Posted by Danny
On Friday we headed to the mountains to cut a fresh Frazier Fir Christmas tree, an annual Tanner family tradition. Last year Jesse went with us and the two mountain men running the tree farm clearly thought we were a gay couple. I suppose that’s understandable, although he’s much too young for me. This year it was the girls, my in-laws and me.
We made reservations in a small motel near Elkin, NC. When we opened the door to our room, it sort of felt like the set of a seedy 1960’s movie; the brown paneling identical to our family basement on Berkshire Road where we played spin the bottle as kids – a game I’m sure my older brother introduced to the neighborhood gang. It certainly wasn’t me.
Stephanie immediately headed to the bathroom and within seconds an outlandish screech erupted from her gut, “Ewwww!!! A bug daddy! It’s enormous.”
“I swear. Where is he?”
“In the tub! Dad, get him.”
Why am I always the default exterminator?
As I headed toward the speckled blue tiled floor, Michelle smartly informed me that she wasn’t taking a shower until we got back home.
“I don’t see him Steph.”
“He’s in the tub!”
I was ready for a fight, pulling my boot off to squash him…but he was already dead. “Stephanie, I can’t believe you screamed like that, he’s not even alive.”
After bug fest, I returned to the room. The television was on top of the dresser and had a brown wooden frame. There was actually a round dial to control the volume. Michelle asked, “Is that a microwave?”
“No honey. That is a TV similar to the one I had as a child.” She looked troubled.
When you turned the channel, the current picture sort of rolled up the screen while the next channel bounced into place underneath – kind of like a slot machine. I was surprised not to find Greg and Marsha Brady on channel 5; after all, it was Friday night at 8 pm.
There was a rusty heater that didn’t work, built into the bathroom wall. “Is that an ash tray dad?”
“No. But we had those too when I was a kid.”
The curtains were held together with a hair clip. I told the girls they were welcome to use it to get gussied up for our tree expedition on Saturday; none took me up on the offer.
For me, the peak of the evening came at dinner. We ate at the restaurant in the front parking lot of the motel and the food was actually pretty good. There were three families dining and one left shortly after we arrived. Near the dance floor in the corner, a weathered fifty year old man belted out Clapton and Dylan while strumming his acoustic guitar. His tip jar eager for some action.
I remembered my occasional apprehension about dancing when Lisa was alive – I felt so conspicuous on a barren dance floor. When she died and I realized I could no longer hold her to music, I promised I would never pass up that opportunity again.
“Stephanie, you want to two-step?” I asked.
“I don’t think I know how.”
“That’s why I’m here.”
So Nana and Pops, the girls and I took advantage of the mirror ball. And when we finished, the other couple in the restaurant applauded. And I think Lisa did too.