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Family Vacation

My mother screamed and my father burst into a sprint down the long hill. Frantic and crying, my sister and I followed him to the river where he gasped, lifting the empty stroller from the water. He gave out a frustrated, frightened, cry as my mother joined us at the bottom of the hill.
“Joe, where is he?”
Then, we heard a laugh.

Let me backtrack a little. It was a sunny, summer day in the small tourist town of Palm Springs, California. After a full day of driving across the country in the family mini-van, we were more than ready for a picnic break on a grassy hill. My mother had laid out all the beach towels she could scrounge up from the trunk, and my father had emptied the cooler, making a picnic potluck on the ground. Then came my two year old brother from his car seat, fast asleep with his head leaning at a 45 degree angle and a puddle of drool on his shirt.

My dad placed him carefully in his car seat under a shade tree not far from our picnic blanket, and then came to join us on the towels.

We scarfed down that food like we’d never seen it before, enjoying the warm sun and the soft gentle breeze that brought a mist from the river. My mom asked my dad to go get the sunscreen from the stroller, and as he got up, the unthinkable happened. The stroller’s brakes had come undone, and it was hurdling down the hill at speeds I never imagined a stroller could reach. And my two-year-old brother, helplessly trapped inside.
My mother was screaming, my father was sprinting, and then that laugh. We turned around to look, and there was my brother, happily munching on grass and smiling without a care in the world.
We had no idea how he’d managed to remove the restraints that held him in the car seat, but we took the miracle as it came, happily trotting back to the mini-van.
The next day we noticed that a river ran past the window of our hotel room, and we all laughed ironically as our sunscreen floated by.





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