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Smell the Coffee: Going the extra mile for my girl

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It was the last thing I wanted to do. Or so I thought.

This past Monday was my daughter's 15th birthday. The only thing Celeste wanted was a ticket to the Vans Warped Tour, an all-day series of concerts that was scheduled for the day after her birthday.

In Cincinnati.

One of Celeste's best friends was going and asked if she'd like to go too. The tickets weren't too awfully expensive, so I went online and in a few minutes, had her present picked out, paid for and printed.

So how many years am I going to have to spend in this life of mine to know that nothing can ever be so simple?

Sometime in the afternoon on Celeste's birthday, the mother who had agreed to take the girls to Cincinnati found out she couldn't go.

The girls were crushed. Especially my girl.

On her birthday.

Had it been any other day, I'd have told her to suck it up and deal, but this had me turned inside-out. She asks for so little. Wanted this so much. I needed to find a way to make it work.

But taking her myself wasn't easy. My car is a relic. It transcended being "older" and slipped into "vintage" awhile back, meaning it wasn't reliable enough for two 3 1/2-hour drives in one day. Making matters worse -- at least for the status-conscious teens -- my car is a station wagon. If there was a symbol for uncool, it would be shaped like a wagon.

Fortunately, my ex-husband, Mitch, offered to let us use his convertible, though the girls made me promise not to put the top down until the trip home. There were hairstyles to consider.

By the time we hit the road Tuesday morning, we'd added a few additional passengers. Along with me and Celeste were two more girls and a boy. The boy was an interesting one. He correctly used the word "verisimilitude" in a sentence, thereby endearing himself to me in a way I doubt few teen boys could manage.

But he was interesting in more ways than that. When I stopped to get gas, he and the three girls ran across the parking lot to a nearby McDonald's, but stopped at a fruit stand on the way. Where he bought a watermelon.

This wasn't a small melon he purchased, but a big, heavy sucker. Upon which they'd soon drawn a face. And bestowed upon it a name.

Juaquîn Da Melon went to the concert with them. While there were many restrictions on what was allowed on concert grounds, it turns out that there were no restrictions on fruit.

There probably will be next year.

Juaquîn had a day unlike that of any other melon in history, I expect. He was photographed in a variety of situations, starred in multiple videos, and crowd-surfed.

But then, just two bands before the end of the night, Juaquîn met a violent end on the pavement, his broken and badly mangled carcass then cannibalized by those who had, only moments before, been celebrating his presence. Fistfuls of his innards were callously flung about the crowd, prompting a frenzied food fight. A sticky end to the evening.

Just that morning, before leaving home, each girl had doused herself in a different scent of body lotion, and their hair was stiffened to a crisp by hairspray and mousse. So the drive down was fragrant.

The fragrance coming home was something else entirely. They'd spent nine hours in shoulder-to-shoulder conditions in 90-degree heat. Sunscreen and bug spray had been added, and over the course of the day, they'd been doused with thrown foods and snow cones and an assortment of drinks. Those teenagers were ripe.

Even with the convertible top down, there were times I welcomed the relief provided by the many flattened skunks we passed over.

It was after midnight before we made it home. I'd spent much of the day driving in Ohio, land of illogical street sign placement and a well-earned reputation for slow drivers being overly fond of the left lane. I'd talked my way out of a speeding ticket, been lost several times, spent more money than I'd planned. Had taken a day off work during our busiest time.

I collapsed into bed, still wearing my clothes, thinking how it had started out being the last thing I'd wanted to do. And how three simple words had made it worthwhile.

"Best birthday ever."

Reach Karin Fuller by email at karinfuller@gmail.com.


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