Going home is harder than leaving.
When I was about ten, my parents took us on a road trip out west. I spent a lot of time leaning against the blankets my mom bought in Mexico, reading Archie comics. I also had them play the same mixtape over and over. I remember the tape – called “Greatest hits Volume IV,” I believe. But I can only remember small snippets of the actual music. I Heard it through the Grapevine was on that mix, and Don’t Give Up by Peter Gabriel. I know if I could find that tape I’d remember the words to so many of the songs that I can’t even remember titles to right now!
I’ve always been a fan of music in the car. When I got my license and could finally drive independently, I put in my mixtapes, or the ones my friends made, and turned up the volume. I rolled down the window to the red Hyundai my parents let me take to school almost every day, and picked up my friends.
I still remember a summer drive through a warm New Jersey expressway. I was driving from my family beach vacation to pick up my boyfriend about an hour away so he could join the vacation. I don’t remember what music I played, but I remember the feeling of windows down, music on, and open road. Independence!
When my kids were little, I played music on the way to any destination; errands or road trips! Sometimes I played music to keep everyone awake and singing. Sometimes I played music to help lull children to sleep for a nap or even for actual bedtime. One morning I did the preschool drop off, and went to get a coffee while the baby slept soundly in his carseat. It wasn’t until after I drove away with my coffee that I realized that Laurie Berkner was still playing, and I was singing along. Those Laurie Berkner songs are catchy!
My road trip out west this summer has a different soundtrack. Playlists from my phone, or music my 18 year old chooses, or my boys request. (And sometimes a Dear Hank and John podcast, or a little bit of an audiobook.)
It’s a shame I can’t write while I drive, because as the music plays I start creating a found poem from some of the lines that stand out. I don’t remember my poems once I am done driving. But, I keep making them the next day on the road. I don’t think it’s the same when I’m sitting and thinking about it, but I can give it a try. Maybe you’ll recognize the songs.
She’s been everybody else’s girl, maybe one day she’ll be her own
where’s my apology?
So raise your glass if you are wrong
God sometimes you just don’t come through
Do you need a woman to look after you
I keep cruising
you outgrew me
Don’t you remember?
They’re watching my every sound
Have I the courage to change today?
You know I laugh too long
I like too much of you, when i’m gone
I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on
I’m not your friend or anything, damn
I know what I know, if you know what I mean
Oh no, don’t try to hustle me
We can’t afford to be innocent,
stand up and face the enemy
It’s a do or die situation, we will be invincible
Don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right
Me, me, me, me, me, me, me, It needs to be about me
Cause I’m my own soulmate
That’s exactly how I feel
Don’t hide no emotions
Wear ’em on my sleeve
Try it! Press shuffle on your songs, and collect some lines. What is your playlist shuffle poem?
This morning I woke up in a barn in Kansas, to the sound of a very small baby kitten meowing at my door. This is the kitten that greeted us late last night, and followed us to our room. This is the kitten that my children would like to kitten-nap and bring home with us.
Yesterday I woke up in a bungalow in MIssouri, happy to have ignored the roach I saw scurry into the corner before I fell asleep. This was the roach that I thought about briefly every time I woke up in the middle of the night. This was a roach like the one that the one bad Airbnb reviewer had mentioned that I had decided was just one review, and didn’t matter.
On Sunday I woke up in a yurt in Ohio, happy for the daylight so I could walk to the outhouse without worrying about the dark pathway where maybe my daughter saw a skunk scurry away the night before. This “skunk” was probably actually a cat, enjoying the beautiful backyard just like we had.
3 days in to our epic mom and kids road trip and so far, so good.
Knock on wood.
When my kid were babies, toddlers, young elementary students, I could never have imagined a trip where they all carried their stuff and helped clean up when it was time to leave the Airbnb. I couldn’t have imagined that they would just take charge of organizing the van and help to navigate. I definitely couldn’t have imagined one of them taking a turn at the wheel so I can nap during a ten-hour drive.
Don’t get me wrong, friends, the bickering in the car isn’t what I’d call “better than when they were toddlers.” I’d probably call it worse. And since the kids are in charge of the van packing, they definitely put the snacks close-by for easy grabbing. And currently, while I’m writing, some of the children are whining about how I need to get ready so we can go outside and meet all the animals at this farm.
