It had been a chilly hike, but we were finally all bundled back into our mini van and headed on our way to find food for the evening. One child sneezed in the backseat and was quickly handed a napkin. Another hugged themselves and shivered.
“I’m sorry it was so cold and muddy!” I yelled into the back of the car, “But that was fun though, wasn’t it?”
Their mother smiled and turned in her seat. “And just wait. Someday we are going to go on a vacation to some place warm. We will go on a hike in short sleeves and we will never get cold. The sun with shine down and we will hold hands and smile. We can walk along the beach and lay down in the ocean. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”
Lydia’s cold nose shriveled into a wrinkled prune and she groaned, “Ugh! I don’t want to go to the beach. I want to go on a vacation to Antarctica!”
Andrea and I both waited for the other to find a response. Finally after several seconds we both spoke at once, “What?”
“I want to go to Antarctica!”
“Why would you want to go to Antarctica? That literally sounds like the worst vacation ever.”
She sighed, as if we were the densest people on the face of the Earth, and said with an audible roll of her eyes, “Because there are polar bears there, Dad?”
“Oh. Well. Actually there are no polar bears in Antarctica, and if there were that would actually make the vacation a million times worse. There is really not much in Antarctica other than penguins.”
Her face lit up. “Penguins!? We have to go! Can we go?”
We were at the restaurant now, and everyone was beginning to unbuckle from their car seats. As I helped her out of her straps I calmly played my Dad card and said, “We’ll see, sweetheart. We’ll see.”
But in my mind I did see. I saw our family stepping off of a plane onto a frozen lake in Antarctica, each of us bundled in heavy fur coats, the wind from the airplane props tossing our hoods back and exposing our foreheads to the threat of immediate frostbite. We stomped forward in heavy black boots and were greeted by a wall of friendly smiling penguins. We stared at each other in silence as the plane taxied away and took off behind us. “Squawk!” said one of the penguins, in a friendly sort of way. “Squawk!” we replied kindly. Then, out of the swirling wall of snow and icy cliffs beyond them we saw the undeniably familiar shapes appear and begin to rush upon us at a gallop. We were about to all be eaten by a family of polar bears.