Last weekend I took Franny and Luca to the beach. We retraced the steps of vacations we’d taken to the same spot, years earlier, before Luca went to live with his dad, and then to residential.
The beach town we visit is not exactly the Riviera. It boasts some sketchy shops, brain-fried surfers, and is famous for its other-worldly sand dunes. The sand dunes that Luca loves to traverse, atop an ATV.
My friend Laurie and her daughter Hermoine joined us on the trip, but wanted nothing to do with sand dunes and ATVs. They planned an excursion to a tony hamlet up the coast, a destination spot where you can buy art and $30 bottles of raspberry-infused balsamic vinegar.
My kind of place, yes, but not Luca’s.
So I rented ATVs for Luca, Franny and me. We sat through the obligatory safety video giving tips on how not to kill yourself. We put on our sunglasses and helmeted up. The ATV rental guy gave us a brief tutorial on how to operate the ATVs.
“Kids are supposed to stay in their parents’ line of sight,” the rental guy told me.
“Uh-huh,” I said, watching Luca and Franny speed across the path to the dunes.
I white-knuckled the handle bars, gasping and wincing as I bounced along the path, which eventually led to an enormous bowl of sand, riddled by insidious, Mars-like craters.
Luca and Franny zoomed over the dunes and idled next to me.
“Mom! What took you so long?” Luca screamed over the roar of the engines.
“This is miserable!” I screamed back.
“It feels better if you go faster!” Luca shouted.
I puttered along after Luca and Franny, my brains joggling with every bounce. I stopped on top of a ridge of dune.
“The dunes are much better over there,” Luca motioned with his head.
I stared down a sparkling white cliff.
“No way am I going down that.”
“I don’t wanna do it!” I whimpered.
“Mom, you’re being a weenie. Just follow us!”
“You’re supposed to stay where I can see you!” I shouted after my children, who quickly became two specks in the sandy distance.
I sat atop the ridge for a moment, weighing the odds of making it down alive. I decided the odds were not in my favor.
I spent the next two brain-joggling hours bouncing and careening and just barely averting disaster. Eventually it dawned on me that I was all alone.
I bounced back to the ridge where I had last seen my children. I surveyed the endless expanse of glittering whiteness. But I saw no children. Anywhere.
I bounced back down the path to the rental place. No, the rental guy said, my children had not returned.
“They’re supposed to stay where you can see them,” he snapped at me.
“I take it you don’t have a 16-year-old boy,” I snapped right back at him. “Can’t you send someone to look for them?”
“We don’t have anyone to do that. Besides, it’s like, 1500 acres of dune out there,” he said casually.
I paced up and down on my rubbery legs, chasing away visions of two pairs of arms and legs poking through mounds of sand.
After fifteen minutes of agony, I saw Luca and Franny zoom up the crest of the path.
“You were supposed to stay where I could see you!” I screamed over the roar of their engines.
Luca yanked off the ignition and pulled off his helmet.
“Mom…you should have just followed us. It was only a 5-foot drop, but you were all ‘I don’t wanna do it!'” he laughed at me. LAUGHED.
I glared at his freckled accomplice.
“You probably could have done it, Mom,” said Franny, who at least had the grace to appear sheepish.
“‘I don’t liiike it,'” Luca imitated me, as we rode in the shuttle back to our car. “I don’t wanna doooo it!'”
I looked at Franny, who couldn’t suppress some giggles.
“I don’t liiiike it! I don’t waaaanna dooo it!'”
I snorted in spite of myself. And then the three of us broke out cackling.
Today, I’m thankful that we all survived the ATV ride.