The Worst Picnic Ever

You won’t believe me. You’ll look at the pictures and think, good lord, she’s ungrateful, or delusional, and does she ever do anything but complain? But pictures LIE. They show smiles where a moment before there were tears. Angled right, they hide zits, muffin tops, spilled drinks, and occasionally wild raccoons. Which is why I think it’s so important that I put this down for posterity.

Also: if you have no children, but have friends that do, and you wonder why they always want to do the same things all the time, why they keep to a schedule and only ever go to the same places and say annoying things like, “No can do, because that’s naptime”? Read and learn.

Last weekend, we had a bit of a heat wave in San Francisco, which is to say, it got above 78 and stayed there for 48 hours straight. No bone-chilling Pacific winds to carry away the day’s warmth, no fog, just three perfect days of glorious warmth and sunshine.

The entrance to the Golden Gate. Ah, San Francisco.

Lovely, eh? Reminds us of why we live in a small place paying rent higher than some of my friends’ mortgages.

We love picnicking, as you know, and just the week before, we went on an impromptu picnic with friends to McLaren Park, a lovely spot in a part of the city I’d never visited. It was brilliant: Eliza flew her first kite, played with a dog, and while we froze our butts off, it was a swell way to wind down the weekend. So when the temperature went up 15 degrees and we had another Sunday, David suggested we grab the backpack and head out again.

“Lafayette Park?” I asked.

“We always go there. Let’s go across the bridge. Maybe Rodeo Beach.”

This was the first mistake. Really, it was our only mistake. We always go to Lafayette Park, yes, but it’s because they have a lovely fenced-in green space we call the Toddler Run. We can sit and enjoy our baguette and cheese while Eliza runs her little butt off and, in every direction, eventually stops at a chain link fence. It’s perfect, and since we didn’t have two extra friends to keep her busy, we can enjoy ourselves.

We’d been to Rodeo Beach once before, on a chilly but nice day, but Eliza was still being carted around in her infant carseat, and what I remembered most about the picnic spot was not the lovely marsh and bird-watching it brought, but the fact that it was a 30-foot-wide strip abutted on one side by a lake, and the other by a row of parked cars. The other side of that? The only road to the actual beach itself. ┬áBut I didn’t want to sound like a boring freakout mom,and the spot was lovely, so we went.

The parking spaces were full. The traffic was fairly constant. The picnic spot was sunny, shadeless, and our little San Francisco native really wanted nothing to do with any of it. She preferred to play in the car, or at least around the cars, and occasionally, she made a break for the road. When she was in the sun, she whined and ran back for the cars.

I just hope she’s the moody kind of vampire, not the soulless evil kind.

Don't look at the sweet bonding moment. Look at the cars, and how close they are.

So began 45 minutes of tag-teaming out to play Chase-the-Toddler. At one point a fellow picnicker began banging a stick against a cypress tree to chase away a hissing, bold raccoon, and she finally stopped when a passerby mentioned that raccoons, being nocturnal creatures, are usually not so aggressive in the daytime, and so she should lay off because it was probably rabid. At another point, I turned around to get something from the backpack and then had to beat into a full run before Eliza wandered into traffic. Walk. Chase. Pick up. Head back. Cry. Rinse. Repeat. At the point when she began screaming bloody murder and the other patrons of the park started staring, we packed up. I mean, seriously, kid. I was only bloodily murdering you a little bit.

Sweet baby's head is blocking the cypress tree that housed the possibly rabid raccoon.

The moment I strapped her into the carseat, though, she stopped crying. It was in the shade, you see.

Heading back to the city, David and I sat sullenly for a bit, longing for the days when we could just head out and bask in the sunshine, chase-free, for hours at a time. Then this happened:

Best part of the day.

So we took advantage and tooled around the city for an extra 45 minutes, enjoying a Sunday drive like my grandparents used to in their Buick, and marveling at the beauty of our home.

The white dots are sailboats. Life of Riley!

The moment we got home and unpacked, David turned to me and said, “We should’ve gone to Lafayette Park.”

Habits exist for a reason, folks, and sometimes that reason is self-preservation.

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