The bubba-ification of the California kids
She'll drag you so far up in the hills that "Saturday Night Live" gets there the following Thursday. Your mother-in-law will serve venison with gravy and tomato dumplings - one of which you'll actually like. You'll huddle around a campfire as your brother-in-law fake menaces "we usually don't tolerate your type around here" and discover that Bud Light's not all that bad. Your kids will come home with strange accents after a week at Grandaddy's.
And then you'll come home one Sunday afternoon and she'll say, "You're going to a NASCAR race next weekend, and you're going to like it. The kids want to go."
Ay, you've heard that line many times. It's a version of what she always says when she's about to lay one on you that she suspects you're not going to like.
"Great," you'll respond sarcastically. "Do I get to grill like the hillbillies do?"
"Only if you buy me a camper before then," she'll respond. You think she's joking, but you're not sure.
You'll grouse and groan when she insists on dragging you out of bed before daylight when the race doesn't start until noon. You'll arrive at an ungodly 8:30 - really, what does this woman have against sleep? - walk through the parking lot, smell the food and wish you were grilling like the hillbillies were.
"It's a party!" your 4-year-old will exclaim with glee as six "hillbillies" of a variety of races and ethnicities pump their arms in agreement. "You're right, kid. It's a party!"
You'll make it inside the gates and figure out that your son and his half-dozen new friends were right. It is a party. Things are starting to look up - there's a Foreigner concert before the race and one concession stand offers kabobs and rice - though you don't get why your wife insists on renting scanners and head phones so you can eavesdrop on the drivers and crew chiefs.
You won't admit it, but your excitement shows when you battle your 6-year-old for the binoculars as the drivers are introduced. You decide that Tony Stewart is acceptable when your wife tells you he used to race Indy Cars - that's close enough to "real" racing for you, though still not Formula One.
Then the engines start and the drivers begin at a poky 60 mph. The pace car zips off the track, and your wife smiles because she knows what's coming.
ZOOM! Engines blast and the speeds rapidly near 180 mph on the straightaways. You're smiling now, too, and so are the kids between screaming "WOW!" It's one thing to hear about 180 mph speed. It's quite another to actually see it blurring past you.
"Oh my God. Oh. My. God. How do they do that?"
You're still marveling on the way home. The next morning, too.
How does any human being muster the courage, the concentration to drive 500 miles at that speed? "These people are just freaks," you say, and you mean it in a good way. "All the drivers in the world and there were only 42 able to do this today? That's something."
You're ready to buy tickets for next year's race. Maybe you'll even buy her that camper one of these days.
Copyright 2009 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.