Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Getting There...

Some wise mother told me years ago that after you have children the time you take to travel away from home is no longer called ‘a vacation,’ but ‘a trip,’ because of all the work that is entailed in packing up the family, and all its ‘essential’ belongings, for a few weeks’ respite.

After having survived one long plane ride with two small children, two strollers, one car seat, one portable crib, and three large pieces of luggage, I now understand her statement. Completely.

Despite my vast effort to minimize the number of our necessities, they only increased over the course of the next two days so that when once we had loaded up my parents' jeep with, this time, two children, two strollers, two car seats, two portable cribs, three large pieces of luggage, and two weeks’ worth of food, we began to seriously reconsider ever attempting anything so ambitious again…

Thoughts of taking a trip to Paris (and surrounds) for my 30th birthday – a dream that I have nurtured for some time – fizzled palpably as we observed the fender wells resting comfortably atop the tire rims. (I can almost swear that - at that moment - I heard them shatter and fall into the great river Styx.) Besides this, it was noon and we hadn’t even left the outskirts of my parent’s neighborhood…. Imagine trying to travel from Tucson to New York; from New York to Paris; and from Paris to Provence!

I comforted myself by convincing Dutch to stop in Portland’s Pearl District to lunch and pick up a few books at Powell’s. Then, just when we thought we were really on our way – we had left the city behind us and highway 26 had narrowed and become more peaceful, more pastoral, with fir trees and fruit stands lining either side – we heard what sounded at first like coughing.

I looked back just in time to watch Audrey empty the contents of her stomach onto her carseat, her blankie, herself…as well as her baby sister.

“Stop the car!” I shouted. “She’s throwing up…everywhere.” Poor Dutch spent the next 20 minutes emptying the entire contents of the jeep just to locate Audrey’s suitcase in which were fresh sets of clothes for her and Evie.

Shortly after we had administered medicines, re-buckled seatbelts, and peeled back out onto the road, the ‘coughing’ began again.

This time it was Audrey who said, while I peeled off her reeking clothes, “I throw up…everywhere.’

Afterward, as I was wiping my hands for the tenth time with a wet wipe, Dutch said, “I can’t decide which is worse – the smell of vomit or dirty diapers,” thus commencing a short debate which ended with our ruling in favor of vomit.

“You know what would make this moment just a little bit better?” I asked Dutch, after a pause. “If everyone around us spoke French. Can you picture it?”

“I can. But it isn’t a pretty picture.”

“Well then, how about if, after we wind around the next bend, we are suddenly stopped for speeding?”

“That would be ideal.”

Light flickered through the tall trees, casting long shadows across the road. As we came nearer the coast, the pine trees gradually thinned and were replaced by cypress trees, and golden clusters of cattails, waving us onward.

We passed signs for Cannon Beach; Arch Cape; and Oswald State Park. Manzanita was just a few miles further south along the coastal highway. Momentum built as we passed two or three scenic overlooks and watched as motorists stopped to take photographs and wave to one another in the blinding sunlight.

The highway angled sharply right, and then left. Suddenly, miles below us, stretched out like a frothy shoestring, was a panoramic view of Manzanita’s shores.

I heard Dutch draw a breath. I did the same, and held it. We looked at one another. Tears filled our eyes. Uncharacteristically, it was I who became speechless; and Dutch who whispered the words, “Thank you, Lord, for letting us come here.”

We hadn’t been to Manzanita, or tasted the decadent white mochas from the local coffee shop, since the day of our wedding. It was here, in fact, in this undiscovered little coastal town, that we passed our first evening as man and wife. And now we two had become four. It was a moment to boggle minds; and to enjoy.

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