Krista and I both suspected it was too good to be true. Like most families, we don’t go on vacation for several days without some sort of mishap or another: vomiting in the car during the journey to or from our destination, bee stings, predictable and mundane arguments over one forgettable thing or another.
A year ago presents a case-in-point. We’d enjoyed a wonderful week with my family at Brown County (Indiana) State Park and had averted meltdowns and the type of calamities that normally befall us. On a whim, as we departed the park to return home, we decided to stop briefly at the horse stables to say farewell to the trusty steeds who had carried us over miles of trails the previous few days. I parked the van and we all exited, but as I slammed my door shut I didn’t pause to notice that the youngest amigo had placed several fingers along the exposed jamb. The door actually clicked shut on his fingers and I expected to see bloody stumps when, several seconds and shrieks later, I opened the door. Miraculously, Luke’s digits were intact, though severely bruised. Equally miraculously, he quickly forgave me.
So it was with mild trepidation that we once again trekked home the other day after another splendid half fortnight with my parents, sisters, in-laws, nieces, nephew, et al. We had laughed, talked, hiked, cried, caught up—all quite enthusiastically and in large quantities. The amigos got along well with each other, were reasonably obedient, uniformly fun, and had even accepted with alacrity the responsibility of tending to (and entertaining) their younger kin. We swam and hiked, and rode horses through the maples and oaks and sycamores. Krista and I managed to get away alone for a date one evening, visited her college-days stomping grounds in Bloomington, and played some spirited and competitive doubles tennis. As we distributed hugs and goodbyes to the family members we were leaving behind on Friday morning, my better half (and then some) and I wondered: what shoe is going to drop…and when?
Our trip home was fairly uneventful. Oh, yes, we meandered through uncharted parts of Preble and Darke counties, thanks to the numerous road construction projects surrounding Greenville and, indeed, all of the Midwest as far as I can tell (more on that topic in next week’s column). Still, it was a smooth and easy three-hour ride, and we pulled into the garage in the early afternoon—with visions of a walk through the park and perhaps some tranquil gardening dancing through our heads. We entered the house, absorbed its mildly musty air, and carried the suitcases to the foot of the stairs.
And then my wife’s dejected-but-resolute voice: “Oh. My.” Her well-trained, gimlet eyes had spotted signs of flea “dirt” left by the repulsive little creatures (hereinafter “RLC’s”) who’d somehow gained access to our fully-indoor-and-thoroughly-medicated-to-prevent-precisely-this-sort-of-thing cat Graystripe. Krista continued her inspection and I assisted. She found some RLC’s throughout the house and sighed heavily. Having endured this once before as a kind-hearted optometry student who took pity on a neighborhood cat, she knew how this was going to go down and she kicked her plan into high gear. I dubbed it “Operation Annihilation.”
First, I placed a call to the vet who could provide us immediately with a new (and perhaps stronger) anti-flea medication to eradicate the RLC’s somehow surviving on Graystripe. Within an hour, that need was duly addressed. Check. Next, I contacted grandma—longsuffering, ever-giving grandma—and arranged for her to watch the amigos for the evening while we ticked off the other elements of Krista’s well-developed strategy. Check. Then we phoned an exterminator who agreed to spray the house the following morning, wiping out (we hope) the dastardly RLC’s who were hiding in our carpet, our baseboards, wherever, and (ewww) reproducing. Check. Finally, we gathered all the blankets, sheets, pillow cases, bed skirts, comforters, etc., etc., etc., and Krista laundered them, along with the already significant volume of dirty clothes accumulated over several days spent largely in a forest. This final item took all night, and then we bagged up the clean items and stored them in my car while the exterminator worked his magic.
I estimate that Krista washed somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 loads of laundry that night, and was almost cheery doing it. She was a machine, a model of efficiency and determination. She was Eisenhower during the Allied invasion, Michael Jordan in game 7 of a championship series, Amber Garrett downtown on a First Friday. But I grow lyrical.
Krista was fully immersed in Operation Annihilation and her innate determination combined with her obsessive-compulsive tendencies stimulated my admiration and wonder. And—almost—some sympathy for the hapless RLC’s who had foolishly invaded the domain of one Krista Lyn Schultz Swensen.
Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at email@example.com. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.