When my kids were babies, toddlers, young elementary students, I couldn’t imagine life with them as these older kids. Now that they are older kids, I can’t really imagine life with them as adults… but I can start to see the fuzzy edges of that. I hope they will continue to want to travel with me – because they are awesome road trip buddies!
On to Colorado today, and the adventures that await us!
There was this time my mom and I took walks in Texas. We were always excited to hear the birds (different birds than in Pennsylvania!) and we even saw a few Road Runners! One rainy evening, I almost stepped on a snake. This was surprising, since we were on the lookout for Texas wildlife, and we were walking slowly.
The snake was red and black and yellow and my mom and I stared at it for a bit before walking away.
“Is it dead?” I asked. “Is it real?”
I sent a picture to my kids.
My mom said, “There’s a rhyme about this… yellow next to red, something dead… ” She couldn’t remember the exact rhyme, of course so we circled back to the snake to get another look and a utility worker noticed our gaze.
“Uh-Oh,” he said as he came over to get a close look.
“There’s a rhyme of some sort…” my mom said to him.
“Red touch black, safe for Jack. Red touches yellow, kills a fellow.” the man said and we all looked down at the snake. Red touches yellow….
My phone buzzed with a text. H had written, “Ha. Ha. Ha.”
The utility worker kicked the snake.
“Or, it’s a toy.” he said, with a smile.
There were woods behind my childhood home-
I got there by going through an overgrown hedge, next to the small cave I made in a wisteria bush. Sometimes on my own, sometimes with a friend.
We’d climb this evergreen with low hanging branches and sweep the forest floor with the lowest branch. I don’t remember many details from childhood, but I remember the swaying of that branch and how it made the pine needle floor smooth below.
We also collected cigarette butts in an old orange soda can. We were obsessed with cigarettes, for some reason. It was the eighties, that might be a good excuse. We’d pretend to smoke the butts, and then collect them in the can: a good deed for the forest, mixed with an odd view of adulthood, and the glamour of smoking.
Probably if you are younger than me, you don’t understand the cigarette glamour. This is a good thing, I think, that there isn’t that same glamour now. But my imagination was a wild thing back then, unbounded. And I loved to imagine what it would be like to be an adult.
Now I try to imagine what it was like to be a child with an imagination,
and wild raspberry bushes up the street
and a pump station that looked like a magical brick cottage to me
and a field across the street with water runoff that were barbie rivers
and turtles found on the side of the road, kept for a week and then returned
and stuffed animals on leashes for walks
and fairies that lived under couches
and 12 foot pools, 18 inches deep that felt like lakes for hours of inner tubing
and of course, the woods behind the hedge next to the wisteria cave –
The woods are condos now.
But I drive by and think of my tree, and how the low branch swept the forest floor clean.
Have I ever told you how my memories are like blurs of pictures and sounds and feelings? I remember the same things over and over, but not too many things. Thank goodness for childhood friends who fill in the gaps. And even then the memories aren’t crisp enough for actual articulation. But even a slice of a memory makes me feel like I’ve caught it.
Have I ever told you about the boy in preschool who dumped a cup of water on me – on my pretty new white sweater with flowers? We were at the water table, and I was so mad when it happened. I don’t remember why I thought water on a sweater was the worst thing in the world, but it was. It really was.
Have I ever told you about how my friends and I were so obsessed with robbers, that we made robber stew in potholes after it rained. Our imaginations were so powerful that we thought, for sure, a robber would be so hungry on the prowl that they would definitely eat the stew we made with the poisonous berries, twigs, mud and stones. We even wrapped the rope swing around the swingset, making sure we would confuse the robbers if they tried anything with that swingset. Did we think they were going to steal it or maybe play on it? I don’t know. It’s fuzzy.
Have I ever told you about how my friend and I would stare out the window into the dark during a sleepover? We would convince ourselves that there were robbers out there. Robbers! The scariest thing ever when I was 7. My mom would come in and sigh, “You are scaring yourselves!” and threaten to separate us for the rest of the sleepover if we continued. Separating from my best friend – even scarier than robbers. We stepped away from the dark window, and held hands until we fell asleep.
