Decide to go home for the holidays. Leave Harvey here in Arkansas and take Ruby on the 1500-mile trek home. Ruby is packed like Santa's red sleigh with food, gifts and good cheer as we plow through snow-covered highways to get back to where we once belonged.
Back to the Future
Our third day home; it's like we never left. The adventure of the past 20 states is but a dream. Now I know how I'll feel next year when we're home for good.This in-between stage is a weird back-to-the-future feeling, like the trip already ended, yet is about to begin. Let this be a warning to us to fully enjoy the next 30 states, cuz we'll be back in reality before we know it.
Love my nieces to pieces
Oh, I do so love being an aunt. To see Melissa, Julie, Andrea, Michelle, Heather, and Hannah is wonderful. (Love the nephews, too, but Aunt-Nephew relationship not as intense as Aunt-Niece relationship.) Since we're staying with Loren, I get to see Melissa everyday. Last night she came into our room to model a gown she bought for a formal event she's going to. Her seeking our opinion really warms me.
This morning I awake to the sound of drawers slamming, doors banging, feet stomping, and a voice rising in frustration. Curious, I get out of bed, sleepy-eyed, pajama-clad, and stumble downstairs to investigate. See Melissa frantically searching for missing car keys as she mumbles like the Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, "I'm late. I'm late.I'm late. I've got to get to work." Calmly, I offer a ride in Ruby. Feel warmed again to be able to do this, to help out in some small way. Feels so good to be "The Confident Adult." The simple pleasure of being able to help my sweet, darling godchild. That subtle joy of being there for someone you love. I miss it. The intertwining connection of family. And the reciprocity, too. Like Michelle and Todd hosting a big "WELCOME HOME/GOODBYE AGAIN" party for us in their new home. Actually an old home, built in the 1600s. It's so heartwarming to me that this young couple think enough of their old aunt and uncle to plan a party for us. Wow. The power of family. And the force is growing. Two new nieces added to the family since we've been gone. Last June, Ken's sister Debbie had a baby girl, Jillian; and Ken's brother's wife, Marie, had a baby girl, Elise, just two weeks ago. Babies make life so exciting. We look forward to participating in two new lives. More nieces at that. Yes!
I am John Lennon
Finished reading "McCartney: Many Years from Now" by Barry Miles. Really loved the book, particularly the Beatles' early years. Before the fame. The book mentions a 1960s London Times article reporting John Lennon as "The Laziest Man in London" noting his daily habit of sleeping until 2:00 in the afternoon, getting up, drinking tea and watching TV all day. (A Tea-Head they called him.) Instantly I recognize myself. No, I don't watch TV all day, but I would if I could. To overcompensate for this weakness I've always kept up a ridiculously full schedule, hoping no one would notice that I'm a closet Lazybones. I've even tried to keep this secret from Ken, which made the first few years of marriage difficult. Didn't want the new husband to know he got a lazy bride. To keep up the facade of appearing normal, I wouldn't relax until I saw Ken relax. But no more. Today I'm fessing up. And this news about John Lennon has given me the courage to do so. When I get home from this trip, no more crazy schedules. I'm going to sit around, drink tea, read books and watch old movies on TV. Mmmm . . . feels good to stop the lie. Ironically Ken is responsible for letting Lazybones out of the closet. He's reading the McCartney book too, and at the part about Lennon being lazy, he says, "Hey. You're John Lennon." At first I vehemently deny it. "I am NOT." I reply with the required tone of umbrage and certitude. (Wait a minute.. .No more hiding, I said.) Calmly, assuredly I admit, "Yes, Ken, you're right. I am John Lennon." So what?
Everyone's excited about my "PROMise." Earlier in the trip I promised that when this trip is over Ken and I will host a prom for people who never got to go to their High School prom. This PROMise came about back in Niagara when Ken and I went to see the Falls at night with the colored lights on 'em and all that. We arrived around 11PM just as a herd of formal-attired prom revelers descended on the park. Had to share the promenade with a crowd of bustling gowns and tuxes. Was jealous at every turn. All these girls in beautiful gowns parading around the promenade, like one of the lavish Russian Balls in Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. Never got to do that, I fume to myself. Well, it's never too late. I'm having a prom for me and anyone else who missed out. Anyone from 21 to 121 years old. Anyone who never attended a prom, but always wished they had. Now home, the family hits me with all their questions, "What if I didn't go to my high school prom, but my husband did? I'm STILL without a date for the prom." OK. New Rule: All invited as long as you're on the arm of someone who never went to a prom. Will sell tickets, have a band, have a theme and all the rest. Open to all. Proceeds go to charity. Probably homeless shelters.
The broken yolk of the Nest Egg
Stop at the hometown bank to do some fancy financial footwork to hold us over for another year on the road. Waiting at the customer service desk I overhear the man in front of me who's got $15,000 in his savings account and needs advice on how to invest it. Suddenly I'm struck with the loathsome realization that I'll never have a savings account again. No Nest Egg. Instead I'll always be scrambling to pay off this trip.
Spotlight on Ruby
Today I'm using Melissa's car. A cute little Hyundai. Perfect for a 20-year old college student, but I wonder if I'll feel safe in it after driving a huge roaring diesel truck for the past six months. Nervously I slip behind the wheel and start 'er up. Oh, how nice. A soft purr instead of a bellowing growl. Ah, so civilized. Not afraid like I thought I'd be. It feels good to be in a girl-car again as opposed to driving Ruby when I feel like a circus Muscle-Man. Driving a diesel is so against my nature. My whole purpose in life is to blend. Protruding nails gets hammered so I try to keep a low profile. But with Ruby, it's impossible. Everyone sees and hears me coming. Pull into the tight parking lot of a convenience store and all eyes watch me park and clumsily climb out. It's like having a spotlight and loudspeaker announcement. I hate it. God, how I hate it. Always feel like apologizing when I get out of the vehicle. "Sorry to disturb you, folks. Please go back to your business, there's nothing here for you to look at."
On the road again
Holidays over. Driving back to Arkansas to pick up Harvey then move on to the next state,Texas. It's very late, about 2AM, when we arrive at the RV Park. There's Harvey sitting in the shadows, looking neglected. And he looks . . . um, how can I put this? He looks ANGRY at us for leaving him here. Weary from 16 hours of relentless driving, the sleeplessness and exhaustion make everything seem in slow motion. The air is still. Here Harvey sits under the tint of a garish fluorescent street lamp. A solitary white tin box, aglow in a halo of green, like some kind of spaceship sitting in this eerie, unused area of the RV Park. What lurks inside this tin box? Did some vermin taken residence while we were gone? Ken, please go in first and check it out. Pleeeease. After Ken's clean bill of health I enter the trailer. Gosh, is this really ours? Is this our home? Who the heck are we anyway? And where do we really belong? I feel alien.
Note: Checking in at the Texas RV park we're told that we left Arkansas just in time . . . 30 tornadoes whipped through Little Rock right after we left. Scary how close we came to going "somewhere over the rainbow."