When the cat’s away, the boys will play

op frWe had been dreading it all week, and now, as we stood there on a brisk Friday morning waiting on the school bus in front of our mailbox, my seven-year-old son and I had time to confront the reality of it: a weekend without the women.

Mother and daughter were leaving for the weekend to go on a Girl Scout camping trip, leaving the boys to fend for ourselves for approximately 48 hours. What would we do without them? Would we remember to eat? Keep the house in reasonable order? Attend to basic hygiene?


“Dad, what are we going to do this weekend? Seriously, what are we going to DO?”

He didn’t sound anxious so much as mystified by the prospect of a weekend without his mother’s or older sister’s loving, if more or less perpetual, direction.

“Don’t worry about it, bud,” I said. “We’ll muddle through.”

Mother and daughter hadn’t been on the road more than an hour or so before the inevitable string of text messages began to arrive. I responded to each one of these with a variety of reassuring phrases, all of which could be translated as, “Don’t worry; it’ll be OK.”

After school, once the weekend proper had finally begun and the women were long gone, the first thing we decided to do to kick it off was to play a few games on the Wii. I got waxed in a three-point shooting contest, got hammered in baseball, but took some measure of revenge by winning at the “old man sports:” bowling and golf.

By now, we were beginning to get a little hungry, but instead of settling for some combination of cereal, fruit cocktail, and Reese’s Cups (the bachelor’s definition of a balanced meal, especially if you throw in bourbon as the fourth food group) for “dinner,” I decided that we would go to the grocery store and shop for a proper hot meal, one I would prepare.

On the drive to Ingles, I was feeling pretty satisfied with myself as I pictured my wife in the drive-thru at Taco Bell ordering $28 of food, when I was taking the initiative to make an actual meal.

We had a pretty good time at Ingles, where we ended up creating a spontaneous and creative grocery list. Chicken nuggets, tater tots, cashews, Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey and Cherry Garcia, black corn chips and guacamole dip, Twizzlers, Asian pears, bananas, and chocolate-covered cherries.

“Your mom never shopped like THAT,” I

boasted to my son as we assembled these items in a crooked train on the conveyer belt.

We got home, and I made a hot, nutritious meal of chicken nuggets (protein), tater tots (vegetable) and fruit cocktail (fruit, duh), which we consumed on my bed while watching reruns of my son’s new favorite show, “Pawn Stars.” We watched three or four episodes, including the one where Corey and Chumlee buy a hot-air balloon off a guy for $38,000, setting off a rift between father and son when Rick scolds Corey for spending that much money without his prior approval. Rick tries to get his money back, forcing Corey to apologize to the seller, who, in the end, does not give the money back but does offer to provide “free” lessons in how to fly the balloon.

“Do you see that, Jack?” I said. “There’s an important lesson there.”

“Yep,” said Jack. “I would not ride in that balloon. Can we have ice cream now?”

Even though I stayed up late watching the Lakers game on the west coast after Jack drifted off to sleep, we were “up and at ‘em” by 10 a.m. or so the next morning. “Are you ready for some exercise?” I said.

“Putt putt?” said Jack.

“You got it,” I said. “And then off to the driving range.”

After our morning exercise, we went to see an animated movie, and then came home to watch a fascinating medley of college football games while dining on pizza, pizza and more pizza. In between our third and fourth slice, the women called, and we exchanged stories of our respective days like little gifts, unwrapping them slowly with love and care to expose every part of the contents.

“Tell the truth,” said mom. “You guys don’t even miss us, do you?”

“Are you kidding?” I said, nudging the enormous pizza box across the bed toward Jack, indicating he should try another slice. “We’re lost without you.”

“Dad?” said Jack, after he finished his fourth slice. “Can we have an ice cream sundae and watch an episode of ‘Pawn Stars’?”

Educational television and dairy. Good for the mind, good for the bones.

The women won’t be home until tomorrow afternoon, and though we miss them, miss them, miss them, we’re holding our own here on the home front, wondering, maybe, if there is another mother/daughter Girl Scout outing scheduled for the spring. Two guys left home alone during baseball season? The very idea.

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