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A mother’s love and vacation nightmare

Growing up our family vacations were typically spent in the northern woods of Wisconsin. My parents would rent a fishing cabin on a lake, and for a week, dad would try to fish from our dock while my sisters and I did cannon balls off of it scaring all the fish away.

Vacations to Wisconsin will forever be remembered by me, mostly because I get terribly car sick when I’m not driving or in the front seat, and I think I have puked at every rest stop from Champaign, Illinois, to Minnequa, Wisconsin.

One year, mom grew tired of the vacation to the north, and pretty much begged my dad to do anything else. After intense negotiations, it was decided we would drive to Alabama to my Aunt Christine’s and Uncle Jeff’s home, stay with them for a day, and then we would all travel to Fort Lauderdale to stay with my aunt and her family in their condo.

I had never seen a beach and didn’t know my dad’s sister Christine very well, so I was excited. I think that my parents chose to drive at night because I don’t really remember much of this trip (maybe they thought if I slept the whole time I wouldn’t puke). However, my littlest sister Lydia remembers every moment of this trip. Every. Single. Tiny. Moment. This was the trip that she lost her beloved Jill.

Jill was a preemie Cabbage Patch Kid doll, and she went everywhere with Lydia. Typically, she wasn’t seen without her “baby Jill” in a stroller or simply being carried. Jill also kept Lydia from throwing lots of fits. I’d like to believe it’s because she was trying to set a good example and be a good mom to her baby, but later I was told that she threatened that if she didn’t behave, Jill couldn’t come along with her. Ah, bribery. A parents best friend.

Our week at the condo went wonderfully. I remember waking up to seeing dolphins swimming just off shore. We played in the white sand beaches and ate fresh shrimp from the market on a nightly basis. Aside from my mom snoring louder than anyone I had ever heard, we had a great vacation week.

It came time to start packing up for the car ride home, and Lydia let out a shriek.

“I can’t find Jill!”

At first, none of us were concerned. Toys go missing all of the time. Four hours later we were all in panic mode. Lydia was sobbing hysterically, probably because she felt like a terrible mother.

We looked everywhere for Jill. Up and down the beach. The elevators. The sidewalk outside the condo. The cars. Closets. You name it, we looked there. It was as if Jill had never existed.

Poor little Lydia was in hysterics. So much so, that mom turned to me and said, “Go tell your dad I will be right back,” and she dashed out of the condo.

I remember thinking, “Holy cow, mom bailed on us! I’m a motherless child! This must be what Jill feels like.” But, before I could also start panicking, my dad told us to come eat supper and I forgot all my cares.

An hour later, mom walked in with a doll that looked kind of like Jill, but she wasn’t naked. I forgot to mention that Jill was typically naked because Lydia was a progressive mom … I guess?

“Lydia,” mom said with hope. “Come see who I found!” Lydia crawled across the condo kitchen floor – crawling because she was too distraught to walk – and then looked up at mom.

“Jill? Jill. What happened to you?” she said as she grabbed her and looked up at mom for an explanation.

“Someone found Jill at the front desk. She had been dropped in the hallway and someone took her there ... and they were kind enough to put her in a cute dress,” mom said in an overly expressive and kind way.

I knew something was up. Lydia looked at Jill. Sure enough, she looked like the same Jill. She even was filthy dirty, and had a permanent lipstick kiss on the side of her head, but those lips looked bigger than before.

I stared at mom, who was trying desperately to convince Lydia that this was indeed Jill; but this was, in fact, not Jill. Lydia bought it, but I didn’t. I noticed mom had a receipt in her back pocket, for a Toys “R” Us (RIP). I knew what she had done. Lydia seemed satisfied and ran off to the other room to love on Jill. That’s when dad walked up and she spilled her secret.

Mom had run out and bought a new Jill and had spent almost 25 minutes dirtying her up, and trying to remember all of Jill’s little markings. She even ran Jill over with the car in order to make sure she was super dirty.

That’s dedication. We all lived with the lie until Lydia was in middle school, and she noticed something fishy in her childhood pictures. Old Jill had blue eyes. New Jill had green. She demanded an answer and mom spilled the beans. Thankfully, Lydia had a sense of humor about it, and now, in our family, when we are leaving to go anywhere we all say, “Don’t forget Jill!”

I had dreams about little Jill, and I hope that she’s out there somewhere happy. Then I think, “I wonder what the people in the parking lot thought when mom started running over a baby doll?”

Vacations with children make you do crazy things.

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