We knew this moment was going to happen. You knew it, didn't you? I knew it. And I guess Colleen knew it. It's that moment—for me, now, a little over two weeks before Take Off—where I just sit down on the only bed left in the won’t-it-ever-be-empty house in a heap of exhaustion and anxiety and a little fear, and say to myself, "What the heck was I thinking?"
The funny thing—“funny,” as in odd and unexpected, and "funny," as in we'll laugh about this in a few years—is how this moment, for me, was provoked by a attempt to escape all the anxiety by watching a movie, a comedy, the RV classic The Long, Long Trailer, staring Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz.
I mean, let's go through the list of moments of possible defeat that I handled with aplomb and natural grace. I've already written about the nearly innumerable trips west of town to secure air conditioning in the new-to-us Dodge Ram 2500. See post “Keep It Cool.” There was also the moment we showed up at Colleen's dad's land with our new-to-us Dodge Ram 2500 with its brand new fifth-wheel hitch to take the new-to-us (as in I’ve never seen it) K-Z Durango 34-foot bunkhouse trailer (aka, my home for the coming year) for its inaugural trip only to discover that Colleen had never noticed that the trailer adorned a lovely, but incompatible, goose-neck hitch. That worked out okay. After trips to Ace Hardware and Wal-Mart, 30 miles away, to purchase large ratchets and after a couple of hours of silent cursing at the bolts that just didn't want to give, they gave and we spent a wonderful night in a thunderstorm (no leaks) at Lake Tawakoni State Park.
I didn't even get too worked up when I tried to complete a three point one-eighty turn by backing into narrow dirt road, stopping, and returning the trailer to facing the exact opposite direction as before on the slightly less narrow dirt road on Mack Daddy's property for safe keeping until we had a place to store the trailer in Austin. At least I didn't back it into the small ditch on the left there. After what was probably a 23-point turn, I did get it backed and parked just fine. I was able to avoid admitting defeat and having to drive truck and trailer through a grove of oaks and elms strewn with branches that Mack and Jacob chained-sawed to clear a passage for me. And now finally, I didn't crack when I learned it was costing almost $500 (and 3 delays) to replace a window in the trailer that somehow got broken, either on our maiden long voyage to Austin or while sitting in the supposedly safe lot where we have kept the trailer for the past two weeks.
Nor did I blow my cool when the air conditioner in our house quit working on July 2 and remained broken until the 5th. (Is there an American deity for air conditioning that I had offended somehow?) I did not let the packing of the house get me down or the long afternoon toting boxes of books to my oldest son's house for him to enjoy for a year. I was glad to do it. What is more, I stood right up and kept going when somehow I forgot the plastic and metal apparatus for applying packing tape to boxes (“Caution Sharp Blade”) was under foot and blithely lifted a box of books above my shoulders, stepped on said apparatus barefooted, and with the agility of a tight end getting pounded by a linebacker fell back maneuvering myself out from under the box before it landed on me. I even laughed when I discovered that I was so focused on the sole of the right foot that stepped on the plastic roller that it was not until hours later I noticed the toe of the left foot had swelled to the size and color of an ear of blue corn. (Jacob tells me the apparatus is called a “tape gun,” so I now proclaim that "guns don’t kill people, packing does.”) And I don't know what happened that made my left knee so tender I cannot crawl into bed but have to sit, spin, and recline. Oh, yes, now I remember. It was the time I hit my knee on the brick column outside our house while I avoided crashing into Jacob, who as carrying something oversized out of the house. I tell you, it’s a good thing I am not a hemophiliac. I’m a danger to myself.
Colleen can add her own catalog of miseries. After all, it was she who returned the sleeping sofa to upright position, thus inspiring the Durango’s living room window to shatter. She dealt with the non-committal air conditioner repairman and discovered through angered-googling that our cooling coils were on recall and our builder had not informed us of such. She and Jacob have lifted and toted while I pushed a pencil at work, and she and her friend Aimee Estep reupholstered the living room of our mansion on wheels on warm dark nights behind the locked chain link fence where we have stored the RV in Austin for the past two weeks. And I haven’t mentioned that Colleen has done all this while still taking classes on-line from Oregon State University. The owners of late night coffee shops all across town are wondering who this beautiful vampire is who is typing away on her laptop there at 1:00 a.m. sucking up their free Wi-Fi. I think Colleen will sleep for a week when we finally hit the road.
We are all beginning to calculate just how little space there is in the Durango, for home school supplies, for pots and pans, for electronics, for clothing. The only saving grace, right now, is that we don’t have much time before we turn this sucker north and go. It’s grace because the less time we have to think about these problems and calculate our losses, the less we will fear and, most likely, regret.
So when we gathered the family around the electronic hearth last Thursday night for a nice little laugh at Lucy and Desi and their misadventures driving their long, long trailer cross country, it all just struck me as a little too close to home. I was right there with Desi and his post-traumatic-stress reaction to braking a trailer; I got the trailer stuck in the mucky road right alone with him; I backed the tall trailer into the relatives’ short carport; I’ve watched us stuff the Durango full of “stuff,” as if it were a holiday turkey. Then finally, right along with my friend, my pal, my alter ego, Desi Arnaz, I lost it while he urged his beautiful, heavy, heavy trailer up the steep, narrow, dangerous roads in Colorado. And that night, after urging, cajoling, insulting, begging Theo to brush his teeth and go to sleep, I sat at the edge of my bed, dropped my chin into my hands, and thought, “What the heck have I committed to?”
And then, as with Desi, the next day, the storm passed, and I began again doing what needs to be done for happily ever after.
Soundtrack" The Rolling Stones, "Mother's Little Helper."