Both of my kids said they’d rather die (that’s a quote) than travel in the RV for another summer. They’re teenagers now and the last thing said teenagers want to do is vacation with their mother unless it’s on a trip to the ATM machine or Urban Outfitters.
But still, I gotta say, their conviction threw me. I mean this is what we’ve done every summer for the past four summers– take cross country road trips in a beat up old RV.
Let’s just drive the three extra hours through the desert to that really cool Indian Reservation. If we make it in time, we get to see a traditional tribal dance.
No, no, no. The mule won’t slip. Just sit on its back and go down the canyon. It’ll be fun!
There’s nothing to be afraid of. Just get in the raft. Going tidal bore rating does not mean the Bay of Fundy becomes a roaring tsunami.
“What’s so bad about the RV?” I asked incredulously. “It’s the American Dream!”
They said they’d outgrown the trips, basically, and wanted to do something independent this summer.
It’s not that we’re rich and it’s not that I don’t need to work. It’s juts that I learned early on when Susannah was two months old that you can’t take family life for granted. That’s when their father had his first heart attack, on Father’s Day in fact. If he made it, which he did for nine stents and eight more years, I vowed not to let our family’s health issue overshadow their childhoods.
It’s also not like Mark and I ever discussed my vow to celebrate our lives like a daily birthday party. We didn’t need to. His appreciation came by way of giant, knowing smiles and engaging conversations with the girls when he’d come home from work and say, “Tell me what you koo koo nuts did today.”
Mark never knew what to expect when he walked in the door.
When they were little, I called it Camp Mom. Each girl got to dream up an activity, write it on a slip of paper and put it in a jar. Then we’d pull from the jar, lottery style, each day. No matter what it was, we made it happen.
“Here Daddy. We made you the world’s biggest chocolate chip cookie!” they’d delight.
“Shaggy won first prize in our doggie day parade today!” they’d excitedly tell him while the poor dog sat in the corner wearing a paper hat reading “World’s Best Dog” in crayon.
“Come into your room Daddy!” they’d say, excitedly leading him up the stairs. “We took all the sheets and made an Arabian tent and wore sarongs and jewelry and danced and took the spice challenge!”
“What’s the spice challenge?” he asked, looking at dozens of spilled spice jars all over the bed.
“Mommy got out all the spices and we licked every one of them to see what they tasted like!” they exclaimed, blue glittery eye shadow dripping down their faces. “We have exotic palates now! Here, try the ‘cinerman.’ It’s spicy.”
Those were the days of lollipop dreams, sticky I love you kisses and lots of cats in the hat.
But now he is gone…it’s been five years or 30,000 miles… and the girls have become beautiful, independent, strong young women with lives almost of their own. It became officially official when they said they wanted to go to summer camp instead of traveling.
“Seriously?” I asked. “Really? I just don’t see you as the Kumbaya sing along types. You really think that you’re going to like being led around a horsebackriding ring by a rope and sleeping in fake log cabins?”
They saw my point.
Another thing they learned through our RV excursions is how to research places to go and things to do. That’s how they came up with the improved idea of summer bike trips through a teen adventure travel company called Apogee. (And no, I am not getting paid to write about them.)
“Can we Mom? Can we please?” the girls begged, each having chosen their itineraries. Susannah’s would start in Manchester, NH and end up in Montreal! And Nell’s would start in Portland, Maine and end up in Quebec! Neither seemed to mind that we had already spent a summer in Canada three years ago, traveling to a wedding and staying on a goat farm in Cape Breton and traversing Ontario, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Quebec, and Montreal.
It would be the first time that we were ever truly separated and I have to admit that I got weepy after signing the papers. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a smother mother. What got me was that they could only call home once a week.
How could I go for week without hearing their voices, much less seeing them?
As I lay on the shore of the Hudson River yesterday eating a giant Italian submarine sandwich with my one of my best friends, Molly, laughing and talking about how boring our lives are, the phone rang.
“Unknown caller,” I said to her, figuring it was a bill collector as I casually tossed the phone back in my purse.
Two minutes later, it rang again.
Something told me to pick it up this time. It was what most every woman calls mother’s intuition. It’s just a feeling you get without inference or the use of reason.
That’s when I heard a child sobbing.
“Mom?” Susannah cried, sucking her breath in. “Is that you?”
“Hi!!!!!! Honey, what’s wrong?” I asked. “Are you ok?”
“Yes, everything’s fine,” she said. “I am having the best time of my life! It is so much fun! I’ve made all kinds of new friends and the biking is hard, but not too hard and I’m all muscular and have a tan line where my bike shorts are and we’re sleeping in tents and cooking our own food and we’re on Lake Champlain about to go kayaking and it’s really great but…sob … I miss you so much Mom. I just called to tell you that I love you.”
That’s when I bU r ST into tears.
We stayed on the phone crying and laughing about how we were crying and laughing as we asked each other rapid fire questions until it was time’s up: Five minutes is about all you get.
It was one of the best five minutes of my life.
Thank you Apogee!
And PS- Dear God: Thank you for blessing me to be their mother. I’m still not sure why you took Mark away, but I have learned to accept that he is gone and hopefully fulfilling a higher purpose. In the meantime, I am trying to fulfill mine. That phone call was the best reminder that you are both out there and that I am surrounded by love, even from my eyeball rolling teenagers.