2020 has taken its toll on everyone. Each of us feels the pressure building as the election year, an ongoing pandemic, and the continuous tide of racial injustice violently collide, one thing against another against another. And though our individual worries may differ greatly and our lives are impacted to varying degrees, few of us can deny the unexpected strain and frustration this year has brought.
It is the week of the Fourth, and COVID or not, Americans are traveling. My family is no exception. We pack our bags, jigsaw the backend of our gas-guzzling SUV until everything fits, then wait an extra hour on a last-minute package from Amazon. It is nothing if not American.
We are rebels charging down a two-lane highway. We are free. The radio blares. Kids buckled snugly in the back ask every few minutes where we’re going. We don’t answer. We’re just driving, and it feels good. This current crash course in introversion has been rough.
“Did you know that some people charge two, even three dollars for a cup of coffee? Coffee!” the cashier scoffs as my husband hands her $1.25 for the gas station blend that’s been sitting on the warmer since dawn. It’s pushing 1 o’clock, and we are the only patrons in this forgotten town.
“It’s really about the anticipation of the trip - not the trip itself,” I overhear the tired mother tell the eager insurance salesman over coffee. He nods his head and says something about a pricey trip to the ocean, thousands of dollars spent and nothing remembered by ungrateful children. He’s trying to make a sale; she’s trying to be heard.
My Facebook game is strong. I have a cover photo boasting a towering mountain range from our last trip out west. There’s a profile pic with three happy children and a smiling husband.
A few summers ago, I convinced my husband to join me, our rapidly growing fetus, and our two-year-old and ten-month-old boys, on a 3,500 mile, 13 day trek to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. This Canadian adventure was the very first of what has become our annual (sometimes semi-annual) family road trip, these unruly journeys that have cemented themselves at the very top of my favorite way to travel.
When you fail to learn a lesson, the universe tries again. After the unfortunate travel potty incident and subsequent sleepover from hell described in my last post, one would think I could have kept both my butt and my family at home for a while. Instead, I took us camping.
The past two weeks have been a lesson in slowing down. Like most lessons, this is not one I have openly embraced. In fact, I raged against it forcefully, as I often do, and the universe kept busting my chops until I finally conceded.
I haven’t showered since Jackson Hole. That was Day 4. This is Day 9. I am disgusting. My hair is slicked back into a disheveled bun using a mixture of sweat and dry shampoo. I am wearing glasses because my eyes rejected contacts this morning after hours of staring at the road. My armpits and breath compete for most offensive. We are somewhere near the bottom of Wisconsin and our energy reserves. Our youngest has been asking for home for the last two days, and it’s starting to break me.