Family road trips bring back fond memories, don’t they? Everyone would pile in the car and snuggle up together for hours on end. It was a bonding experience with our sweaty little arms and legs stuck to each other and the vinyl seat covers. Why, when I was a kid, we couldn’t wait for the chance to leave our friends and favorite TV shows for hours of uninterrupted time with our brothers and sisters. Yes, it’s true. I’m not kidding.
So, when we moved from northern California to Upstate New York and I learned I’d have to drive it alone with the kids, I jumped for joy. Why, what better way to solidify that parent/child relationship than four days in a compact car in July with no air conditioning. Yep, keep ‘em cooped up in a car so they have no choice but to listen to you. Nothing but 2600 miles of open road and four days of togetherness!
Somewhere in Utah we ran into road work. Two lanes gradually merged into one, squeezing us into a narrow channel that was blocked on both sides by concrete barriers. It was unsettling. There was nowhere to go except forward. And it went on and on for miles. Thankfully the kids were quiet and calm, so I could focus on keeping us off the walls. Just like a bobsled team, we swiftly sped down and around, leaning into the curves.
All of a sudden, my eldest let out a blood curdling scream and I nearly jumped out of my skin. “Mom! Get it off me! Get it OFF me!”
Panicked, I darted my eyes from the chute up ahead to the rear view mirror. What was terrorizing my child? What could I do to make him stop screaming?
But in the reflection, all I could see was a ginormous 18-wheeler. He was right on our tail, bearing down on us. He was close. Scary close. He blasted his horn. And I couldn’t see the driver’s face. For a moment I felt like Dennis Weaver in Steven Spielberg’s movie Duel!
“MOMMMMMY! GETITOFFMEEEE!” My six year old’s lungs were piercing my eardrums. The baby was crying. My middle son was yelling, “Bug Mom. BUG!” (The last time he did that, he was inches from a tarantula.)
There was nothing I could do. (They say the only time a woman feels totally helpless is when her fingernail polish is wet. I beg to differ!)
So there we were with 40 tons of metal cozying up to my back bumper and a car full of screaming kids barreling down a concrete runway with no way out. The bug played a starring role, but like the driver of that truck, I still hadn’t seen its face.
With nerves of steel, I tightened my grip on the wheel and yelled for everyone to calm down. (Yes, you know that worked, right?)
Then the concrete barriers gave way and we made our escape down the exit ramp and only a wide and welcoming shoulder. Not a moment to lose, I threw open the door, sprang from my seat and rushed to the aid of my eldest.
It was about the biggest bug I’d ever seen outside a movie theater! It had a ginormous body with long, waving antennae and at least 18 legs. It had crawled up his shirt and onto his neck. He was paralyzed in fear. Hesitating for only a moment, I did what any brave mother would do.
I asked my four year old to shoo it way.