City boys never cease to amaze me. My husband in particular.
Although he’s athletic, he’s not a crazy “heli-anything” type of daredevil. He used to shower before he went for a run – so he would start off fresh and clean. He still refuses to run in the rain – because he’ll get wet. And he drives like a maniac. I’ve teased him for years. To me, these peculiarities are strictly reflections of his city upbringing. Unlike him, I was a suburb-fed Air-Force brat. Scrapped-up knees, being grungy, running in the rain and polite driving remain my badges of honor. They are not “ewwww’s” to be avoided at all costs.
Now don’t get me wrong. I am not accusing Armon of being a metrosexual. He stops well short of that. He rarely gets a pedicure (unless I guilt him into it), doesn’t carry a man-bag (thank God), loves to throw his clothes on the floor (much to my chagrin) and has yet to resort to laser hair removal.
So with this backdrop, let me tell a quick story about Armon and something he did while we were in New Zealand. It made me fall in love with him all over again. Indeed our trip has been as much about falling in love as re-discovering life, ourselves and being a family.
Close your eyes and picture this:
Our red Corolla, Armon driving on the right-hand side of the car, left side of the road (we were in New Zealand). Me sitting next to him. Talia behind me. Judah behind Armon. We were on our way to the beach on a perfectly temperate and sunny Hawkes Bay day. A picture of familial bliss.
We had just set off to discover Ocean Beach, Hawkes Bay which was on the other side of “town”. We’d heard great things about it and were mentally prepped for the 45 minute or so drive. Why do I say prepped? Because car travel is not our family’s forte. It’s not that Armon is a bad driver, quite the opposite. He may be a tad aggressive behind the wheel, but he’s more than capable. The preparation has more to do with being mentally equipped and ready to deal with our kids and their juvenile version of road rage.
I am trying to think of the right way to describe our typical automobile-foray though I am not sure I have the words to do it justice. Let me try this: while our kids have been rock-stars on airplanes, in cars they are more like stinging hornets. They buzz, then buzz louder and louder and louder until full-on chaos erupts and a fight ensues. Tensions escalate. Someone always ends up in tears. And it’s just as likely to be me or Armon as one of the kids.
Then Talia gets car sick.
A car-ride devoid of screaming, kicking, fighting, yelling, punishment and puke is a car-ride devoid of our family.
Anyway, I digress. Back to why I love Armon.
So we are driving. Zipping down the country New Zealand lane toward the beach. Up and down the rolling hills. In and out of the sun-drenched and tree-dappled roads that sing “country summer day.” Despite the beauty that surrounds us, the kids are starting to get cranky and Armon and I whip out our most oft used ammo. A rousing game of “I Spy”. This game typically does the trick (at least temporarily), but on this quiet New Zealand roadway “I Spy” presents its own set of challenges.
I Spy something Green. Grass.
I Spy something White. Sheep.
I Spy something Brown. Cows.
I Spy something Blue. The sky.
I Spy something Red. Our Car.
I Spy something Green. Trees.
I Spy something White. Sheep.
There are only so many rounds you can play when sheep, cows, grass, trees, sky are the vast majority of your arsenal. We rarely see another car (with 4 million people and 40 million sheep, go figure). After roughly ten iterations the kids are starting to understand that “I see something white” means there’s more sheep on the horizon. And then we saw her. On the road, just in front of us. Another person! One of the 4 million that live in this country. She was out walking her….her turkey?!?!?!
We whiz by.
Armon slams on his brakes while he simultaneously stutters, “Th, th…that was a turkey!” The kids instantly stop bickering and start looking around for this newfound novelty. They’ve seen turkeys before (we had 3 on our Bridgehampton car hood last August). However, a turkey in New Zealand is a welcome diversion.
In reverse now… Armon rolls down his window so he can see this turkey and this woman more clearly. The kids are on their knees, I am all but breaking my neck – trying to catch a glimpse.
What happens next should not be a surprise to anyone who knows Armon.
While the car is still moving in reverse, he leans out of his window and smirks, “Nice turkey you got there. Going for a morning stroll?” He then shifts back to “drive”, ready to take off again before the kids tire of the novelty. Just before he hits the gas the stranger defensively responds, “Yes, well it’s not really my turkey and there are several more just here…and um, they are stuck…”
And so our adventure began.
It turns out that it was a wild mommy turkey out for a walk with her babies. The woman had come across them about an hour earlier and had been trying in vain to rescue them. This particular turkey family was in a state of distress because it was trapped on the road. On one side of the pavement, a sharp hill rose skyward. And while the mom could navigate it, her little ones could not. They kept falling back onto the pavement every time their mom started her ascent. On the other side of the road was a barbed wire fence that her babies could get through, but she could not. This mommy turkey had somehow managed to get herself and her family into this predicament and she was unable to devise an escape.
Armon did what few city boys would do at this juncture and in so doing once again became my hero. You guessed it, he helped save the turkeys. Out of the car. Into the boot. He gathered up his poultry-saving tools – standard issue flip-flops and beach towel – and he set off to get the job done. In doing so, he proved that Manhattan-raised lads have the potential to be Eagle Scouts as well. And while the NRA would surely be disappointed, vegetarians everywhere should rejoice.
The kids and I stayed in the car while he corralled the family flock and then herded them through the fence; helping mom to navigate through the metal barbs. “Yea, Daddy!” “Go Daddy!” cheered out of the Corolla and swirled into the country air.
The woman was thrilled, relieved and thankful as she resumed her walk. I was pleasantly surprised and quietly pleased at my hubbie’s display of chivalry. Talia and Judah were proud of their heroic papa too. And off we went.
Our elevated energy lasted roughly 3 minutes. The kids were fighting again and we were about to resume “I Spy” as we climbed the last few remaining hills before descending down to the beach. However, our luck was still playing out. Rounding one more turn, we nearly ran into a herd of cows out for their morning stroll. They were being herded by a few sheepdog and a farmer with his tractor. Another needed and fun 2-minute diversion.
We were nearly to the beach when our luck did run out.
Talia threw-up. Everywhere. On the floor, on her seat, on her dress, everywhere. I can tell you this; French toast the second time around in not nearly as scrumptious as the first. Yuck. I instinctively jumped out of the car and got her to some fresh air. I also popped open the boot and grabbed the first towel I could find. It, of course, was the Turkey towel and it was covered in road-side shrapnel and sticky, thorny thistles. A nauseous 5-year-old and prickly weeds are a toxic combination. Other than taking her mind off the fact that she’d just lost her breakfast, the thistles just made things worse. But we persevered (being the Eagle-scout, industrious Manhattanites that we are) and were back on the road once the tears (mine) subsided.
A few more zigs and zags later we reached a plateau, made one more turn and came face to face with the most luxuriously long, breathtakingly beautiful beach. We descended to sea-level with dropped jaws and big eyes. Other than a small beach-side community on our right and perhaps another 20 beach-goers, we were soon to be alone on this massive stretch of sand and H2O. Ocean Beach boasts a fresh water stream that empties into it, breath-taking views in all directions and exciting surfer-friendly waves. Perfect for all ages. The only thing it lacks are the sticky crowds that lay, meander and mingle on most summer sands. Not a bad exchange in our book and Armon and I both agree – it is one of the top beaches we’ve been to thus far.
The kids agree.
P.S. – I obviously took creative liberties with this post, especially as it relates to Armon. I want to thank him for being such a great sport (he has run in the rain with me, at least once).