After our visit in Kalkaska, we loaded back up in our rental car and got back on the interstate. We’re driving along and wouldn’t you know it? We found that road painting truck again. I was kind of surprised, because DON’T THESE PEOPLE HAVE A HOME SOMEWHERE? Shouldn’t they be having the “What are we having for dinner?” conversation that unites couples everywhere with SOMEONE?
We lingered behind them for awhile, and then the person behind Tony roared past us and the truck with a great big gust of wind, and that was all we were waiting for. A cue that passing them (when safe to do so, of course) was legal. With that, Tony floored it and we were on our way.
I remember road trips with my mom and brother with great fondness. It was the adventure we had together as a family that bonded us with mutual experiences which we would remember with love and alchemy for the rest of our lives. We would stop and take pictures with interesting sites and pose with each other, an arm slung around each other’s shoulders, as proof that we had been there, here is what “there” looked like at that moment in time, and we loved each other, by golly. See? Evidence. Look how happy we were together!
OK, well, maybe that’s a bad example. Let’s try again a couple years later when we were older and more mature …
Uh… well. Huh.
Well, this road trip experience with Tony and William was quite similar. Except now that I’m the adult I can eject myself the moment the car stops and close the door, leaving the madness contained inside strapped helplessly in the child’s car seat in the back! It’s not always awesome to be a grown-up, but sometimes it has its perks!
Because now I’ve got a kid in the back seat whose toes seem to suddenly be 7 inches long and they reach into the front seat and poke us in the armpits. This kid, who when he climbed in the car, the first thing he said was, “I don’t like this car. It doesn’t have a snapper.” Confused, we asked what a “snapper” was. He didn’t expound at all, instead he exclaimed with great delight, “Oh! Here’s the snapper!” And he reached with his extended toes and started snapping the cigarette lighter cover repeatedly. OH, OF COURSE. THE SNAPPER. YIPPEE!! Then we have the “Are we here yet?” question. And, everything beyond that is just bonus. Pure bonus. For your viewing pleasure, a video with lots of bonus footage!! Go ahead. Watch it. You know you want to.
And I began to ask myself why I was being a hero. Exactly what kind of bonding are we experiencing here? The survival type of bonding? A weird twist of the Stockholm Syndrome, except William is our captor? And that’s when the internal negotiation begins with myself. When the “I will never…” part of it becomes the “the trip is over two hours and we need to concentrate on where we’re going. Yes, I know we stay on this interstate until it doesn’t exist anymore, but we need to concentrate, dammit! Concentrate on the silence.” And I hand the child his iPod which has short movies on it. And breathe a sigh of relief at the instant silence in the car. Suddenly, the trees are greener, the grass is prettier, the road ahead melts back into a possible harbinger of good things instead of a never ending connect-the-dot maze leading straight to hell. Suddenly, I can enjoy the journey instead of wondering where the hell our destination is.
And then your child hands his iPod back to you and tells you he’s done. He doesn’t want to watch a movie. He doesn’t want to play games. And you hear, “Dun dun dunnnnnn” in your head and momentarily give consideration to actually picking up a hitchhiker, because a real live person would certainly entertain the child, wouldn’t they?.
There might have been a slight bit of panic in my mind when Tony handed me his cell phone and said, “Here, call my dad and find out where they are.” I reply, “What do you mean, find out where they are?” And then I call his dad and find out that they are not at his aunt’s farm, that no one is at his aunt’s farm, his aunt’s farm where we are supposed to go and sleep is empty of people, and all of the people who might welcome us to his aunt’s farm, those people are all over at Uncle Al’s house having dinner. A nice, grown-up, leisurely dinner at 8:45 PM with elderly people, whose children have left home and live on their own as successful contributing members of society. So they have no comprehension of my anxiety, which was rapidly escalating because of the REASON of that anxiety, a delirious 4 year old in the back who needs to go to bed. And Tony’s all, “Calm down, it will be OK!” And I hand the phone back to Tony, while his dad is explaining something about how to stop by Uncle Al’s house, and said something along the lines of, “I can’t deal with this…”
We found Tony’s aunt’s farm, laid out just as he remembered it, stretched out along a hillside. A barn standing across a single lane dirt track, a tool shed of sorts beyond that, a meadow beyond the barn, all framed like a perfect picture by tall trees. Grateful to be there and grateful that out in the sticks of Michigan, people don’t always lock their doors. Shocked that it was still light outside at 9 PM and grateful that I had packed black out drapes, we hustled inside and set up for William’s bath and bedtime, and prayed for a good night’s sleep.
The road trip wasn’t done yet. The next day we had TWO MORE HOURS, maybe longer, depending on how fast Tony’s dad planned on driving, and how many stops he might be thinking of making.