“Rise and Shine!” I yell at my boys, just like my mom used to say. Today we leave to take Drew to camp. It’s his first time to go to camp and he’s one of the youngest campers. He’s thrilled. Bill has to work so it’s up to me to get all three boys to North Carolina and back.
The guys use our fabulous Dyson car cleaning kit to get the minivan ready.
“Why are we cleaning the car before we go?” Finn asks. “I mean, it’s just going to get dirty as soon as we stop for lunch.”
“Just do it,” I tell him, while I check to make sure that Drew has packed both his duck and his teddy bear.
We pull out of our driveway and head toward Atlanta.
The air conditioner begins emitting fiery blasts of air.
“My butt is sweaty,” Porter complains.
“Say ‘bottom,’ not ‘butt,'” I automatically correct him.
“My bottom is sweaty,” Porter says.
“I don’t want to hear about it,” I say.
The temperature gauge moves perilously close to HOT.
“Mom, I see smoke coming out of the front of the car,” Drew says cautiously.
“No need to worry!” I trill. “I’m on top of it!”
We exit and head directly to the Express Oil Change for emergency treatment.
We are instructed to leave the van and wait for it to cool down so diagnostic tests can be performed.
“Why is that man crawling under the car?” Porter asks.
“To see what is wrong with it.”
“How can he tell what is wrong with it?” Porter asks.
“I don’t know, that’s just his job and he knows a lot about cars,” I say irritably.
“How did he learn so much about cars?” Porter asks.
“Porter, I’ll pay you a dollar if you can be quiet for five whole minutes.”
While we wait, I act like a mother gorilla and search the boys’ hair for mites and ticks. I don’t see any, but I do find a wad of chewing gum in Porter’s hair. I have plenty of time to unpack the van, locate my nail scissors, and chop it out. I sneakily trim his bangs while I’m at it.
The friendly Express Oil Change man begins forcing a green liquid into the bowels of the van. The boys are momentarily captivated, but soon grow tired of watching the liquid gurgle and drip onto the concrete floor.
11: 25 am
Boys begin rolling around on the floor in boredom.
“How much longer?” Porter asks.
“Not long,” I say unconvincingly.
“Mom, do you think I’m going to get to go to camp?” Drew asks as he climbs into my lap.
“Of course you are,” I assure him, although I am beginning to have some doubts.
The verdict: busted radiator; will take a full day to repair. We pull all the luggage, travel games, snacks and maps out of the clean minivan. I make countless phone calls searching for rescue. Eventually Aunt Su picks us up, loads our belongings, and takes us home to meet Bill. We repack everything in his car.
12:45 pm (CST)
We pull out of our driveway and head toward Atlanta.
“Hey, guys, let’s go to North Carolina,” I say, and then I pretend to giggle. Porter laughs. Drew looks a little less worried. Finn grimaces.
My iPod is playing a peculiar shuffle today– heavy on Prefab
Sprout, Billie Holiday and the Cowboys Junkies. “Good Morning, Heartache” is an apt description of our day so far but it isn’t uplifting driving music.
2:45 pm (CST)/3:45 pm (EST)
Atlanta’s traffic problem starts way before you actually get to Atlanta.
3:15 pm/4:15 pm
Atlanta’s rush hour apparently last all day. The city’s traffic problem extends far beyond the city limits of Atlanta, almost to Greenville.
“Mom, why are there so many cars here? Why Mom?” Porter asks.
“Porter, can you shut up?” Finn yells.
“Finn, don’t say ‘shut up’ and don’t talk to your brother that way,” I scold. “Porter, don’t talk to me right now. There’s too much traffic and I have no idea where all these cars are coming from,” I snap.
3:45pm (EST) to 7:00pm (EST)
Traffic. Fast drivers. Cars. Construction. Police. Erratic drivers. Stop and go traffic. Stopped traffic. Interstate reduced to one lane. Slow drivers in the left lane. Orange cones. Where is Mama’s Klonopin?
Finn complains every time Porter opens his mouth, which is often. Drew has been asleep since Atlanta. The iPod starts “Scarborough Fair” and I fear I may vomit. There is too much traffic for me to search for Tom Petty. I do manage to press fast forward and find “Istanbul, Not Constantinople” and everyone perks up for a moment.
Arrive Greenville Embassy Suites just in time to take advantage of Manager’s Reception. The gin and tonic alone is worth the price of the room; never could find that Klonopin.
We eat at the Olive Garden, then return to the room to get ready for bed. Porter opens his suitcase and discovers that the bottom of his toothpaste tube has busted open.
We all dip our toothbrushes into the tube as if it was a fluoride fondue. “Ha ha!” I laugh to the boys. “Isn’t this a fun trip? What a crazy tube of toothpaste!”
Finn looks at me resentfully.
I discover that the toothpaste actually exploded all over the inside of Porter’s suitcase. His sandals and clean shirt are covered. The whole room begins to smell minty fresh. I order everyone to bed and think, Scarlet-like, “After all, tomorrow is another day.”
The next morning we wake up. Although I washed out Porter’s toothpaste covered shirt, it didn’t dry. He puts on the same smelly shirt he’s been wearing for days for the short drive to camp.
On the way, Drew looks very solemn, although he tries to act upbeat.
We get to camp. All the counselors have funky facial hair. Drew is immediately captivated. We make sure he gets moved into his cabin, then we say goodbye as he goes off to do his swim test.
He looks skinnier, shorter, and paler than ever. I miss him already.