Have I ever told you about how one day I heard my mom and dad whispering. They told me to go back in my room. I couldn’t hear them at all, but I could tell they were making a plan. Some sort of surprise. When they called me back out, I said “Are we going miniature golfing?” and they were so confused – how did I know the plan?
Have I ever told you about the day that we were having a big picnic and my best friend and her family and the German family they had staying with then were there. The four of us, all around 8 or 9, I think, we went in to dress up, including stuffing rolls of socks in our shirts. All was fun and games until we emerged back outside, lumpy fake breasts sticking out. Embarrassing. Oh, I remember the embarrassment. (Somewhere there is a picture of us, and if I had it, I’d share it, because now it is only hilarious.)
Have I ever told you about going across country when I was 10? We stopped at a Mexican restaurant and I ordered chicken enchiladas. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t good. I sat there looking at my plate wondering why I was eating chicken. We didn’t eat much meat, but still. I made the real connection at that table. “This chicken was once walking around as a chicken.” I said, or thought, who knows – the memory is blurry. And I decided then and there to be a vegetarian.
Have I ever told you that later when we drove back from Mexico, I leaned on the dozen or more Mexican blankets my mom had bought. I rested in the backseat and read Archie comics maybe the whole way. An early vegetarian, before carsickness got ahold of me, reading instead of looking out the window at the glorious landscape. How odd.
Memories are strange things, how they blur and fuzz and repeat. I’m trying to live in the present though, after all – the present is when all those memories happened, right?
H wanted to wake up early and start the day with a walk
I was proud of myself for going to bed before 11:30
I was up at 4:00
Downstairs making coffee, tired of trying to fall back to sleep by 5:00
Resting on the couch with the cats when H came down at 6:00
Falling asleep with a mug of coffee in my hands by 6:15
Finally out the door for a walk at 6:30
The dog was happy, but also confused
He likes his mornings slow
Crisp spring air
“So good to start the day with movement”
“We should do this more often”
There are neighbors running up the hill by our house
Then down the hill
Then up the hill
“That will be us one day”
I say, as we shuffle towards them
“We start with a morning walk, but one day we’ll be running up the hill”
I’m drinking my coffee still
And hoping nobody notices I’m still in my pajamas
The neighbors stop at the bottom of the hill one by one to do push ups
“Should we sing to them?” I ask my 14 year old
You’re my inspiration . . .
But then the last man gets down in the middle of the street for his push ups
“That’s called testosterone,” I say
“There’s no reason on God’s green earth that you need to do push ups in the middle of the street”
We’re home now
For more coffee
It was a short walk
Pushups not included
But it was a good way
to start the day –
I’m trying to put myself first, or at least as one of many top priorities. You’d think this would be easy work, but alas, it is not. One thing I’m working on is my mindfulness and meditation practice. I am not a natural at this.
Last night while L was out and the boys were busy with a minecraft build, I downloaded a new meditation app to try: A free trial of special mindscapes. You have to listen with earbuds or headphones because it’s 3D sound. I settled into a nook in the couch, put my airpods in and started.
I looked at my clock and realized my newly licensed daughter hadn’t contacted me for over 2 hours. And I had forgotten to give her a curfew even. I don’t know what kind of mom just doesn’t even think to give her 17 year old a time to come home, but I just didn’t. There’s one rule that I did remind her of though – you have to text when you arrive somewhere, and text when you leave somewhere. (Thanks, Mardi for this rule idea.) She hadn’t called or texted since letting me know she had “arrived on the mountain.” It’s a hard rule to remember, I think. But, we can do hard things. Right?
So I paused the meditation after it told me I’d need 20 minutes of distraction free time. I texted L, I called her, I left a message. Mr. Thought did the same. Even though I knew that it was most likely that she had forgotten to text when she left, and her phone was dutifully put away in her bag and she was driving. . . I can jump from mindfulness to full blown worry pretty quickly. (This is why I need the app, friends)
Finally (and by finally I mean less than 10 minutes later) she called to tell me that she was on her way home, and that she hadn’t seen my texts or calls because her phone was dutifully put away in her bag and she was driving.
