It's always a guessing game.
“What animal are you thinking of,” she asks, beginning the hour-long car ride, which will bring us to our first family hike since the kids were small enough to tote around in backpacks, with our own version of round robin.
I hesitate long enough to pretend I am not going to use my trusty old standby.
“I'm thinking of an animal that lives in North America.”
There are no direct answers in this game, just clues that will lead to more questions. It's formulaic, sure, but it distracts the booster-seated-passengers from asking the more nettlesome “Are-We-There-Yets?”
The Boy jumps right in: “You said North America … is it the North America where we live or is it the South America, where Disneyland is?”
“They are both part of North America … so is Canada. (*Makes mental note to hang the world map Santa brought two Christmases ago.)
“The North American Wood Turtle,” says Ittybit in her bored teenager voice.
“How did you guess?”
“You ALWAYS say North American Wood Turtle on your first turn.”
She brightens as soon as it's her turn. She's spent so many hours at National Geographic's website that she's sure to stump us all.
“I'm thinking of an animal ...” she says, pausing for effect.
It's a good game. It keeps us from having to turn the car around. I mean it.
The exercise also keeps me from playing out the multiple choice future that is circulating in my mind as we get closer to our destination. How far will we be able to go before someone A. gets tired. B. gets hungry. C. decides their legs don't work D. falls off a cliff. E. all of the above.
By the time we arrived, we'd gone around the car (clockwise) about a dozen times, the questions becoming more absurd. “Is it bigger than a mailbox?” my husband asks, and then pretends to get exacerbated when I parse the question: “That depends on the size of the mailbox. If it's like that one, (I point to a fifty-gallon drum welded to a post by the side of the road as we speed by) then, no, it's not bigger than a mailbox.”
There is an audible groan from the other passengers in the car. “Oh look, we're here!”
The questions don't end when we cut the ignition and tumble out of the car.
Can we take this trail?
Can we climb on the rocks?
When can we eat our picnic?
I am happily surprised that the further we go into those woods the more excited they become.
The Champ makes up names for the birds that fly across his path.
“That is a spiral-tailed yellow-bellied whistler. It has wide stripes. Hopefully we'll see a flat-tailed orange-bellied squint. It has fur.”
Of course, the terrain is more rugged than I thought it would be. We get lost momentarily once and backtrack twice. The trail is steeper than I expected. The leaves and pine needles that are beneath them are slippery. We all lose our footing in places, but only the boy falls.
“I'm OK!” he says before we can even ask the question just so we aren't guessing. “This is fun. We should do this every weekend.”
I guess I'll have to study up on the real yellow-bellied whistler for the next time we play our game of round robin. At least the Champ will know exactly where we can find its spiral-tailed cousin.