The Special Bouquet of Gummy Bears / by Brian Beck


There's always something when you travel with kids.  Whether it's a nosebleed in customs (the most recent trip), or a yeast infection (yes, I'm dealing with that one on this time around--doctor Dad is in the house), there's always something unexpected to keep it, shall we say... interesting.  There's one constant with my kids though, and it's motion sickness.  And my oh my, how nasty that can be.  

Samantha is the Jedi master of barf.  She sneaks up on you quietly, using the Force to her best advantage and then when you least expect it, hurls the most vile concoction of gastrointestinal effluent like a light sabre to your torso, leaving you stunned and shocked that you didn't see it coming.  She's managed to coat me on no less than 3 continents, in practically every car we've owned or rented.  There was the dried apricot episode in the Costa Del Sol of Spain, and who can forget the taxi ride to our hotel after a 14 hour flight from Heathrow to Mauritius whereupon we begged the taxi driver to pull over on the windy one lane roads through fields of sugarcane.  He didn't, and Samantha reciprocated the indifference with projectile vomit of half-digested blackberries.  His disgust was met by me with an equally insistent "I told you to pull over."  I doubt he'll make that mistake again.

The 2007 Virgin Airlines flight from LA to Heathrow was another standout.  Samantha held it together through an admittedly turbulent approach and landing, only to surrender the contents of her stomach into my lap as the plane taxied to the gate.  It was on that particular trip that I learned to always pack a change of clothes in my carry on bag.  I can't predict it or prevent it, but at least I'm prepared.

And those are just the highlights.  I now keep air sickness bags in the backseat as a precaution on every camping trip and while Samantha has matured not to the point of outgrowing the propensity to spill her guts--now she's at least able to get it into the bag--Parker has picked up the mantle with the eagerness of an apprentice hellbent on besting his master.

That's what he did on Friday afternoon.  After a brutal drive through the Central Valley with temperatures topping 104, and temperatures inside our vintage car beating that by a healthy margin, with a massive 389 V-8 heating up the air blowing through the vents, I succumbed to the incessant supplication from the back seat to stop and buy gummy bears.  I knew better, but the Jedi mind trick is effective on the weak.  They were so persistent that I broke down, perusing the candy aisle of the 7-Eleven and weighing the choices of Trolli, Haribo and Sour Patch Kids as a sommelier might pair wine with a diner's choice of main course.  I find that upon regurgitation, Trolli maintains a solid, if chunky, consistency with a bouquet of tropical fruit, while Haribo tends to semi-dissolve into sticky strands with aromas of ripe fruit and cassis.  We went with the Haribo.

A few minutes after entering the park, Highway 41 coils up into a tangle of hairpin turns and switchbacks.  Having experienced this before, I slowed to a crawl and asked the children every mile or so if they felt ill or if I was going too fast.  "All good" was the report from the back seat. "I've got this one," I said to myself.  Not gonna happen this time.

Right about the time that thought was gestating in my brain, Samantha shrieked from the back and I shot a look in the rear view mirror just in time to see Parker look up from his iPad, his too-big headphones giving his head a silly, comic book appearance.  He was white and gagging.  And then, before I could react, his mouth opened and a Linda Blair-like stream of puke fell like a waterfall, directly onto his iPad, covering the screen playing Empire Strikes Back and cascading between his legs, down the seat and onto the floor.  My disgust was, I admit, tinged with admiration for this spectacular sneak-attack and the ferocity with which he had just christened this 55 year old car with the Beck children's special brand of gummy vin de table.  Obi-Wan Samantha has taught him well.