Latest Spurts: Residual bacteria and a donkey for a best friend

July 21, 2017

By Ekta R. Garg

Two weeks ago, our family boarded a plane to embark on an adventure. We visited the beautiful, gracious country of Greece and for 10 days enjoyed the hospitality and immense historical value of one of the oldest civilizations in the world. Of course, for me, the parenting adventures didn’t stop, particularly where my younger child is concerned.

Enjoy these special vacation Spurts, readers!


One of the teens in our tour group would arrive on the bus every single morning with her hair done in an intricate style. Sometimes it was a single complicated braid; other times it was two. Occasionally she even did a braid that wrapped around the back of her head and over her shoulder.

I mentioned to Nine how much I liked the teen’s hair, and Nine encouraged me to tell the girl.

“I will,” I said.

“Make sure you don’t procrastinate about it,” she advised.

“What does procrastinate mean?” I asked.

“It means you put off stuff until you end up having to do things in one tiny day,” she said, cupping her hands to show the small quantity of a single 24-hour period. “I mean, night takes up some time too. Why would you do that?”

And there you go. The next time I’m working on a story and my attention drifts, I know who to call to get me back on task. Even if my hair isn’t nicely braided.


Because we took this vacation as part of a tour group, many of our meals were included. That meant we didn’t have to worry about hunting for a place to have breakfast every morning. We could just trot down to the main restaurant of the hotel and sample the offerings of the buffet. The hotels would typically offer a wide array of pastries, fresh fruit, meats and cheeses, a hot bar where we could get eggs cooked to order, and juices, milk, and tea and coffee.

Needless to say, it’s unlike breakfast during our normal routine at home. I didn’t realize just how much the girls had started enjoying the full spread until one of the last mornings of our vacation. Nine looked at me and grinned over her plate of cheese wedges and a juicy nectarine.

“I don’t think I’m going to be able to get used to eating cereal for breakfast again when we go home,” she said.

I have to say, after having polite waiters remember my choice of tea in the morning, I rather enjoyed being spoiled myself.


On our last full day in Greece, we had the opportunity to visit a tiny village and walk through it. Part of the experience was meeting the mayor of the village—which comprises of 12 residents—and the mayor introduced us to many of the residents of his tiny town as well as the others that form the consortium of 96 people under his watchful eye. These residents shared fresh vegetables from their gardens with us, cooked for us, and allowed us to partake in their lives for a day.

One of the residents made a deep impression on Nine. His name was Mihalis. The donkey.

She first met him was when he “greeted” our bus. Everyone in the group got to take pictures with Mihalis, but Nine lingered after the picture session. She stroked his fur, and when she looked back at me her face cracked into a smile that made her eyes gleam.

The guide taking the pictures asked if she’d like to take a ride on the donkey later, and I said yes. I knew her face would light up again when she got to mount the saddle, and it did. But I didn’t know just how much she enjoyed the donkey’s company until about an hour or two later.

During the cheese-making and coffee sampling portion of the afternoon, Nine spotted Mihalis tied to a fence not too far away. She left the group and went back to him. As she grasped his short mane, she stroked his nose. Then she came back and asked me to follow her.

“I’m singing to him,” she said. “See, I hold him on his neck here, and I pet his nose, and I’m singing in his ear. He even twitched his ear closer to me so he could hear me.”

I wanted to laugh, not to make fun of her but because she was just so darn cute, but I didn’t.

“That’s very nice of you,” I said. “I’m sure he’s really enjoying it.”

Later, after we sat on the bus to go back to the hotel, Nine stopped by my seat and said, “Mihalis and I are besties now.”

“Great,” her dad said to me once she’d gone to her spot with the other kids in the back. “We come all the way to Greece, and she falls in love with the donkey. We could have found donkeys in Illinois.”

I guess we could have. But they wouldn’t have been Greek donkeys. And they may not have tilted their ears to listen to Nine sing.


This Monday I did six loads of laundry, but I didn’t get around to folding most of it until Tuesday. With the time difference between Europe and here, I woke up early on Tuesday—around 5:30—and puttered around the house for a little while. After drinking a big mug of tea, I went to the guest room where we had dumped all the clean clothes.

Nine, ever my early bird, followed me, chattering the whole way. I asked her if she would help with the laundry and she nodded. I told her to sit on the floor.

“Here, can you help me fold your clothes?” I asked.

“Okay,” she said, sitting not too far away. As I reached for a pair of underwear, though, she crumpled her face.

“Ew, underwear!”

“They’re clean,” I said.

“No, they’re not!” she replied.

“Yes, they are,” I said.

“But people’s butts have been in them.”

“They just came out of the laundry yesterday.”

“Still,” she said in an expert tone, “they have residual bacteria in them.”

Considering I’d already been up for more than two hours and it wasn’t even 8 a.m., I decided not to argue. Instead, I assigned her another laundry task and set her to splitting up clothes into different piles for ironing.

“Residual bacterial,” she stage-whispered in a dramatic way.

I just rolled my eyes.