Time slowed to a crawl. I had a strange out of body experience where I watched myself respond to the question. The words were almost visible. I could faintly see them hanging in the air, a speech bubble of condensation mixed with damnation, as if I could snatch the words back and stuff them down my own throat.
Words cannot be recalled. Time doesn’t really stand still. The words were out there and I had to live with the consequences.
It should have been a fun activity. Most people would have thought so anyway. I am not so adventurous. The activity itself didn’t bother me. It was more the thought of having to drive there that had me scared. I did just move to a new state after all. And driving has never been my favorite.
I hate freeways. Especially Washington freeways that seem to always experience some level of Rush Hour. Over a decade ago I swore I would never use the freeways here. Mostly because I get lost on surface streets in broad daylight. I need to add speed to that scenario?
In one small, three letter word I had sealed my fate. I knew it the moment the word escaped my lips.
She said she would text or email me. After four days I finally found her email address. No cell phone number was listed. I asked if we were still on for Friday. Would I meet her there or could we carpool? The last few words were chosen carefully. Take the bait, I prayed. You know you have an eight passenger van. I am the only minivan driver I know who can only seat seven.
Hook, line, and sinker. She agreed to carpool! The week long gnawing feeling in my heart subsided. She would drive. That was all I needed. Jetty Island is really fun. It has been twelve years since Heath and I went with Baby Gavin. I have always wanted to go back.
Jetty Island was part of our original vacation plans, back when we thought we were only going to visit in July for Grandma Holmes’ birthday party. Then we decided to move here instead. Vacation plans took a raincheck. There were other things to spend our money and time on. No Jetty Island. At least a potential friend was offering her extra tickets to us. How could I say no?
I enjoyed several hours of genuine excitement for the upcoming day trip. One little email in the morning changed everything. A short string of words pulled the carpet from underneath me again. Tears sprang to my eyes as full fledged panic ensued. She had an errand to run afterwards. Could we drive separately? I was ready to bail on the whole thing.
Heath talked me off the ledge. He filled my van with gas and bought me a large Diet Coke from McDonald’s. Encouraging words tried to form into a pep talk. You can do this, he kept saying. He printed the side street directions and programmed Gina GPS with landmarks so she wouldn’t direct me to the freeway. She has this obsession with the freeway and will not give up trying to get her driver there.
It was a mad rush to make a picnic lunch and slap sunscreen on everyone. With my heart in my throat and a constant prayer in my heart, I climbed into the van behind my kids. Gavin was under pressure to be my navigator in case Gina went rogue again. Heath sternly told the kids to help me.
Heath: Your mom does not want to do this! She is doing this for you!
Gavin: We didn’t know that.
Heath: Well, you need to know that she does not want to do this. She is doing it for you since you guys think she doesn’t do anything fun with you.
(this was something Gavin actually said to his grandparents)
Getting there wasn’t a problem. We made good time and Gina confirmed every direction Gavin gave me. My heart calmed after the first turn. I didn’t know where I was going but we were going to get there by golly.
Everyone had a friend. The boys were all the same age and the girls were only a year apart. The girls struggled at first to make a connection since they have different personalities. In the end they all had fun. It was a great day to play in the water, build sand castles and forts, and hang out on the beach talking in the shade of an umbrella. I was glad I had faced my fears instead of canceling.
Soon it was time to drive home. Ah the drive home. It would be tricky since we didn’t print reverse directions and Gina didn’t have reverse directions programmed. The plan was to follow the paper directions backwards. Only it took Gavin a little while to understand the concept. He kept trying to send me back to the water and I knew that wasn’t right. After turning around a couple of times I finally pulled into a random parking lot to get my bearings.
The thought did cross my mind to figure out how to get to Grandma and Grandpa’s house and go home from there. Go north to go south. In some ways I wished I had done that. It would have been easier. Bravado from my earlier success must have given me false confidence in my abilities to find my way home. How quickly I forget that I can’t find my way out of a paper bag in broad daylight in an area I am familiar with! Let’s just say a 40 minute drive turned into about a 90 minute drive.
Gavin and I were doing well reversing the directions. I was starting to remember landmarks. Soon all three kids were pointing out places they remembered passing the other way that morning. I kept praising them and saying that remembering was good. It meant we were on the right track.
The only time my heart really started pounding was when I was in stop and go traffic and saw a sign that the left lane goes to the freeway. I managed to move over a lane. I creeped about another car length and saw a second sign that said the two left lanes merge directly onto the freeway. Aw cwap! I got over to the right lane and was not excited to have to work my way back to the left after the freeway onramp. I did it though.
Soon I was recognizing that we were nearing home. I was remembering the back roads Heath took when we came home from the mall the first time. I was excited. Gavin told me where to turn and I thought we would be home free. Only that street didn’t seem to ever come up. The same number came up with SW in the name instead of SE. I asked a couple of times and Gavin insisted it was SE. So I didn’t take the turn. I assumed we needed to wait for the numbers to switch from west to east.
It was taking a very long time though. So long on a road I knew wasn’t correct that I finally pulled over to play my final card. Call Heath for help. I love that man. He never makes fun of me or belittles me in any way. When I am lost he finds me on his computer and gives clear and concise directions back to where I need to be.
I told him the name of the street I was on. My first clue that it was the wrong street was that it had a name and not a number! I was hoping the right street would intersect and I could finally turn. He remembered the street from way back when he first moved here as a 15 year old. I had driven so far south I was in the city I always wanted to live in. It’s not far from home but I had gone way too far south. Tears of frustration threatened to spill over.
He asked if I had passed 164th. Yes, that was the last traffic light I went through! He gave me the unbelievably good news that if I got on that street it would turn into the name of the road that goes behind our house. No joke. I was thrilled. For as far out of the way as I had gone, it was an easy fix to get home.
Gina still wanted me to get on the freeway at that intersection. I knew better. I stayed straight. She recalculated and told me the number of miles until I would see home on the right. I doubted for a second when I saw the name of the road I was looking for intersecting the road I was on. But I stayed true. Heath told me I wouldn’t turn or anything until I recognized our neighborhood. Gwen was singing Follow the Father!
The kids were relieved when they recognized the boys bus stop and realized we had turned into our neighborhood. I was relieved too. Somehow by the grace of God I had made it home safely. I was ready to kiss the ground!
I learned that SW and SE weren’t as critical as I thought. If I had turned on that street I would have had an ah-ha moment because I would have recognized where I was. *sigh*
Much like the helicopter tour in Hawaii, Jetty Island was a fun adventure I hope to never have again! Maybe I will be interested in another twelve years. Until then, I will watch my words carefully. If someone invites me on another adventure I think I will be honest. I’m new here. I hate driving and I suffer from anxiety. Not today, maybe tomorrow.