It started with a broken taillight and a stolen newspaper. On the eve of our departure for the land of mosquitoes, humidity and clearance merchandise, the professor ventured downstairs, where I was cleaning the basement like a madwoman. Because I’d just realized the library was charging me late fees for a book I knew I’d returned. ‘I have some bad news,’ he began. Tentatively.
‘One of the little people turned off the [backing up sensor] and I backed into a post….and broke the taillight.’ I looked at him. It seemed like an inauspicious start: having to make a last-minute trip to Canadian Tire to buy red tape to cover up one’s taillight.
I’d just returned from a neighbourhood walk to one of the Hen’s preschool coordinators’ homes. I was supposed to show my passport and driver’s license in exchange for the ‘privilege’ of filling out a police clearance form so I could volunteer in the classroom every.four.weeks.
The preschool coordinator never answered her doorbell, so I left with my identification and walked the three blocks back to my house. When I got home, I realized I’d stolen her unread copy of the Daily Globe and Mail. The one I’d been reading while waiting for her to answer her ringing doorbell. (Or knocking door.) Oops. More inauspicion.
Despite my best attempts at planning and making lists, I’ve determined it’s not possible to go to bed before midnight on the eve of ‘the roadtrip’. The packing was done. The house was relatively clean. The laundry pile had been reduced to nothing. I’d even washed the boys’ Crocs. But there were random things like cleaning out the fridge, and making a double batch of banana bread that sucked up unplanned-for recesses of time.
‘I think you’re getting bogged down with minutiae,’ the professor observed at one point. Seeing as I’d told him I intended to go to bed at 9 and it was already past 10.30. And I was sorting toys in the basement.
Just before midnight, I headed to bed. ‘Do you think we can make it to Mt. Rushmore tomorrow,’ the professor inquired in his crazy voice. ‘How far is it from here?’ ‘Sixteen hours,’ he replied. I looked at him like he was crazy. ‘There’s no way. It will be our first day in the car. We need to get used to being in the car again. We have to be more realistic.’
And so we set our sights….on Billings, Montana. Eloquently described as ‘It’s Billings’ on the Chamber of Commerce billboard. A mere nine hours from Calgary.