"And suppose that you lived in that forest in France, where the average young person just hasn't a chance to escape from the perilous pants-eating plants! But your pants are safe! You're a fortunate guy. And you ought to be shouting, 'How lucky am I?'"
Alas, that's not what I was shouting over the course of the last week. But since I write from the other side of my epiphany, I will relay the story as if I had, italicizing the reconsidered parts. (Watch out, it's long.)
This trip was my first "visit home" since college. It is a strange feeling made stranger by the fact that we were there so briefly and my little sister endured major knee surgery the morning after we arrived. This visit I struggled with how to spend my very limited time, knowing I would not be able to see everyone I wanted to see and not knowing when I'd be back. But we made the most of our time with my parents and sister, and Wednesday had lunch with three friends and our 7 children under 7 at a sushi place downtown, then pizza and ice cream with my brothers and sister-in-law. I repacked the car again and Thursday morning we began the second leg of our journey, this time with Amy along for the noisy ride (and working DVD players! Thank you, Dad!).
Ron advised us to get out of the car and on the other side of the barrier, so I had to wake Mirabella, who reacted by crying hysterically. In a moment I'm not proud of, I said, "Mirabella! What do you have to cry about?"
On the other side of the barrier, I found myself sitting on the ground with both children crying on my lap while Amy unloaded the car. A woman in a minivan stopped to ask if we were okay. I set my kids down (still crying) while I answered, "Oh yes! Thanks, we're just fine!" As if this happens every day. Then I proceeded to carry a tissue box and Emerie into the woods while dragging a reluctant Mirabella and explaining that we were about to do the weirdest thing she's ever done. We had to venture rather far, as the woods are kind of sparse and the traffic was stop and go.
A twentysomething guy in an SUV slowed down and asked if we were okay, "Yep, fine thanks!" I yelled, waving the tissue box as we continued to hike and Mirabella continued to wail. We finally found a giant tree that was not covered in thorns behind which we could pee. I couldn't believe I was doing it (and subsequently, can't believe I'm telling you), but I proceeded to demonstrate to Mirabella how to pee on the ground. Emerie is a walking catch phrase, and has been in the habit of saying her version of "that would be weird," which sounds like "dat be wood."
"Mommy, what you doing?" She asked.
"I'm peeing on the ground, Em," I replied.
"Dat be wood," she sniffed.
This act was enough to convince Mirabella that it was okay, so from here, things looked up.
"My name is Christina," I replied.
"My paper says Christian."
"My name is Christina," I repeated.
"Okay," she said, skeptically, then introduced herself and told me the tow truck would take 45 minutes and might not be fully covered by our $50 coverage.
"That's fine, but can you tell me if we need to stay with the vehicle? It's on a very busy road and I have two small children with me. We are not safe. Our ride is here and I'd like to leave the car."
"I don't know, ma'am, but we do need to figure out the overage. It is $1.47. We need to figure out how you're going to pay for that."
"Well, it seems to me I'm talking to someone from my credit card company, so I think we can come up with something."
"They only take cash. Do you have cash?"
"Yes. I have cash. It's only $2.00. Can you tell me if I can leave the vehicle?"
"Well, I don 't know. Would you like me to find out?"
"YES," I replied.
Three minutes later when the phone rang, Rosemary proceeded to introduce herself fully, mention the $1.47 overage, tell me I'm not supposed to leave the vehicle and then, when I complained that we were not safe, read from a script about how American Express chooses their tow truck companies, signage being a key discriminator.
We decided to leave Amy with the car in order to get the kids off the highway, but once we (moved all the luggage we could fit and installed the two carseats in Ron's dealer BMW) got on the road, Rosemary called back to introduce herself again, then tell me my driver had decided I was too far away and cancelled. "Who's coming to get the car, Rosemary?" I asked.
"I am working on that, but I wanted to let you know there may be a slight overage."
"I DON'T CARE HOW MUCH IT COSTS," I said, perhaps too loudly. So we dropped the kids off with Daniel's stepmom and went back to retrieve Amy, at which point Daniel called from the rehearsal to check in.
"I don't even know when a tow truck is coming or how I'd get to the dinner and back. I'm not going to make it," I said.
Rosemary called back, introduced herself again, then shared the good news that a tow truck would arrive in another 45 minutes and that there would be no overage! I asked if we could leave the vehicle. She didn't know and asked if I wanted her to call the company back and how I was going to get to my destination without the tow truck. I assured her I had a ride and that I'd hold.
Thanks to my superhero inlaws, I arrived at the rehearsal dinner just in time for salad.
After dinner Daniel walked me to the "vehicle he had arranged" for me, which was the groom's big pick-up truck (emblazoned with the logo of his electric company). I hoisted myself into the driver's seat and started laughing hysterically at the whole day. I wish I could say this was how the evening ended. This was before my gut check. I did not behave well. Neither did my husband. I drove home with puffy eyes in a big orange truck narrowly missing roughly 300 orange traffic cones because every road I traveled was under construction. Later I asked Daniel, "What do you think I was supposed to be learning?"
"Well, those cones are usually meant to redirect traffic."
Thank God for understanding family and quick apologies and beautiful weddings to bring us quickly back together.
"Oh, you have a wedding coming up, I take it?" she asked.
"Um, no, I mean we're going to apply it to our marriage." I said, sheepishly.
I had the opportunity to act like a grown up and spend an extended amount of time with Daniel's first love. Now, post-Seuss-induced epiphany, I think it was good. We have openly talked about always loving and wanting the best for our first loves, and though it was odd to feel like I was "new" somehow, it was a nice moment (that would have been nicer only if she didn't happen to be stunningly beautiful).
Somewhere in Virginia, I got a call from a Nashville number that I knew couldn't be good. Mosotos has awoken thaing unable to walk or move his back legs. We happened to be sitting in a parking lot after enduring the slowest drive through in history, so I got out of the car where I could cry and ask questions without upsetting the girls. The owner of the kennel had taken our dog to the ER, where they diagnosed a ruptured disc. We have had dogs in the family with history of this diagnosis, and it is extremely serious and potentially life threatening. Ben offered to take Mosotos to his trusted vet friend in the morning. "Try not to worry if you can, " Ben said, "we're treating him like our own."
"I know you don't get this," I sniffled to Daniel, "but he keeps me company when you're away. He waits for me outside the bathroom; he follows me everywhere."
"I know," he said.
We made the 1,000 mile trip in about 19 hours and the girls were, for the most part, wonderful. Thanks to the DVD player, Daniel and I had uninterrupted time to talk through these strange days.
"Don't grumble! Don't stew! Some critters are much-much, oh, ever so much-much, so muchly much-much more unlucky than you!"