After the late night yesterday, today was that unavoidable day on every road trip where a fog of listlessness slows time to a near halt. Lucas, ever the early morning Rooster, signaled the break of day at 6:15. Confirming the sun’s arrival by standing on the cot and unzipping the tent flap. Will slept until almost 10 despite the constant din of decamping RVs and Ford F-350 Super Duty’s pulling trailers.
It was approaching 90 degrees with high humidity by the time the boys finished their Quaker Oats Maple Sugar Oatmeal at 11. The plan for the day. Swim. Get Lucas some proper shoes. He remained and remains steadfast in his determination to never sit in the hiking backpack. Hike to Laurel Falls. A short but supposedly beautiful hiking loop in Great Smokie National Park.
We made it to the pool.
Then, things quickly fell apart.
A Google search revealed that Gatlinburg not only has more fudge shops but also more arcades, more Ripley’s-branded entertainment venues, and more old-fashioned themed photography shops than stores that stock kids shoes. The closest Walmart and shoe stores were 32 minutes away in Sevierville.
Family Dollar is down from the campground. We decided on a quick stop to see if they had kids shoes to avoid driving the half hour to Sevierville. We stepped out of the car. Will began wailing about the heat like a grief stricken Cubs fan after Steve Bartman interfered with Moises Alou’s catch in Game 6 of the 2003 National League Championship Series. Only girls shoes were stocked.
The Laurel Falls hiking plan was shelved.
We had lunch and headed to the Walmart in Sevierville. We might accomplish something yet. Both boys fell asleep immediately. I parked in the back of the Walmart parking lot and left the car running. It was about 3. I hit play on the latest episode of the Glen Show podcast. I woke up. A different episode was on. It was 5.
The boys were still asleep. Lucey’s shorts were now two-tone green. Light green on the outer half of the legs and hips and the area by the waistband. Dark green in the areas radiating from the pee-ner region. Will woke up. Then Lucas perked up. He was adamant he hadn’t peed his pants. He was wrong.
Post-naps and post-pee remediation things picked up.
We found Paw Patrol sneakers at the shoe store next to Walmart. They light up and he is very proud of them. He refused to take them off once they were on. The cashier at Shoe Dept Encore asked to confirm the size on each shoe. Lucey to the clerk: “Why? They came from the same box.” I love this kid.
A kid from Indiana we met at the pool told us the day before about a trampoline adventure park in nearby Pigeon Forge that had climbing walls and an American Ninja Warrior-style obstacle course.
We hadn’t really done much all day. But a bit of vitality had returned to us. We weren’t hungry. We have settled into an 11AM breakfast, 2PM lunch, and 9PM dinner schedule. So we headed over to TopJump Trampoline.
It was awesome.
And then it wasn’t.
Will ran up to me crying and saying that a kid in a white t-shirt had headbutted him in the nose. No bleeding. “Maybe we play with someone else.”
He went back to playing.
Or so I thought.
But my boys are like the mafia. You take Lucey’s Hot Wheels car at daycare and the next day Will will tell the teacher “that he needs to speak with Eva.” The presumed thief. Then they begin plotting and scheming to surreptitiously get the car back.
The next thing I see from the parent observation bridge is Will and Lucas on top of the kid wrestling with him in the foam block pit. By the time I get down to the pit, Lucas is crying. A punch in the nose.
I speak with the kid. No parent around.
Lots of low-level verbal back and forth between the boys and this kid.
Time for the blue wristbands group expires. Will, Lucas, and I are walking out.
Lucas takes a detour on our way out. He has to verbal settle the kid’s hash one last time.
We get to the car once Lucas is satisfied that he has fully settled the kid’s hash.
Will is ecstatic. He has his first “archenemy.”
He has to FaceTime his mom. He can’t wait to tell Arjun. He has an archenemy!
On FaceTime with Jenny while I drive to dinner.
“That is soooo great, honey.”
“Tell me more. What is his name?”
“I am so happy for you. An archenemy.”
“That is great.”
Frog legs! Will has wanted to try frog legs since I told him the strangest things I have eaten is frog legs and cow’s tongue. Last night was the night. The place. Huck Finn’s Catfish in Pigeon Forge.
“They taste like chicken.” Will.
“Why are you taking the breading off?” Me.
“Because I am Keto.” Will.
“What are these?” Lucas.
“This is the only thing I want for dinner.” Lucas.
Two happy boys. Will with a plate of frog legs devoured in short order. Lucas still eating his last hushpuppy when we hit the camp bathroom after stopping to get ice and driving a half hour back to the campground. Refusing to relinquish it even when he was peeing.
Every day with the kids has its own rhythm. If you don’t fight it, sometimes the day comes to you. A listless day turned into an evening of smiles and laughs.