Somewhere, I thought, Blackbeard the Pirate was laughing his eye-patch off at me. Jean Lafitte was having a la-fit. I wasn’t a modern-day Captain Kidd. I was “Captain with Kidds.”
It was supposed to be a plain ol’ beach trip. I had a little vacation time, and I wanted to spend it with my daughters, then ages 15 and 12. My oldest, Jaime, wanted to bring along her best bud Kelti, meaning I’d be outnumbered 3-1 in all discussions girl/guy related. Hey, I’m a grown man, I thought. I can handle anything.
I never was the brightest starfish on the beach.
I’d already rented a beach cabin for a week. (Isn’t a grown man’s sense of naïveté sweet? Poor slob actually thinks he’ll maintain his sanity after a week with three teenage females. I can hear smart people shaking their heads. Bless his heart.)
Fueling our enthusiasm to hit the high seas was the fact we’d gone to see the first edition of “Pirates of the Caribbean” together. For some strange reason, I thought they loved the movie simply because of the pirates and the action scenes. I thought they wanted all those posters of Jack Sparrow because he was cool. It didn’t occur to me that even in his ragged, pirate state, Johnny Depp was “cute,” according to my three shipmates.
They even began referring to themselves as “pirates” — a term I quickly learned didn’t quite fit this particular situation.
I’m trying to recall if I’ve ever read of a genuine pirate captain launching his ship with such a crew as mine. Three females, none of whom could speak an entire sentence that didn’t have something to do with boys, or isn’t interrupted a few dozen times by the word “like.” They spent valuable fishing hours choosing which outfits would look the cutest in the water, as if the fish were going to swim away if the girls’ swimsuits didn’t match their eye shadow or their hair wasn’t perfect.
Those issues I could manage. What I was in no way prepared to handle was the other part of the female equation.
(You know what’s coming here, don’t you?)
As we unpacked, the two oldest girls walked to the store, leaving me alone with 12-year-old Jordan. She chose that exact moment to inform me she’d “started.”
“Started what?” I was hoping — nay, praying — she was talking about a lawn mower or weed eater.
Nope. As we stood alone together in the beach cabin, with no female help within miles, my youngest child decided that would be the perfect time to experience her very first issue with the “monthly visitor.” My baby, already dealing with woman stuff.
“Stop it,” I told her. “Or you’re grounded.”
She handled it far better than I did. She was calm, while I was thinking of sacrificing myself to the sharks. However, she wasn’t sure what to do next, so she asked the only (supposed) adult in the room questions about those … umm … female utensils.
From behind the bathroom door, she actually asked me, a guy, “Daddy, how in the world do you put these things in?”
Child. Seriously? You’re asking me? I can truly and proudly confess I’ve never thought about it.
“How the heck would I know?” I responded. “Ball peen hammer? Air gun? Slingshot? A running jump?”
Nope. I was no help.
Did real pirates have these problems?
When I ran out to plunder a local grocery store, a young lady clerk — I mean, victim — asked if she could help me find anything. I was forced to answer with as masculine a voice I could muster: “Aargh, matey. Feminine products, if you please.”
You know, real ships have cool prefixes like “U.S.S. (United States Ship) Constitution” or the “H.M.S. (Her Majesty’s Ship) Dauntless.”
I ended up setting sail on the P.M.S. Clueless.
Some pirate you are, Stallard.
Those ancient buccaneers were ready to sail at a moment’s notice. My crew of young buccanesses needed at least two hours and four bathrooms to “get ready.” Even if all we were doing was walking on the beach.
Did real pirates need that long to fix their hair?
Granted, these were beautiful young ladies, creating yet another problem rarely faced in swashbuckling lore: How often did a real pirate captain concern himself with other pirates ogling his crew?
Not that the girls minded. In fact, I thought, if a crew of real pirates overran my ship, I was pretty sure my crew wouldn’t fight. They’d spend hours arguing over which ones of our attackers were “hot.” If any of those invaders fit that category, my crew would promptly surrender. I was screwed.
They would have turned Blackbeard into Graybeard with their antics. How would I ever live out my pirate dream with such a crew?
Old-time pirates carried mangy parrots on their shoulders. My crew had cell phones stuck to their ears.
Old pirates carried chests filled with weapons and rum. I had to ditch half my tackle box just to make room for a make-up kit the size of a freaking lifeboat.
While we sailed those seven seas — or our end of the Gulf — I didn’t get to hear choruses of “Yo, ho, ho and a bottle of rum.” Nope. I got blasted with Blink-182, Taking Back Sunday and all those other punk bands that sounded exactly alike to me.
Real pirate captains had to answer questions about treasure chests. My crew wanted to know when their chests would get bigger — and they didn’t hesitate to ask. (Yet another conversation I’d always wanted to have with my daughters.)
When I set my course for the nearest town to pillage, I had to make sure it didn’t have a mall or we’d never escape.
If my crew had any similarities whatsoever with real pirates, it was their penchant for jewelry. They wore so many earrings and bracelets they rattled when they walked. No way we’d ever sneak up on anyone out on the open seas.
Dead men may tell no tales, but these little pirates never stopped talking. Ever. They offered no quarter when it came to chatter, not even while I tried to sleep.
This may have been the first time in pirate history where the captain was, by the end of the week, seeking terms of surrender to the nearest boat NOT containing females.
I could feel Long John Silver turning over in his watery grave.
After two days, I was ready to walk my own plank.
But you know what? We packed enough fun in one week to fill our memory chests for a lifetime. They fished with me. We played in the waves. We had late-night walks on the beach together. We sat out on the patio and sang loudly enough to drown out a cannon’s roar. We talked about everything under the stars and laughed about most of it.
Just my little crew of pirates and me.
That’s what a vacation is supposed to be. Sure, it’s a break from work, but it should so much more. It’s family time, made even better because they were still kids who wanted to be with Dad. All these years later, I still hang onto those few days to lift me on bad ones. So many changes have occurred in the years since: We lost Jordan. Jaime became a wife and mom with her own life. Kelti grew up and moved away. We know we’ll never have another such week in our lives.
We’ve all grown out of our pirate stages.
If you’re planning a vacation, allow me to share this one little tidbit of advice: Take your kids with you, no matter what weirdness they bring or pirate dreams they wreck. It’s not easy, and there will be aggravations (hopefully, nothing female-condition related).
It will all be worth it. Trust me.
The treasures you plunder will be worth more than gold.