I’m a road trip girl. Always have been. My mother is terrified of flying, so every vacation consisted of piling into a car that was inevitably too small and driving hundreds of miles to mediocre destinations. But I loved it. Even the 24 hour we’re-not-stoppin’-unless-you’re-dyin’ drive home lent its own kind of life altering excitement.
Now, as a parent myself, I still love road trips. Well, really, I love the idea of road trips. Road tripping in the midst of this borderline hellish endeavor called parenting that I’ve gotten myself into, is a lot different than sitting in the back seat of my parents car, wind in my hair, sun on my face, ginormous headphones plugged into my Walkman. SO. FREAKING. DIFFERENT.
But I’m a sucker. One trying road trip after another and I keep suggesting them. Insisting even. And my husband. He obliges, and then waits for it all to fall apart. He never says “I told you so.” But I swear I feel him thinking it. A lot.
For my daughter’s tenth birthday we bought her tickets to a concert in Boston. Because the concert fell on Columbus Day weekend, I naturally wanted to make a weekend out of it. A road trip if you will. I was determined to make our 24-ish hours away from home a memory. One that I was willing to photograph and revisit.
Yet I should have known. My husband knew. I think the baby knew too. A drive that should have taken a little over two hours took nearly four. We stopped four times. FOUR TIMES. A rest stop. A liquor store. And the breakdown lane of a major highway, twice. Nothing says adventure like running circles around your van rearranging car seats and changing poopy diapers while cars zip by at 75 miles per hour. Really gets the blood pumping.
Once we got into the city I was positive that things would run more smoothly. I’m pretty sure that it was as I unclenched my fists and started breathing regularly that we hit bumper to bumper traffic. In. The. Tunnel. And then our oldest boy announced that he had to pee. Like really bad. I let my mind wander back 13 or so years to my bachelorette party; stuck in traffic and intoxicated. And my sister had to pee. So she jumped out of the limo and peed behind a dumpster in a parking lot. Cause we’re classy like that. But then she had to run alongside the limo because traffic had started moving. I wasn’t about to tell my kid to hop out of the van, pee against the tunnel wall (hello backsplash) and then hope he could catch us as we motored away.
So we did the next best thing. He peed in my empty Dunkin Donuts coffee cup. Like a professional. Part of me feels like my parenting leans heavily towards the “enabling my kids to act like high school idiots” style. Still, part of me was quite proud of myself. I was able to contort my post pregnancy body into the back seat of the van. I was able to hold the cup and not gag. To replace the cap without spilling a drop. To growl at his sisters to stop frigging laughing, and peeking, and screaming “he’s peeing in Mom’s coffee!” I hope we’re not faced with the urgency of that situation again, but if we are, next time I swear I’ll remember to throw the cup away. Not leave it sloshing around in the van for two days. Potholes take on a whole new level of hell when there’s 16ozs of pee in the car.
Dunkin Donuts styrofoam. Not just for coffee anymore.
The rest of the afternoon went relatively well. Aside from the fact that we walked two blocks in the wrong direction looking for my daughter’s favorite restaurant. Then asked directions, and continued to walk another two blocks…still in the wrong direction. Cause we’re geographically gifted like that. Nothing says “this is awesome” quite like your GPS barking at you that you’ve reached your destination, but when you look around all you see are alleyways and a parking garage. Eff you GPS. You failed us. Again.
Upon checking in to our hotel I was reminded just how out of place my family can be sometimes. The hotel was pretty swanky. We had to smuggle a couple of kids in, because technically we exceeded the maximum room occupancy. Also, six people in a room with two double beds leads to renting a rollaway bed. So there was kinda the time I was sitting on the toilet talking to my mother on the phone, when I heard a knock on the door. I assumed it was my husband coming back for his forgotten wallet, or better yet a forgotten child. Nope. A porter. With the rollaway bed. We were both stunned.
And then my heart broke for my little girl. As the big kids left with dad she once again left out. And she was sad. But she kept saying “thank you Mom. Thank you for letting me come to this hotel.” To make it up to her she had McDonald’s for dinner and a pre-bed dip in the oddly small rooftop pool. Except she nearly drown. She wanted to see if she could touch bottom without her Puddle Jumper on. The pool was 3 ½ feet deep. I told her to walk down the steps and quickly touch the bottom. She did just that. And she could touch, and with her head thrown back and her little nose in the air so she could breathe. And I told her to come back. But she decided to bob and tiptoe away from the edge of the pool. And then she panicked. And started flailing. And kinda drowning I think. And as I was kneeling at the edge of the pool, arm outstretched as far as it could go, pleading with her to kick her little feet I realized one thing. I’d forgotten to snap my nursing tank back together again. And then I realized I was wearing a painfully stretched-out-to-East-Gish scoop neck t-shirt on top of my nursing tank. And saving Gillian quickly became more about saving my ladies from completely falling out of my shirt. In front of the freakishly hairy Dad, who waded to our side of the pool to see what all the commotion was. It was a spectacle. I saved Gillian. But not my pride.
Wanting to play it cool I let Gillian swim around with her floaties on for a while after. The other family left. And their kid took our room key with them. So there was also the time my sopping wet four year old, shivering in just a bathing suit and wet towel, my four month old, overtired and cranky, and I, fresh off yet another boob baring experience, had to make our way down nine floors, across the very full lobby and up to the front desk. I hadn’t gotten the entire story out before the woman kindly held up her hand, asked for our room number and issued a new key.
Ultimately the big kids had a great time at the concert with their Dad. And ultimately I held down the fort in a mostly respectable fashion. It wasn’t even that annoying that our hotel was nestled up next to a major medical center in the middle of Boston. We hardly noticed the constant sirens at all.
In the morning we faced the thought of our return trip with great dignity. Unlike the way we faced the free breakfast. Four times. And maybe once more for the road. Heading down to eat our weight in free food my family looked like a pack of drunks. No, worse. We looked like a pack of worn out drunks. Not drunks that have had a good time. Just the opposite. Drunks with mostly mismatched jammies and inappropriate footwear. The hotel manager gave a visible shiver when he realized we were there for breakfast. Again. He was a tiny little man.
But the kids ate. A bagel caught on fire in the toaster (so not our fault)! Then they swam. Someone smacked someone else in the face “accidentally” and there was a bloody nose. So then we left. Could not get out of there fast enough. And we hadn't made it one block and they were asking when we'd be home. But the baby slept. And the big kids reminisced. And it only took two hours.