I yelled to Jamie to double-check that his toothbrush was in his backpack. He yelled back that he’d checked three times already. Well, what else is a mother to do? I tried closing my suitcase, but that was easier said than done. I yanked the zipper until I was sure it would break, then slammed the entire weight of my body on the top. Miraculously, it closed.
|Photo by Craig Sunter|
Steve stood in the hallway looking like a lost puppy. “Jenny, I can’t find my windbreaker. I’ve looked everywhere."
“Already packed, dear. It’s in the blue bag.” He threw up his hands and went into the bathroom to collect his toiletries.
Planning an international trip had been no picnic. Though we hadn’t gone with the “next Tuesday” idea, opting instead to plan three months in advance, it seemed like barely a week since I’d had my Scotland vs. Iowa revelation. We'd had to plan our destinations and transportation, get passports for all four of us, buy random items like plug adapters and rubber boots, and most worrisome of all, try to figure out how on earth we were going to navigate two weeks in Britain with two young children.
Whatever our trip turned out to be, it wasn’t going to be easy. We would be lucky to return stateside with all our limbs intact.
Three days before takeoff, I got on the phone with my best friend, Marge. Marge has been with me since childhood: through braces and boyfriends, puberty and proms. She’s heard it all from me at one time or other. She is the one who kept me from abandoning Steve at the altar and encouraged me in my dream of owning a business. She is the best friend a woman could ask for. Especially a woman with a tween boy who thinks he’s God’s gift to mankind and an eight-year-old girl who will hardly show her face in public.
“Marge, I need you to talk me off a ledge.”
“I told you this trip was crazy.”
Marge is also a truth-teller. She says it how it is, even when I don’t want to hear how it is.
“I need some encouragement here. Steve is about to drive me bananas with packing, and I’m so scatter-brained I’m afraid I’ll leave one of the kids at the airport. Probably Poppy because she’ll hide in a corner, and she's so quiet I won’t even notice she’s missing, then I’ll board the plane and realize she isn’t with us and have to go back up the caterpillar ramp and security will arrest me and—”
“Listen. The worst things in life are the things that never happen to you. You just dream them up. You are the worst for imagining. You are not going to leave Poppy behind; she’ll be fine. You are going to have a fantastic time in Scotland because it’s the most beautiful place in the world, and you’re going to make all of us wildly jealous with the gorgeous photos you'll bring back.”
“If I get home with my camera in one piece,” I muttered, pulling the phone away from my ear to yell a warning to Jamie as he careened down the stairs with a heavy suitcase and nearly fell down the last ten steps.
“You’ll be just fine. You always are! Say a prayer, take a deep breath, and do a headcount now and then. Just to be sure."
“Haha. Thanks, Marge, you’re the best.”
The day of departure was manic. I’d known it would be, but I’d had no idea that Poppy would smear peanut butter in her hair at the exact time Jamie decided to wander off with a neighbor kid without informing his parents.
Steve was a peach through it all, though, and together we eventually wrangled the children, suitcases, purse, camera, snacks for the road, etc. into the minivan. I checked for the thousandth time to make sure that we had plenty of cash—American and British—and that our passports were present and accounted for. My stomach clenched every mile of the way to the airport as I dwelt on worst-case scenarios.
How had I thought this would be a good idea? A road trip with our family was bad enough; this would be prime fodder for a reality TV show. What if Jamie decided to mysteriously go missing in Edinburgh? It would be like Taken all over again. What if the kids got sick? What if I got sick? What if we got stranded at the top of a mountain in the Highlands and had to use every penny of our travel insurance to get us off via helicopter?
Steve laid a reassuring hand on my leg. “It’s OK, honey. This is going to be great.”
For some reason, I believed him.