I tried not to think to much about my Christmas vacation leading up to it actually happening, thus minimizing the doomsday scenarios that flash through my mind when I worry about stuff, like say, being in the car for 13 hours...with a baby...and two dogs.
But the other day, as we were leaving for New York, I was overcome with joy at my good fortune. I’d managed to get the trunk packed and was watching my wife exit the house. She shut the door, cocked her head like she does when mentally checking down her list(s), and walked towards the car. We were actually leaving. I rubbed my hands together, buckled up, shifted into reverse and backed out of the driveway. I even reset the trip odometer like the old man I am.
We sat in the car, idling just in front of our home. The odometer doesn’t measured feet but I estimated 37.
“I forgot my sunglasses.”
I eased back into the driveway and my wife hopped out, ran to her car. (well, sauntered actually), and then proceeded to set off the alarm. After that, she reentered the house and I took the opportunity to lecture my son on the virtues of bachelorhood. Then we set off again, this time driving exactly 2.6 miles before having to turn around. We’d forgotten a very important gift. I cannot begin to type the severity of the curse words that echoed in my head at that moment.
Okay, inching along. We completed the first leg of our journey without any more serious hiccups. We stopped for a roadside picnic--due to the two dogs. My memory seared moment came as we packed up to get back on the road somewhere in WVa. While waiting to pull out into traffic, my wife told me to stop, where she hopped out of the car and I watched from my rearview mirror as she, still holding her own breast milk in one hand,scoured the trunk for bottle nipples as traffic zipped past. Deep breaths.
Seven hours after leaving the house, we arrived at our hotel.
Now I’m sure Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, has its moments. I’m sure that there are days when the sun shines and the grass burst a shimmering green as the birds whistle an especially sweet tune.
This was not one of those days. The mist and fog only lent to the miserable experience of our stay, right from the time we pulled right up to our curbside door. My first thought as my wife checked in as I waited in the car with my road weary son and howling dogs, was that I hoped I had change for the vibrating bed.
I’m not a snob. Trust me. But when it comes to my family—especially my son who’s not even a year old, I get a little uptight. Throw in two stressed dogs and by the time we walked into the room—which was eerily similar to the rooms my friends and I used to rent out when we were teenagers for a place to drink and party—I was a little bit on edge.
We tried to make the best out of it, even though the door wouldn't seem to close quite right (perhaps to being kicked in by the police), and the foot traffic and passing cars kept the dogs on edge. It was a restless night, and the worst was yet to come as the weather reports did us no favors, showing rolling clips of apocalyptic ice storm threatening to bring the entire North to a standstill.
But I’d all but made up my mind to drive north as far as allowable to get another room—far away from our current room awash with the orange glow of the gas station sign outside, and reassess our situation.
Day two brought rain. It brought fog. It brought ice, sleet, snow and everything else it could throw at us. But we made it. I ate a tray full of Christmas cookies for lunch (we all made sacrifices), with my wife in the back seat and feeding our child.
People passed and pointed, no doubt laughing at the man who forced his wife in the back while his dog sat shotgun. Whatever. We arrived at our destination cold and tired but in one piece.
So now we're here and tonight the temperatures are supposed to be somewhere around five degrees. But there's fudge and cookies and lots of snow, not to mention good people and Christmas cheer. Oh yeah, and while walking my dogs I found this Santa, so that made the whole trip worthwhile...