I love flying on planes. I love people watching in the airport. I love acting cool and casual on the plane even though I’m really jazzed to be UP. IN. THE. AIR — whaaaa? How does that happen? I love the adrenaline rush of the take-off. I love the semi-terrifying turbulence — though nothing compares to the terror of that damn chipmunk in our house last week. I love toying with the flight attendants — “Oh, yes I will stand here near the bathroom because I seriously need to pee.” “That’s right I did take my seatbelt off while we’re still taxiing to the gate!” I’m a badass. I love making small talk with the strangers around me, making up stories about where I’m going and why: a walkabout across the tundra of Northern Canada, meeting my mail-order husband in LaGuardia, or a search for the world’s actual best cup of coffee. I love the giddy relief of a bumpy landing. And let’s not forget the complimentary snack and beverage service — 2.5 ounces of peanuts? Yes, please! Thirty-five calories worth of pretzels? And don’t forget my one-fourth of a can of soda!
But alas, now we have Nate and Sam. Flying on planes has become…difficult. So we’ll drive eastward for our visit this summer. New, different challenges. New, different delights and wonders. But at least it’s all contained — inside the car, that is. We won’t force an emergency landing or suffer the humiliation of dirty looks from fellow passengers or be asked to “de-plane” before even pulling away from the gate.
Nate’s actually a good flyer. He could stare at a tablet screen for hours, glancing up only to ask me to remove the wrapper from his lollipop. But Sam. Sam is a different story. Let’s just say that describing him as “antsy” is an understatement. He’s a maniac. And he likes to fight. Ninja-style. Usually he just fights Nate — thrusting his foam sword into his older brother’s face — but I recently witnessed him trying to challenge a six year-old girl to a balloon duel as we waited in line at Old Navy. No one is safe.
And so, we’ll drive.
This is a sixteen hour trip. In a car. With Nate. And Sam. And Wally, the dog. And books and luggage and toys and snacks and movies. Kid’s movies. Which are cute until you watch them 12,793 times. There’s a lot to think about in preparation for this trip. A lot to worry about. And since Tighe doesn’t worry, I have to do the worrying for the both of us. Worry can be distracting and counterproductive, so to ease some anxiety, I’ve organized all my inner-monologue into one list for your reading pleasure. A spreadsheet would have been fun, too — complete with percentages to indicate the likelihood of each event occurring — but I ran out of coffee.
So, without further ado, my 11 hopes for our trek East this week:
- That nothing epically bad happens. Like a car accident. Or a tornado. Or an automotive breakdown. Or a divorce. What a buzzkill that would be.
- That Sam’s hyperactivity can be contained. This hyperactivity is most noticeable at church. Here’s a typical whispered conversation between Nate at me while sitting in the pew: “Mom, why did Sam throw his frosted mini-wheats from Trader Joe’s at the lady in front of us?” “Because he’s crazy.” “Mom, why is my dad taking Sam out of the church?” “Because we’re being silently shunned by our forgiving Christian community thanks to your brother’s transgressions, underdeveloped sense of self-awareness, and comprehension of what’s socially appropriate.” “Oh. [pause] I very like self-awareness. Does that mean Sam doesn’t get a cookie at lunch?” But still, for every dirty look we get at church, there’s at least one kind soul who approaches us and says some variation of, “It’s ok, my kids were assholes, too. It gets better.” I think it’s divine intervention, God’s way of telling us: don’t kill them, you’ll really like them someday.
- That we make it, safely and sanely and according to our laid-back schedule, to the midway point. A continental breakfast! A swimming area! A business center! Comfy beds! Big pillows! And some decent, uninterrupted sleep would be a real treat, too. Nobody falls out of bed…nobody wakes up thirteen times to pee, or to tell us about a dream, or to ask where we are, or to pace around the room because his canine instincts are telling him that a thunderstorm is imminent.
- That we don’t get robbed at gunpoint. I’m not sure how well developed those ninja skills really are, but I’m not quite confident they’d be able to protect us. And let’s not forget he’s learned most of his skills from a giant, animated rat. Also, Nate has a Band-Aid on his knee this week, which apparently means that he “can’t fight.”
- That our credit cards don’t get declined as a result of out-of-state charges. That’s how we pay for shit. Like food. And gas. And hotel suites large enough to provide walled barriers between us and Nate/Sam.
- That we don’t get any speeding tickets. Yikes. And it’s usually the Missouri state troopers that get us. Those guys love to perch themselves in the center median, itching to catch you easing your foot from the accelerator but declining to tap the brakes as you descend one of those rolling hills.
- That Wally, finally at his wit’s end, doesn’t turn on us all.
- That we don’t forget anything imperative. Obviously, we have to bring both boys’ favorite water bottles, Nate’s monkeys and blanket which he sleeps with every night, Sam’s monogrammed blue lovies, and other toys du jour — probably Nate’s ninja costume, which he’ll suddenly want to don before getting out of the car at a rest stop. But inevitably, there will be something we “forget.” Something that I can’t even foresee because, cranky and tired of being imprisoned in a car, Nate and/or Sam will invent this forgotten item. It will be food. A food that he had not even realized he liked, like pork tenderloin. Or bruschetta. Or a bundt cake. Or something random he sees on a billboard, Cracker Barrel or Subway, staples of all interstate exits. And if it’s not food, it’ll be a toy. A toy that’s been crammed on the back of a shelf in the basement, untouched for months, until Hour #11, when he’ll suddenly declare that he needs to have it. Immediately. Will we turn back? No. We’ll just drive to the nearest Target and purchase one.
- That at no point do the keys get locked in the car. For Tighe’s take on that, click here.
- That the car can sustain the inevitable damage of dog hair, cracker crumbs, melted fruits snacks, boogers, poop, pee, tears, and other miscellaneous stickiness.
- That a constant sixteen hour rotation of Elmo, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Despicable Me, Finding Nemo, Cars, Monsters University, etc. can keep Nate/Sam entertained. And that Tighe and I, in our exhausted and iron-deficient states, can tolerate it. Sam is entertained by two things: food and golf highlights on Sports Center. And when the ESPN anchors inevitably switch over to baseball or the NBA or the women’s World Cup, Sam loses it. I don’t care how cute Alex Morgan is, if it’s not Jordan Spieth or Dustin Johnson or Jason Day, Sam is not interested.
And so, we’ll venture off on our annual trek. We’ll see America. Griswold-style. It’ll take longer. It’ll cost more. And it’ll drain us, emotionally, physically, maritally, and hygienically. But at least we’ll be spared strange, unwanted airplane encounters such as the one we experienced recently when we flew East for a wedding — sans Nate and Sam — with a group of AP test graders instead. Nerd alert! Fanny packs and all! Who am I kidding, I was captivated by their explanations of the necessity of a solid foundation in statistics before one graduates from high school and delineating the various math requirements of universities around the country. Wow. But when one of them, the loudest of them all, began critiquing the latest earth-shattering upgrades in the Texas Instruments calculator world — as though the woman seated next to her cared — I put on headphones and zonked out.
I can’t do that in the car, though. Nope, I have to stay awake so I can tell Tighe how to drive — without my eyes, he’ll surely steer into a coach bus or a semi. I also have to dish out snacks, fetch dropped toys, determine the origin of nose-tingling stenches, and accurately assess how badly Nate really has to pee. No upper level math discussions for sure, but maybe we can at least listen to a little Elvis, for old time’s sake.