A day off. Laurie couldn't believe it! It was one of those rare occasions when the Partridge Family could have the entire day to themselves and do whatever they wanted. Laurie was so relieved. It's not that she didn't like touring, but it always ate up most of her summer and school took up the rest of her year. To have a day off was completely exhilarating and she wanted to make the most of it. She already had plans. She and some of her friends were going to go down to the school and help at a Save the Whales convention. Laurie had been looking forward to the event for weeks. However, it seemed her mother had other plans.
"The beach?" Laurie looked at her mother in shock. All her siblings' faces registered the same sort of emotion. They were sitting in the living room. It was Saturday morning and everyone had just got up and eaten breakfast.
"Yes." Shirley smiled at them and stood up, "We never really do anything together anymore and I thought a day at the beach would be fun."
"Not do anything together?" Keith spoke. "Mom, we're together 365 days of the year. We're a family. We're constantly together. We even tour together!" Laurie figured he probably had plans of his own and wasn't too happy about the arrangement.
Shirley's smile faded, "Well, I suppose. But there's a large difference between living together and spending time with one another. I think we need some family bonding time."
"What's more bonding then sitting together in a bus for fourteen hours?"
Laurie knew her brother was referring to their last road trip when they had driven all the way to Colorado for a concert and back in less than three days. Nobody had been happy with Rueben when they had returned and Shirley forbid him to ever book them in two places so far apart again.
Shirley gave her eldest son one of those there-is-no-use-arguing looks and looked back to the rest of her children. "I want all of you to get your things together and meet me at the bus in an hour."
Everybody nodded feebly and headed silently for their rooms. Keith caught Laurie at the top of the stairs. "You still gonna go?" He asked her. She knew very well what he was talking about. He was the only one she had told about the convention and he knew how important it was to her.
Laurie said, "You heard Mom. We're all going. No questions asked."
Keith shrugged and entered his room. Laurie sighed and entered hers. He wasn't much help! She found Tracy in the closet pulling out her shovel and pail. Satisfied that the youngest didn't need any assistance, Laurie collapsed upon her bed and drew her knees to her chest. What was she going to do? She had promised Bess that she'd be there today and everybody was counting her, but she couldn't very well tell her Mom that helping at a Save the Whales convention was more important than family time at the beach.
The phone rang and Laurie snatched it quickly out of the cradle. It was still new to her having this phone in her room, but it was moments like these that she was glad to have one. "Hello?"
"Hey, Laurie. It's Bess. I just wondered if you were still coming down to the campus today?" Bess sounded bright and cheery and Laurie hated to disappoint her.
The moment she had been dreading had finally arrived. "I'm afraid I can't, Bess. Mom's dragging us all to the beach today."
Laurie shook her head, but then realizing Bess wasn't there to see, answered despondently, "No."
"Well…" Bess let her voice trial off. "Do you think there's any way for you to get out of it?"
"You know my Mom…" Laurie lay on her stomach and watched as Tracy began piling all her beach toys on the rug.
"Yeah. Talk to her. I'm sure when she hears our cause she'll have to let you go!"
"I don't know, Bess..."
"It wouldn't hurt to ask, would it?"
"I guess not."
"Then go ask her and then call me back!"
"Oh, but Bess---" The line went dead and Laurie sighed. She placed the phone back in its cradle and stood up. "I'll be back." She told Tracy as she headed for the bedroom door. She knew Bess was right. All she had to do was tell her Mom about the convention and how important it was to her and then her mother was sure to agree and let her go.
Little did she know how wrong she was going to be.
* * *
Shirley didn't exactly say no when Laurie had found her in the kitchen, moments later, packing a picnic lunch; but Laurie knew that her answer held the same meaning.
"I'm sorry Laurie, but can't you do this another day? I really want the whole family together." Shirley added another layer of sandwiches to the picnic basket.
Laurie sighed dramatically and leaned against the counter. "But Mom, today's my first real day off. Can't I do something that I want to do?"
"Don't you like the beach?" Asked her mother, pulling some crisp red apples from the fruit bowl on the counter.
"Of course I do," protested Laurie, "I just don't want to go to the beach today."
Shirley stood thoughtfully for a moment, the last apple still in her hand. Laurie dreaded the times her mom did this. It meant she was analyzing the situation and then it would usually render a less than satisfying response.
"I'll tell you what," Shirley said at last, "I'll let you choose what you think would be best." She resumed packing.
Laurie hated that answer. She wasn't sure if it was a 'Yes, go ahead and Save the whales' or a 'No, you're coming to the beach and that's that'. Her Mom said she got to choose. In a heartbeat Laurie thought about the protest, but then a tugging in her heart told her that the family outing would be best. Her Mom really wanted everyone to go along. Laurie knew that she'd be disappointed if she were to not attend.
"Okay. I'll come with you and the kids to the beach."
Shirley smiled at her. "I'm glad." The way she said it made Laurie suspect her Mom knew all along what her final answer would be.
Laurie sighed. What was she getting herself into? "I guess I'd better go get ready." Shirley only nodded as her oldest daughter exited the kitchen and trudged up the stairs.
Laurie didn't know whether she was mad, sad or excited. Something inside told her choosing the beach was the right decision, but another thing scolded her about commitments. She had, after all, told Bess she was going to be there. She and the rest of the gang were counting on her and now she would have to let them down.
Tracy was already in her baiting suit and all packed up when Laurie arrived back at the bedroom. She hastily rushed over to her older sister and held out two rubber bands. "Will you put my hair in pigtails?" She asked and Laurie nodded.
"Just a minute. I have to make a phone call first." She sat again on her bed and dialed Bess.
Bess answered on the third ring. "Hello?"
"Hey, I talked to Mom and I can't come. I'm going to the beach."
"Oh." Laurie could just imagine the look on her friend's face.
"Maybe tomorrow?" She added hopefully, trying to smooth things over.
Bess's voice was small and disappointed, "Sure. Call me then." She paused and then added, "Have fun at the beach."
Laurie hung up and then went over to help Tracy with her hair. An hour later she and the rest of her family were on their way to the beach; but Laurie's heart was back at the San Pablo Community College campus standing with the rest of her friends, passing out pins and t-shirts.
She sighed and stared out the window watching as the scenery passed by her. I sure hope I did the right thing.