I should have suspected Mom had an ulterior motive when she suggested a ladies-only trip with my two sisters and me. “I’ll drive,” chirped my sister Susie. “Won’t this be fun? It’ll be just like all those family trips when we were growing up. Two adults and five children in the car for nine hours. Those were the days, right Mom?”

“Yes,” smirked Mom. “It will be just like that,” she said as she climbed into the back seat.

The look in her eyes and the tone of her reply made me uneasy, but I wasn’t sure why. I had a premonition of impending doom. It wasn’t long before I got my first clue.

We’d been on the road for less than a half-hour when Mom leaned over the seat and whined, “Are we there yet?” This question was repeated every eight minutes for two hours. The repetitive annoyance of it was surpassed only by the irritation of her next most repeated phrase, delivered as she bounced up and down, kicking the back of the driver’s seat. “I have to go potty.”

“Why didn’t you go before we left the house?” we asked.

“I didn’t have to go then,” she answered with a chuckle.

Soon the novelty of Mom’s paybacks began to wear off and tempers flared. Mom and my sister Carla got into an argument over seating positions in the back.

“I wanted that window,” whined Mom. “Why does Carla always get the best window?” she sniffed. “All the good stuff to look at is on her side.”

“What difference does it make?” barked Susie. “They’re both the same. And stop kicking my seat!”

“Ow!” shrieked Carla. “Mom pinched me!”

“Did not,” Mom said. “She started it.”

“No, I didn’t,” Carla snapped, “but I’m going to finish it.”


“Ow!” Slap. slap.

“All right!” I shouted. “Knock it off, you two!”

“Don’t make me pull over!” added Susie.

A wave of deja vu swept over me. It felt really weird to be on the receiving end.

When we reached the hotel, we unpacked in sullen silence. At least we three sisters did. Mom looked entirely too smug and self-satisfied.

“Okay, how are we going to divide the two rooms?” asked Susie. “Stop jumping on the bed, Mom. Now look what you’ve done. You’ve broken the lamp. Who’s going to pay for that? Denise and I will take this room. Mom, you room with Carla.”

“Why do you get to pick first,” wailed Mom. “Maybe Carla and I want this room. You always get the best room.”

“Mom,” I snapped, “the rooms are exactly the same. They’re mirror images. Oh, for heaven’s sake, stop the fake crying. You can have the room.”

Carla said during the night Mom got up six times, ate $200 worth of snacks from the wet bar, ordered room service at 3 am, then pretended she’d wet the bed.

“Are we having fun yet?” murmured Carla the next morning, glaring at Mom through bleary eyes swollen from lack of sleep.

Over the next few days, Mom ran through the stores and hid in the racks at the outlet mall, plugged up the hotel toilet, and refused to eat anywhere but McDonald’s, where she spilled her milkshake and threw a temper tantrum when she didn’t get the toy she wanted in her Happy Meal.

“I hope you’re happy, Mom,” I said as we packed for the trip home. “You’ve ruined our vacation.”

“Oh, really?” laughed Mom. “You know what they say about paybacks.”

“You’ve made your point, Mom. Can we finish this trip like responsible adults?”

“Not just yet,” she replied. “You haven’t gotten the whole picture.”

In the car, we had only a ten-minute reprieve before she began her now-familiar refrain.

“Are we there yet? Are we there yet? I have to go potty.”

“Didn’t I tell you to go before we left?” asked Susie, pulling into the next rest stop.

We watched glumly as Mom skipped toward the restroom. She could skip pretty well for an arthritic old lady. I wondered how good she would skip if I broke both her legs. Then I wondered if I would go to jail for even thinking of it.

“Hey, Susie,” I said, “Do you remember that news story about the vacationing family who stopped at a gas station and then drove off, forgetting one of their kids? I mean, they eventually remembered and turned around and got her.”

“Wait until she gets inside,” Susie said, revving the engine.”Okay, go! Now, now, now! Floor it!”I shouted. as the tires squealed across the pavement. We left skid marks halfway up the northbound ramp to I-75.

You know what they say about paybacks, Mom. Heh heh.


4 thoughts on “Traveling with Mom: It’s Payback Time

  1. Love this..brought back many memories. There weren’t minivans back then. Someone always got that blasted middle seat!!


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