On Monday morning after breakfast, Mom made an announcement. “We are going on an adventure.”
Max was surprised. Mom was not the sort of mom who made announcements about adventures. She was the sort of mom who made announcements about the laundry needing to be put away, or how proud she was of Max’s report card, or that Max’s hair was getting long and it was time for a trim.
“An adventure to the barbershop?” asked Max.
“A real adventure.” Mom handed Max a card that said:
BIRTHDAY PARTY AND FAMILY REUNION
Beneath the words was a photo of a very, very old woman wearing a very, very old cowboy hat.
“Your Great-Great-Aunt Victory is turning one hundred years old.”
Max was surprised at this, too. “I have a Great-Great-Aunt Victory?”
“You’ve met her before,” said Mom. “When you were three.”
Max looked closely at the photo. He did not remember meeting any very, very old women in cowboy hats.
“You sat in her lap and sang the alphabet song into a soup spoon. It was adorable.” Mom said “adorable” in a way that made Max feel like he was still only three years old instead of nine. “My uncles called you Spooner after that. You really don’t remember?”
Max was glad he did not remember. Who wanted to remember being called Spooner?
Mom tapped the invitation. “Read the inside,” she said.
VICTORY IS TURNING 100
Join us at her favorite spot in the world,
Bronco Burt’s Wild Ride Amusement Park,
for a day of ropin’, ridin’, and reminiscin’!
“Have I been to Bronco Burt’s before too?” asked Max.
“No,” said Mom. “But I went dozens of times when I was growing up in Pennsylvania.”
Max had seen Pennsylvania on the map in Mrs. Maloof’s classroom. It didn’t even touch Michigan. There was a whole Ohio between. “Pennsylvania is pretty far away.”
“That is the best part,” said Mom. “You and I are going on a road trip!”
Wow! A birthday party, an amusement park, and a road trip? This did sound like an adventure! “Will I get to miss school?” asked Max.
“The party is on Saturday. We’ll drive to Pennsylvania after school on Friday and come back on Sunday night. You won’t miss a thing,” said Mom.
“Oh,” said Max.
Mom laughed. “You look disappointed. Guess you really wanted to miss some school, huh?”
Max shook his head. He wouldn’t have minded missing a little school, but that was not why he was disappointed. “I’d like to go with you, but I can’t.”
“You can’t?” asked Mom. “Why not?”
Max got quieter. He did not want Mom to feel bad about her mistake, especially when she sounded so happy. “You work at Shady Acres on the weekends and I go to Dad’s, remember?” The schedule was right there on the family calendar, in Mom’s no-budge, no-smudge ink. “You only get me on the weekdays.”
“That’s usually true. But your Great-Great-Aunt Victory will turn one hundred only once. I’ve talked to your dad and he said if you want to go to the party, you should go. You do want to go, don’t you?”
Max did want to go, but he wished he didn’t have to leave Dad alone on the weekend. Ever since Dad had gotten his apartment, he and Max had spent the weekends together. They ate pizza and watched movies and walked Ms. Tibbet’s basset hounds and had breakfast at Ace’s Coffee Shop every morning. What would Dad do without Max to keep him company?
“Oh, Max, you’re going to love it,” Mom continued. “Bronco Burt’s has rides and barbecue stands and a Wild West arcade and . . .” Her face turned dreamy, like it did when she took a bite of her favorite Mocha Monkey Ice Cream. “. . . the Big Buckaroo.”
The Big Buckaroo? Who was the Big Buckaroo?
He sounded to Max like some kind of movie-star guy. Since when did Mom care about movie-star guys?
“I have to get to the bus stop,” said Max.
Mom looked at the clock. “We still have a few minutes. Don’t you want to talk more about our trip?”
“I don’t want to be late.” Max grabbed his backpack. He ran all the way to his bus stop. And then, because he was early, he ran down the block and back as many times as he could before the bus came.