Depending on how closely you’ve followed this column over the years, you might recall Ari’s friend, Ben.
Ben swallowed a baby carrot at our cottage a few years back, providing an entertaining evening in the local emergency room. The cottage has provided much fodder for this space over the years, as have the various kids who have crashed on my couches, emptied out my fridge and barfed in my shrubbery. A trip to the cottage simply turned out to be a touring road show of a Broadway hit: same show, different location.
I’m having a difficult time keeping up these days with who is away at school, who is away for work, and who is away at all. I marvel at how well they all keep in touch, with many of them flung across the country for months at a time.
Ben, he of the carrot, works out west now, fighting fires.
I have “kids” in Ottawa, Calgary, Mississauga, Florida, Toronto, still here in town and who knows where else. The gift of friendship they give each other benefits this mama in many, many ways. I always know when Ben is in my house because all I can hear is a deep, booming, “I love you, Lorraine!” from wherever that six-foot-six boy is standing. What can I say? He was raised right.
Ben has been home since Christmas and is packing up his truck as I type this. It’s a long drive back to Alberta, and his mother has been doing that mom thing and assembling a road trip kit while he spends his time enjoying the last moments before his next work hitch. I suspect this return trip will be a little tougher on him with a girl, Rebecca, now in the mix of things he must leave behind.
The kids did their usual celebration/farewell on Friday night: karaoke at their favourite pub. This is also their Christmas Eve tradition. A couple of drinks in someone’s rec room, then a walk, no matter the weather, to that place where everybody thinks they can sing and very few can. Taryn has promised me video of Ari singing; Ari keeps quashing the idea. I plan on prevailing.
I happened to glance out the front door the following morning in time to see Ben’s truck. He’d come over to say goodbye to Ari and Taryn, Rebecca in tow. I watched through the window but I didn’t go out; I like the hellos far more than the goodbyes.
Ari came back in as Ben pulled out of the court.
“Well, is he all set?” I asked.
“Yeah, pretty much. But remember all that stuff I told you his mom packed for the trip?”
“Sure,” I replied.
“Well, we demolished the chips last night, all of them. And she’d put in a bunch of chocolate Easter bunnies. Those are gone, too,” he smiled.
“He has a long trip; you guys are idiots,” I said calmly.
“Well, Brenda also put in a McDonald’s gift card for him, and a huge bottle of Tylenol. Like, that Costco party pack size of Tylenol.”
When I hear things like this, all I can remember is kids yelling, “you just don’t understand me!” at their parents. Sure we do. Chips, chocolate, McDonald’s and Tylenol.
“Gonna be a long trek across the country with just a McDonald’s gift card,” I laughed.
“Oh, it gets worse,” Ari assured me. “Ben just took the gift card and spent it all on chicken nuggets, then ate them all after we left the bar last night.”
Brenda, I love your boy. And bless you for solving all his headaches in spite of how many he’s given you.