply of processed lunch meat and go on a picnic. In my romantic desperation, I had apparently forgotten that we live in East Texas, where being outside anytime between the months of April and December is likely to involve projectile sweating and a raging case of chiggers.
Based on this experience, you can imagine my skepticism when we were invited to an outdoor “Family Fun Night” at my daughters’ school on a recent summer evening, which is also prime hunting season for our local mosquitoes that are roughly the size of Air Force One.
I was especially concerned that the invitation encouraged us to “bring a blanket.” I’ve come to believe that the only good reason to have a blanket outside is to cover myself in the morning so I don’t have to put on pants while waiting for the dogs to make dead spots on the front lawn.
Despite these reservations, my youngest daughter was excited about seeing her school friends after missing them for an entire month, so I was determined to make the best of it — and earn some “I love you, even though you’re really grumpy and make rude noises” dad points. My two older daughters were conveniently “busy” that evening with their own friends, scorching my credit cards and overdosing on caramel macchiatos at a local coffee shop that I should own by now.
When we arrived at the event venue (the school parking lot and adjacent playground), I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by a covered pavilion with tables and chairs accompanied by succulent clouds of grilled hamburger smoke wafting in my direction. All was not lost! We wouldn’t have to use that darned blanket and eat on the ground like campers waiting in line for tickets to a Donald Trump rally. All I needed now was some central air conditioning, a recliner, my remote control and enough privacy to scratch in peace.
Shortly after our arrival, there was an announcement that the food was ready. This was getting better and better, and I only knocked over a couple of folks (namely my wife and daughter) making my way to the front of the line. The only bad part about being first in line was that once I sat down with my food, all of those other slowpokes had to walk past me, ogling my burger and moving their mouths in time with my chewing while they waited their turn.
After the burgers, we headed over to the snow cone booth for a dessert item that always manages to run down the back of my arm and drip from my elbow. But these were no ordinary snow cones. They were the fancy designer type with names like Lemon Bloom, Sweet Sunshine and Yeti Droppings. I chose one with a delicious mix of flavors described as “Juiced Pineapple and Cream of Coconut.” I did take issue with the official name of this flavor, though, especially when the dude taking my money shouted, “Get this man a HoneyMoon!”
My youngest daughter’s favorite parts of the event were the water activities, including a dunking booth and one of those giant inflatable water slides. After every kid there had gone through them about a hundred times each, the water in both ended up looking a lot like a Yoo-hoo chocolate beverage. And since we didn’t get the memo about bringing a towel or a swimsuit, we took most of the urchin runoff home with us in the car.
Family Fun Night turned out to be a lot of fun after all, and our daughter had a blast. So let me encourage you and your family to make some sandwiches, spread out a blanket, and have your own family fun night.
Just remember to crank up the A/C and keep the remote control handy.