Driving back is the worst.
It doesn`t matter that I know this, anticipate it, expect it. Still, I find myself sitting in a car that first day after the conclusion of our annual Midwestern tour, in a deep funk.
‘You know how there are volcanoes and supervolcanoes,’ the professor dares to speak aloud, ‘well you`re a supervolcano about to explode,’ he opines. As though it needed to be said.
Which, it didn’t. ‘Yes, I’m grumpy,’ I concede, ‘so maybe you should just leave me alone.’ But he can’t. He insists on jabbing his finger into my sides in the off-chance it will produce a smile. Which, it won`t. I’ve been on the road for 19 days: I’m done.
We approach Peoria, Illinois which is probably two hours from Indianapolis. ‘I don’t want to be in the car anymore,’ I whine like a small child. ‘Can we just stop here?’
We’ve traveled one-eighteenth of our journey and I’m suggesting we quit. ‘Yeah, maybe we can just get out here and never get back in the car again,’ the professor agrees. ‘We could just live in Peoria and tell everyone if they want to see us they’ll have to drive to Peoria because we’re never driving anywhere again.’
The Gort and the Hen are fighting in the backseat. ‘He won’t share water with me!’ one bellows. ‘He’s copying me,’ another cries. ‘Stop copying me!’ ‘Stop copying me!’ ‘It’s not funny.’ ‘It’s not funny.’
It’s annoying and so……textbook.
Percy isn’t one to be left out of the drama. He learned a thing or two in the Midwest. Namely words. Suddenly, he speaks. A lot. It’s as if we left Calgary with a baby and are returning with a preschooler. They’re mostly ‘declarative’ phrases, like ‘no pictures!’ when I point the camera in his direction, or ‘no byper [diaper]!’ when I offer to change him. ‘No bath!’ when I suggest we remedy the disaster that is his appearance. And self-centered demands, like ‘my turn’ and ‘share’ when his brothers or I have something he wants.
Which is pretty much 90% of the time: toys, snacks, iced coffee, atlases – it doesn’t matter. He wants them all. Now.
He’s also adopted an ear-searing squeal that stuns me – painfully – when he opens his mouth and lets one rip, at completely random intervals. It’s not done out of anger or malice, I think he just genuinely enjoys the look of wincing-horror on my face whenever he does it. Because he breaks into a huge grin, thoroughly pleased with himself.
As if to say ‘pretty impressive, huh.’
Despite our inclination to set up shop in Peoria, we soldier on, completing the 758 mile journey to Sioux Falls in the Google-suggested 12 hours and 30 minutes. Along the way, there’s a disagreement about the amount of ice in iced coffee. There is mind-blowing heat and humidity. We purchase little pieces of junk at visitors’ centers in the off-chance it would keep the boys quiet for fifteen minutes. We eat candy. And more Terra chips than any human should consume in a year.
We arrive in the Sheraton parking lot just before midnight. There are two beds in our room (which is not always the case – as we’ll find out the following night). The $10 internet is not working And the professor has to turn in his ‘annual performance report’ the next day.