14/52: Embedded

April 5, 2014

As the block of wood flew out of my hand, I felt the pain. One grain had not gotten the in-flight memo to keep its head down with tray table in locked position. As a result, it carved a canyon into my thumb with the conviction of a divine fingernail on stone tablet. ALL CAPS. My skin screamed. I eventually overcame the shock and assessed the damage. A quarter-inch splinter stuck in the center of my right thumb. I tried to pick it out, but my hasty throw had created enough acceleration to embed the sharp particle just past the reach of my fingernails. I went in to get the tweezers, searching frantically as blood bubbled up like oil struck by one of Daniel Plainview’s rigs. There would be more blood.

After several minutes, I eventually located a pair of tweezers, dug out the prick of an offender, and bandaged up the wound. As we drove down our mountain, I was excoriating myself for my mistake. There was no reason why I needed to throw that piece of wood. I could have walked it over, or just left it on the ground. Now we were past our scheduled departure time. My thumb was still throbbing. Every time I went to make a turn, the pressure applied to my thumb caused me to wince.

Thankfully, Alice and Elliot could not hear the conversation going on in my head, because the language wasn’t exactly kid-friendly. They were blissfully ignorant, pondering the possibilities of a family adventure. Well, Alice at least. Elliot was probably busy being astounded by his hands.

I remember when family vacations used to be all Hakuna Matata and fancy free. When I didn’t have to worry about holding the mail, packing enough wipes, and figuring out the jigsaw puzzle of suitcase arrangement. Back in the day, my biggest concern revolved around my brother letting me play his primitive Donkey Kong video game so I wouldn’t be stuck playing Oil Panic the whole trip.

Those were the days.

One of those carefree trips was particularly memorable. Between my third and fourth grade years, my family took a trip that went from Loma Linda to Nevada to Utah to Wyoming and then back home. I have no idea how long this trip lasted or why we ended up going, but I remember so much of it. The lights of Las Vegas. The allure of the slot machine. Playing Gauntlet for hours and hours at Circus Circus Hotel. Those stone formations in Bryce Canyon that looked like chess pieces carved by giants. Driving through Zion National Park as the rain came down, singing songs about McDonald’s food set to “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. Eating in Idaho just so we could try an Idaho potato. Taking a raft trip on the Snake River and buying the obligatory t-shirt that proclaimed “I Survived the Snake”. Worrying as my dad ignored the park ranger’s authoritative talk on maintaining safe distances from wildlife, all in the name of a moose picture. Waiting on the roads of Yellowstone as dozens of buffalo walked by our car. Seeing marmots for the first time and wanting to take one home. Driving up into Montana for the sole purpose of crossing another state off of our list.

I remember so much about that trip. I know there were a few unpleasant moments. We probably took a wrong turn a few times. One night, I got leg cramps and my parents rubbed my legs in the night. My brother and I probably fought. I’m pretty sure I got carsick. The food at Yellowstone was less than grand. But those moments are not the ones that my brain has chosen to inject with emotional preservatives.

Maybe that trip started my belief in the necessity of the family road trip. On our first major family road trip to Oregon last week, there were certainly inconveniences along the way. The splinter hurt throughout the trip. Elliot barely slept on the drive (though he was mostly pretty mellow). One day at the beach we were sandblasted, and another we were rained on. Portland left our shoes soggy and wet. Elliot screamed up the hill as we headed home.

This week, the kids came down with post-trip colds, which has made our re-entry pretty tough.

However, I’m rather optimistic that the slings and arrows of the road trip will not leave the most lasting impressions. It’s the good stuff that will stick. Catching foam bubbles on the beach. Finding clumps of starfish. Listening as my niece and daughter stayed up chatting past 11 o’clock. Singing “Hakuna Matata” with my nephew. Hot-tubbing with the four kiddos. Seeing friends and watching our kids begin a new generation of friendship. Singing along to “Eleanor the Elegant Elephant” with Caspar Babypants. Watching Elliot eat his first french fry in Tillamook. Watching Alice splash through Portland’s many puddles. Talking about music, harmonicas, and homelessness in Eugene. Feeling the love of family.

These are the splinters embedded below the surface, unable to be evicted with layers of dying skin.

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2 Responses to “14/52: Embedded”

  1. Debbie Says:

    How did I ever miss the fact that you were wounded? You certainly soldiered on bravely! Thanks for the memories.
    That was one fun time!


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