To be fair, I was cordially invited to join my family's mid-summer vacation into the great American West: The itinerary, crafted months ago by my planning maven of a wife, included stops at a rodeo, a dinosaur museum, an aerial tram, some hiking, some rafting and Yellowstone. That sounded nice, but in the end, the prospect of 10 consecutive days devoid of household responsibilities, 10 days of uninterrupted whatever, proved irresistible. So a few weeks ago, when my wife, her mother and our two sons took off on a 10-day adventure, I remained in the terrarium-like atmosphere of postdiluvian Chapel Hill. I was left to my own devices, which included a newly acquired Fender Telecaster. They went to Cody, Wyo. It was a win-win.
Phone coverage was spotty, so we went days without speaking. But the snapshots they sent—wild mustangs cantering across sagebrush plains, a glassy blue-green lake reflecting snowcapped mountains, Indian Paintbrush dotting open fields—were suitably transporting, especially from the perspective of the sodden South. In the end, other than a flash of bronchial illness that necessitated a visit to Urgent Care on Day 2, the seasonal separation came off without a hitch.
But it was on the first night back, with cowboy hats and chaps unpacked, that we realized we were short to the tune of one lemur.
My son is pushing 9. Despite his inexorable move toward lankiness and an increasingly cerebral outlook, he has not quite given up the habit of sleeping with a stuffed animal. His first was Ducky, a plush duck-head attached to a small blanket. But the functionally named Lemur, acquired at Duke's renowned Lemur Center years ago, had supplanted Ducky as primary nocturnal comfort. Only now, it seemed, Lemur was on permanent vacation in Wyoming.
The news, much to my relief, was met not with histrionics but rather a certain stoicism. It was no doubt tempered by the knowledge that Ducky and a few other backup snugglers waited in the bunk bed. My mother-in-law, however, reported the animal missing, and just a few days later, a box arrived.
Inside sat a half-eaten cookie, placed upon a blanket of bubble wrap. Underneath was Lemur along with another, uneaten, cookie. What's more, there was also an envelope with a set of images that gave me a further glimpse of the Wyoming I'd missed when I decided to stay in Chapel Hill. No, these weren't postcards, but rather photos of a lemur at leisure. In one, he's relaxing by the pool, contemplating taking a swim (according to the caption); in another he's roasting a marshmallow at a fire pit. He's even shown helping fold towels in the laundry room, though his legs proved too short for the job (again, according to the caption). My favorite is Lemur on the treadmill: "I ate so many cookies during my stay that I needed to get some exercise!!"
If you're looking for a western destination, I can definitely recommend a hotel—not that I've ever been, or anything.