When you are raising a teenager it is easy to let them pull away, encourage them to seek social relationships with their peers, to give them plenty of space and to pull back as well. Over President’s Day weekend I was reminded of the role of a parent in creating memories and traditions. When my daughter was around age 10, we decided to make President’s Day a mother/daughter get-away. We would venture a few hours away from home, stay at a bed and breakfast and spend the time together, hiking, shopping, talking, watching our favorite movies, and having someone else makes us our morning meal. The last couple of years, my daughter’s commitments and my schedule got in the way of getting away. This year, on the Friday night of the three day weekend my daughter asked me if we were going away.
“Do you want to?” I asked.
“I guess so.”
That is as close as a parent is going to get to an enthusiastic affirmation from a teenager. I quickly checked the availability of various bed and breakfasts and either they were booked or they were out of our meager price range. Finally, I found a one-night stay in our price range and we threw our clothes in a single overnight bag and set off for our destination. Living in Seattle, you can feel miles away by driving less than an hour, taking a ferry, and heading to either an island or another shore.
When traveling with a teenager a time honored rule of thumb is that you will have a better conversation if you don’t make direct eye contact (perfect for driving) than if you try and have a heart-to-heart eyeball to eyeball. Teenagers think that their parents can peer into their soul, so the profile-to-profile conversation without eye contact works wonders. Somehow our late departure avoided the holiday ferry back up and we made our way onto the car deck without wait or delay. Our upper deck amusement was provided by a new fangled vending machine that sucked down my $1.50, robotically slid the vending cup under the nozzle for hot chocolate. My daughter was thrilled with the miracle of comfort until she realized that although it smelled like hot chocolate, all it dispensed was something that resembled dirty dishwater. I was then sent as her emissary (yes, that is the teenage parent role) to get remedy and a refund. She could overhear me debating with the “galley” staff about the bureaucracy of not being able to refund the money because they were an independent vendor and the machines belonged to the state. I would have to write a letter to the state ferry system. And yes, I could spend another $2.00 to use their hot chocolate machine. I decided that this was an opportunity for a life lesson. My teenage daughter could go without.
An hour later, we pulled up at the Blue Gull Inn, a Victorian house that had raised three daughters and now was converted into a bed and breakfast. We rang the bell and were escorted to our room – the Teddy Bear Suite. We were reminded how lucky we were to get their last room. We were relieved that only one teddy bear was in the room staring at us and we discussed how we could turn him around at night so he wouldn’t be watching us sleep. That ritual is a hold over when I would have to put all my daughter’s stuffed animals in her closet and shut the door every night so they wouldn’t watch her sleep. We stashed our single overnight bag and made our way down the narrow stairs to find freshly baked cookies waiting for us in the foyer. Every day should start out with warm chocolate chip cookies that someone else baked for you.
We bundled up and walked downtown to check out the shops and to see what had changed in the town since our last visit. Every summer since third grade my daughter has spent time in this seaport village as part of her choir camp. It is their big excursion to come off of the remote camp village and into town to fritter away whatever spending money they had cajoled out of their parents. She could instantly tell which shops were no longer there (a lesson in today’s economy) and which were stalwarts, giving predictability and permanency to the retail core. It was late, so we browsed some of our favorite shops and made note of where to go the next day. We opted for pizza for dinner and I let my daughter chose one of her favorite places. Over dinner we discussed the secret to happiness and didn’t come to any conclusion except that we were happy that we found a place that would make our pizza half cheese and half pepperoni.
We bundled up and walked back to our B&B to find the house pretty quiet. We went to the game table (no TV or electronics in sight, thank goodness) and I let my daughter pick her pleasure. Out of the corner of my eye I saw her slide out Monopoly from the bottom of the stack and I thought to myself that it is going to be a long evening. I stole away to the dining room and wrapped four chocolate chip cookies in a napkin and we tip-toed up the stairs to our room. We put the Monopoly box in the middle of the bed, moved “Teddy” to his designated place on the dresser facing the wall, doled out our decadent cookies with a cool glass of water on each bed stand (alas, no milk) and lifted the lid to start our play.
“Mom, this is the best day ever! Look, it’s not only Monopoly in here, but Candy Land as well.”
I was amused by her excitement for the pre-school game and I thought perhaps our marathon evening was saved by the sweet confection of colored cards and delightful destinations. We could play Candy Land instead. So, we set up Candy Land and I reviewed the rules and we determined we would take the “challenging” approach that required the exact color card to “win.” Oh, how the parental mind forgets. If you haven’t played Candy Land of late, there is no skill, just chance of the draw, and the warm feeling of being sent to various delectable spots on the game board to make you oblivious of what the end objective is. That is until you’ve been perilously close to King Kandy and sent back to visit Plumpy for the umpteenth time. I even mumbled close to an obscenity about Queen Frostine as our playtime ticked on past an hour. Candy Land is a great social experiment. It tests temperament, competitiveness, ethics, personal values and best of all whether a real cookie can overcome the agony of defeat. I consumed all my cookies as I was sent on a wild goose chase. The feeling of winning, even if it is based on random chance is all-powerful, especially if you are a winning teenager who can lord it over the parent sulking in the Candy Cane Forest, so far away from the finish line.
I was certain that we could end our evening with the sickening win of Candy Land, but that made my daughter more determined than ever to take her mother to the cleaners with Monopoly. She easily forgot that I have won every Monopoly face-off to date, and I have to admit my competitive nature ignored that the clock already was nearing the 10pm bedtime hour. So Candy Land was replaced by Monopoly as I became banker and we chose our play pieces. I chose the dog rather than my usual shoe, and my daughter chose the iron. With only two players, the rule that whoever has Boardwalk and Park Place wins goes out the window. We made play more interesting by putting all the funds levied by “Chance” and “Community Chest” in the middle of the board and any player landing on “Free Parking” got the financial bonanza. So, I became the utility and railroad tycoon as well as garnering the purple properties and the yellow ones. My daughter took the orange and green properties, we split Park Place and Boardwalk. Two hours later or sometime past midnight, I had accumulated all the $500 bills from the bank (the directions give you permission to print your own money if you run out, but we had no paper), my daughter had mortgaged all her properties, and I announced that I had won. My daughter tells the story a bit differently, she insists that she forfeited in order to give her mother her beauty sleep.
We nestled Candy Land and Monopoly back into its singular box, and hit the lights as visions of Gum Drop Mountains and towering red hotels danced in our heads. As far as our mother/daughter getaway is concerned, we are back on track with a tied record for Candiopoly. Next year, Gramma Nut look out!