At an hour when most ‘normal’ families are sitting down for their evening meal, we are driving in the car-van across dark wintry landscapes. Instead of handing my spawn a plate with warm food, I’m handing out ‘strawberry enrobed’ crackers. And Triscuits. And peanut butter cereal. And white cheddar popcorn.
Anything to keep them quiet.
They’re cranky and irritable. Over the course of a week and a half, they’ve been in the car for nearly 3,000 miles.
At this point, I’m cranky too.
M&M’s, chocolate cookies, crackers and cheese……it may be called ‘emotional overeating’, but I pop anything in my mouth to keep my mind off the fact that we’re not even a third of the way back to Calgary. But the temporary amnesia wears off quickly. And the waistband on my jeans feels noticeably tighter than it did this morning.
‘Daddy, where’s my molk?’ the Hen calls from the backseat. As if his father would have any idea where the two year old might have deposited his blue and white sippy cup filled with water. Not milk. Sometime in the last two or three weeks, the Hen – at the ripe old age of two years and four months – has decided to speak. It’s as if he woke up one morning and decided the words that live in his head should come out. I knew he understood what we were saying, but I”m still surprised by his newfound vocabulary.
‘Mommy, I wan out! Hey Mommy….Mommy…..Mommy….help me….!!!!’ he yells as he tugs desperately at his carseat straps. In vain.
The boys have given up on asking me to reload their DVD player with another movie. They’ve watched far too many movies in the last ten days. Instead, they’ve decided to amuse themselves in unconventional ways.
‘Wrrrrraaaaaaaah’ the Hen roars. Over, and over again. As he leans to the side, towards his brother’s booster seat. ‘I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid!’ the oldest brother squeals by way of reply. For some reason – perhaps roadtrip-induced insanity – we adults think it’s funny. Even if the ear-drum-bursting roars are a ‘bit’ much.. But it’s preferable to whining. Or, worse, crying slash screaming.
We continue along, merrily, until the Hen loses his ‘ba’ and ‘da’. And the sippy cup. And the next hour passes to the tune of the Hen wailing….’where’s my ba…..where’s my da…..where’s my molk…..whaaaaaaaaaaa’.
And the newly four-month-old decides to add his two cents to the mix. He’s spent more time in his carseat in the last two weeks than in the preceding three months of his life. I feel badly, yet there’s not a whole lot I can do for him, save pop in his pacifier. Again and again. And again. And absentmindedly spin the wheels on his new carseat-toy. While I (secretly) contemplate offering him a rice cake to suck on, in the off chance it would buy me five minutes of quiet.
It dawned on me in the fifth hour of driving back to Canadaland, that it’s the return that really sucks.
A four thousand mile (roundtrip) roadtrip sounds ridiculous. People act like it’s an unfathomable act of voluntary personal torture. ‘I don’t know how you do it….I can’t imagine!’ they opine when informed of our plans. But it’s only half bad. The first two thousand miles – aka getting there – is fine. The boys are in good spirits. They’re enthralled with the novelty of watching movies in the car. And staying in a hotel, or at ‘Spencer’s house’. They’re excited at the thought of ‘going to America’ and seeing cousins and grandparents and aunts and uncles. And so are the adults. There’s a spirit of adventure that fills the stale car air and keeps us going. For the first three days of driving.
And then we have to go back.
The boys have been shuttled back and forth (to the tune of another 400 miles) to cousins and grandparents’ homes. They’ve stayed up late. And woken up early. Their barely-existent daily routines have been obliterated. And they’re back in the car. The anticipation of what’s to come is gone. And all that’s left is a solid three days in an overly full car and impatient, tired parents. And bleak, icy cold landscapes.
‘It’s going to take three days to get to Canada,’ the Gort informs his middle brother. ‘This is the ‘two’ (second) day of driving,’ he explains to the oblivious Hen.
It’s the portion of the trip where I question my own sanity for making the trip. Not once, but twice in the same year. When I vow resolutely never to make it again. Knowing full well that I probably will.