Sometimes a decision is either brave or foolish, and you can’t know which until after the thing is done. I debated with myself for a few weeks — me and the kids, by car from MD to SC, sans Hubby? I did it once before, last July, and it was fine. We had fun. Nobody got hurt. “Be brave, try it again,” I told myself. I had some inexplicable, slight misgivings. Maybe I got lucky last year, maybe I shouldn’t push my luck. Relax, have fun at home for Spring Break. “Don’t be foolish,” I told myself. But, brave is good. I like brave. And, I went with that.
I could not have known that an 8-hour trip would become a 16-hour odyssey. And, here, more specifically is what else I learned yesterday.
In addition to checking the weather forecast for your destination, check the weather for the route there. Severe thunderstorms in my SC hometown? Ok, been there, done that. Tornados in NC? At one point, we and all other travelers in sight pulled off to the side of I-95. The trees were leaning over the highway, clouds were sending the rain down through firehoses, hail was pelting the car from every direction, and leaves and debris were swirling around us like confetti. Jay started to cry and clutch his blanket. Mae was scared and quiet, which says a lot.
She’s funny when she’s being silly. She’s hilarious when she’s serious (though you had better not laugh out loud). After we were back on the highway and she’d had a little time to process the storm, she pronounced — and, this is a direct quote. I wrote it down as soon as she said it because it’s easy to write and drive when you’re moving at 3 miles per hour — “Let me tell you something. This nasty weather cannot go on.”
She was decidedly annoyed. She stayed quiet for a little while. When she spoke again, her tone had changed. She said, like a leader rallying her troops, “The best thing to do is pray. We’re going to pray now, and again when we get to Nonny’s house. And, Mommy you’re going to lead. Starting . . . now. BUT, keep your eyes open!” Now, we are not Christians, and we do not have a practice of prayer at home. At school, however, she does pray with her teachers and classmates. I wanted to see how she would pray. So, I said, “I have to focus on driving, so you lead the prayer.” She started, “Dear God, . . . ” and Jay started to mock her. Bad idea. “This is serious! STOP talking!” He wouldn’t settle down for her, so I told him to and he listened. She said her prayer, asking God to stop the tornado. Amen.
Mae made her peace with the storm and became contemplative. She and Jay focused on looking for rainbows and identifying cloud shapes. She saw a squirrel with a smile. He saw a moosehead with an elephant trunk. They didn’t find a rainbow, but Mae said she saw air slicing through clouds. It’s that image of sun rays reaching down through openings in the sky. According to Mae, we were looking at “nature’s art show.” She said, “That’s what nature does. Always making art.”
And, here’s another major lesson learned yesterday. The only thing more worrisome than thinking your child will have a potty emergency in the car is thinking you’ll have your own potty emergency in the car. Wearing a dress, riding high in an SUV, and having a stack of napkins in the glove compartment and an empty McDonald’s cup are darn good things when you are stuck in a mess of traffic.
That is all for Part I.