Well, we’re finally back in the middle of the country – where we belong apparently. At least that’s what the general populace back on the East Coast seemed to tell us. It was a fun trip. It was an arduous trip. And now, it’s over. Everyone survived. Everyone is safe and healthy and as sane as we’ve ever been. The car trip, as long and harrowing as it was at certain times, did not kill us. In fact, I like to believe that we’re all stronger for the experience. Ok, that’s not true. And it’s a little too cheesy for my liking, but I wanted to throw a positive spin on things. Here’s the reality of it:
To begin our long journey home, we left my parent’s house outside of Baltimore on Saturday morning at 8 AM. I poured some coffee into a travel mug and told myself that I wouldn’t take a sip until the first person started crying. Not including myself, of course – my tears began the moment I buckled my seatbelt as I knowingly succumbed to sixteen hours of automobile confinement, spread across two days, in a car with Nate and Sam. And the dog, but we’d barely notice he was there.
My first sip of joe came at 9:07 AM. Almost simultaneously, Sam seemed to have realized, “Hey, I’m trapped in the car again! I can squeeze my shoulders out of the car seat straps, but the adults up front seem to have employed the ‘child safety feature’ on the car door handle and I can’t quite force it open” just as Nate decided he needed fruit snacks – immediately. Cue dual meltdowns.
Personally, I was ready to let Sam open the car door, convinced that the pavement speeding by under his feet on I-70 would surely scare him back into the car. And I was definitely ready to toss a pack of fruit snacks back to Nate. What’s a little sugar high at 9 in the morning? He had eaten a hearty breakfast, it wouldn’t kill him.
But that’s why parenting is best done in teams – not just so that you always have a partner to blame failures on, but also so that one of you can make rational and wise decisions when the other is at wit’s end.
Eight years into marriage, and I’m still learning things from Tighe: (1) don’t let the baby kill himself, and (2) don’t accelerate Nate’s path to diabetes. Fine.
Instead, at Tighe’s urging, I re-secured Sam in his Graco-made stockade, while Tighe told Nate that he could have fruit snacks at 11 AM, an arbitrary and far distant time as far as I was concerned, but whatever. He reasoned that this would help Nate learn to count down and instill the concept of time. Well, he can use all the help he can get on that front. At this point, any event in the past is “yesterday,” “last night,” or “when I was two,” while anything planned for the future is “when I grow into a dad.”
So, for two whole hours, we sat in the car awaiting the much anticipated doling out of the fruit snacks. Nate distracted himself by watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and asking if it was 11 yet at two to three minute intervals. Sam distracted himself by glaring at the back of my head. Tighe distracted himself by barreling a large SUV down the highway at 80 miles an hour. Wally distracted himself by…wait! Is Wally even with us? Oh yes, there he is, being absolutely perfect in the way back and probably wishing he had been adopted by any other family in the world.
And me? I distracted myself by finishing my coffee, ignoring Sam’s death stares, and recording the “that’s what she saids” from the dialogue of TMNT.
What’s that you say? You’d like to read some of them? Ok! Happy to share! Here are some of my favorites…well, ok, I think these are my favorites. During the final stretch, about an hour from Kansas City, I hurled my notebook at Sam in yet another desperate attempt to make him stop screeching. Fortunately for everyone in the car, it worked, and he sat happily and quietly for almost twenty minutes. Unfortunately for me, his happiness was because he was methodically tearing up the pages on which I had been scribbling notes for the last 1,083 miles. What follows is what I managed to recover from his sweaty, crumb-filled car seat and tape back together.
“Enter the action zone!”
“I’m ready to get down with this machine of yours!”
“Somebody’s gotta take the middle.”
“The dimensional portal is open! Now, to get those rockheads in there!”
“Good morning, Turtles! Observe what I have in my hands!”
“I don’t know how we’re gonna get it up there!”
“Hold the stick up, Michelangelo!”
“A little wax, and it’ll shine like new.”
“There’s a barrel of silicon lubricant over there. Use it to give him a slip!”
“I can’t hold this thing open forever!”
“Hey, stop it! You’re ruining my finish!”
Ok, admittedly, some are better than others, but let’s remember that I was confined in a car and high on caffeine with very little stimulus.
Here are some stats and awards from our trip:
Days away from home…18
Hours of TMNT watched…30+
Family and friends visited…A lot! And yet, not enough. It seems that every time we visit, more and more people move from the “people we got to see” list to the “people we wish we could have seen” list.
Gifts received…Too many! Thank you, friends and family! For meals, drinks, toys, books, baked goods, hand-me-downs, Austrian lederhosen, and most importantly, for your time and company! We are very grateful.
Happy hours celebrated…Many! Every. single. one.
Crabs consumed…Lots! And yet, not enough. But I did manage to transport some Old Bay back across the Mississippi River.
Nursing homes kicked out of…Surprisingly, none! But we did make lots of noise, attract lots of attention, and manage to smuggle out some Reese’s Peanut Butter cups. Nate finished his before we even made it to the car.
Family secrets revealed…1 ½.
Most Improved Car Rider…Sam. He really had nowhere to go but up.
Most Avid Fruit Snack Consumer…Nate.
Quietest Passenger, aka Most Valuable Passenger…Wally. Definitely Wally. That poor canine withstood being yelled at by a bored Sam, being squirted with water bottles, having melted pizza cheese being pressed into his fur, and the flatulence of other passengers.
Most Reliable Driver…Tighe. Did I mention zero accidents, zero speeding tickets, and his lead foot?
Best White-Knuckled Passenger…me.
Best Foot-on-Dashboard Imaginary Braker…me.
Most Valuable Dispenser of Snacks…me.