74. One Crappy Road Trip

74. One Crappy Road Trip

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Family Matters

One Crappy Road Trip

I don’t like boys. They’re kind of annoying.

~Michelle Wie

Anyone who’s raised a boy or grown up with brothers can relate to the car trip I recently endured. Once in his life, every boy discovers a word, which from the first time he hears it completely enchants him. For my five brothers, it was the word “booger.” For my son, Hewson, it’s “turd.”

In the late 1960s, there was nothing funnier to my brothers than taking any sentence (song title, slogan, whatever I just said) and slipping “booger” in place of another word. I can still hear them crooning, “I’m looking over a four-pound booger,” and then collapsing in laughter in the back seat where I was trapped with them for our annual endurance trip from Kansas City to New Orleans and back.

The more they used their word, the harder they laughed. The harder they laughed, the madder I got. I caught a glimpse of my parents once in the rearview mirror as they pretended to scold my brothers while snickering to each other. I felt completely betrayed.

Now I’m the mom of four kids, including one red-blooded eight-year-old boy and one far-too-serious eleven-year-old sister. As much as I’ve tried to reason with her and explain, “If you don’t let him get to you, he’ll get bored and stop saying it,” she doesn’t listen any more than I did.

Last Thursday, the three of us piled into the car and set out in search of a new minivan. It wasn’t Kansas City to New Orleans, but for my daughter, Molly, it might as well have been, as Hewson set about using his newfound word with a gusto that would’ve made his uncles proud. He began with highway signs: “Turds May Ice in Cold Weather,” “Turd Limit 70,” “Caution: Falling Turds,” and my own personal favorite, “Highway Workers, Give Them a Turd.”

Molly’s pleas of “MAAA-MAAA, make him stop!” started a tug of war inside me. On one hand, I remember too well the booger days of the 1960s. On the other, when I looked from my new vantage point in the rearview mirror and saw the impish look on Hewson’s freckled face as he sang out, “Unlawful to Turd and Authorized Turds Only,” I felt a laugh boiling up inside me. I thought about my brothers singing, “She’s Got a Booger to Ride,” took a deep breath and told Hewson, “All right, buddy, enough turd talk for a while. Find something else to do.”

He did for a few miles, but then we hit a populated area and the billboards began. A national motel chain offered “Free Continental Turds.” An airline invited customers to “Come Turd with Us.” I disguised a chuckle as a cough.

Molly turned red in the face. “Mom, I’m going to clobber him if he doesn’t shut up!”

We passed a truck warning, “Caution Wide Turds.”

Another truck offered “Quality Refrigerated Turds.” A good one!

“Mom, aren’t you going to say anything?”

I swallowed repeatedly, made myself think of something sad, and tried changing the subject. “Whatcha reading there, Sis?”

She cut her brother a look and held up the book in her lap. “It’s for school. A collection of poems by Edgar Allan Poe.”

“Oh,” Hewson retorted, “Turdy Allan Poe. I’ve heard of him.” And then he broke into a rousing rendition of “Hail to the Turd.” (Better than “Turd to the Chief,” I thought. But I didn’t say it.)

We passed through a “No Turd Zone” and a car with an “I Brake for Turds” bumper sticker. That’s when Molly walloped Hewson. He didn’t miss a beat, “Caution… Steep Turds Ahead.” She punched him again. I tried to referee from the front seat.

“Molly, if you’ll stop pounding your brother, I’m sure he’ll stop talking turd for a while. Right, buddy?” Nobody heard me.

“Yield to Oncoming Turds.” POUND!

“Center Lane for Turds Only.” POUND!

“This Turd Stops at All Railroad Crossings.” DOUBLE POUND!

I threatened to “Pull this car over and you’ll both be sorry.” I was talking to myself. That’s when I saw it, clearly written on the passenger side mirror: “Turds in Mirror Are Closer Than They Appear.” No, I couldn’t. I owed it to Molly, to sisters everywhere, to take her side on this. I willed myself to remember how badly I’d wanted to open the back door of our old Impala and kick my brothers out onto the highway.

The fray in the back seat continued as we turned off the interstate and into a residential neighborhood, “Slow, Turds at Play.”

“I’m gonna kill him, Mom. I MEAN it!”

“Quiet! Turd Zone.”

“All right, I warned him.”

“Fines Higher in Turd Area.”

“Mom, you’re just gonna let him say it?”

No more signs, but Hewson was on a roll.

“A turd in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

“Yeah,” I thought, “the early bird gets the turd.”

I tried my hardest to conjure up a picture of my brothers after we got home from New Orleans and they recruited a few neighborhood boys in singing, “The booger, my friend, is blowing in the wind.”

“Got turds?” Hewson asked.

“The squeaky turd gets the grease,” I thought.

That was last week. Molly hasn’t killed her brother yet, and we still haven’t found a new minivan. We’re setting out to shop some more today. Things aren’t looking too good, though. I can hear Hewson in his room getting ready by singing, “Who let the turds out? Who? Who?”

~Mimi Greenwood Knight

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