I started the introduction meditation again, but realized that it would totally freak me out to be jolted out of meditation when she arrived home and the dog started barking. So, I paused it again.
She got home, the boys came upstairs, I sent them all up to get ready for bed.
“I’ll be up soon, after I do this meditation,” I told them. “Please don’t yell for me.” I was feeling pretty desperate for mindfulness.
I settled into another nook of the couch, with my airpods in – noise cancelation on and started the meditation for a third time.
It’s a neat app, but the voice at first sounds a little freaky in a dystopian-robot-mind-control sort of way. So I texted Mr. Thought to warn him not to startle me because it will freak me out. I laughed at myself for not trusting the meditation app, for letting the mindfulness app freak me out, and I started to settle in. I reminded myself I was safe, in my house and had taken care of things that would startle me. I started to relax into the soundscape.
Then I felt a hand on my shoulder.
That’s not a hand I told my brain. It is a cat, here to snuggle.
Then I opened my eyes and it was a hand.
I startled, friends. I may have jumped a bit.
It was E. My 11 year old thought I was sleeping and gently put his hand on my shoulder so that he wouldn’t startle me. But I wasn’t sleeping, and I did startle. Of course he felt terrible, and I told him it was okay, while taking some deep breaths to calm myself down.
I laughed to myself about my attempts at mindfulness and invited him to sit next to me. He snuggled in, I finished my meditation session, and he fell asleep.
I guess that’s why they call it a meditation practice. Because, I for one, still need a lot of practice.
I was working after school when the neighbor texted to make sure I knew that one of my kids had started a fire pit — in the driveway.
This is confusing because we don’t have a fire pit in the driveway.
In my mind, I was remembering the science experiment about 5 years ago, where our driveway looked like a scene from a miniature dystopian book.
So when I went outside, I was surprised it was an actual fire pit. In the middle of the driveway. Being fueled, of course by old firewood and hand sanitizer.
“Oh my.” I said. I was pretty calm, even though my 8th grader knows better.
I reminded him of the rules about fire. Namely that you don’t make one without permission and that the only fire pit you use is the actual fire pit in our backyard.
“It’s a really great fire!” the kindergarten neighbor from up the street said.
Our next door neighbor kids came back out for a quick fire check, bringing along some fire starters in case they were needed. One of them sat in a camp chair even though it was her dinner time. I have a feeling if I had started singing some campfire songs, we could have started something… But they were called in and it was time to get rid of the fire.
I told my boys that it was a well made, very cute fire – but still… It had to go out.
“Ahhhhh…. But first!” I said. “Do you know what month it is?” I looked right at my 14 year old, who has done the classroom slice of life challenge before. I raised my eyebrows a few times.
“Oh no!” he said, and he tried to stop me from taking a picture.
“No, no, no, no…” he said with a squinty look.
“Your only saving grace is that I can slice about this.” I said.
He looked at me with puppy dog eyes.
But, rules are rules. Some parents discipline with restrictions, groundings, and other assorted forms of punishment.
I just write it down.
“You’re going to take a picture of this little fire?” my kindergarten neighbor asked me.
“Yep!” I said, “and then I’m going to write a story about it and publish it! It will be famous!”
“But it’s just a little fire!” he said, surprised.
A little fire, a little slice, I guess. If you build a mini fire pit in the driveway without parent permission in March? I’m going to write about it.
So, I hope that serves as a fair warning to the next person who wants to build a fire pit in my driveway.
So to speak.
Hey everyone –
My daughter can drive now.
Like all by herself.
On the roads
YOU drive on
I think you know where this is going.
She was a baby who stretched her arms with her elbows bent
She wore sleepers and sleep sacks and slept in my arms for most of her babyhood
She was a toddler who called grapes “erdeps” and loved mud puddles
She watched Elmo over and over and changed her clothes 5 times a day in preschool –
always with a turn in the snow white dress
This was just yesterday, friends
And tomorrow she will be off to college
Metaphorically tomorrow –
Geez – I have more time than that.
So I have a request
That. Means. YOU.
It’s simple really.
Get off the road if you can
I mean do you really need to drive?
And if you must drive, do it safely
Obviously don’t drink or text or try to put your mascara on
Be safe and kind or stay home.