My mom has a go-to story about me when she talks about how routine I am. I was only 3 or 4 when we drove from Galva, IL to Randalstown, MD to visit our extended family. It was a 14ish hour journey. The house we lived in had a manual garage door, so when we got home my dad was too exhausted to bother with getting out of the van, lifting the garage door, getting back in the van, and pulling it into the garage. So instead he decided to just park the van in the driveway and would take care of unloading it the next day.
This is the point in the story when I had a major breakdown. Apparently I just started crying for (what seemed like) no reason. My parents tried everything to console me, but nothing was working. I’m not sure which parent came up with it, but one of them wondered if I was upset because we didn’t pull the car into the garage. Already exhausted from the drive and then my crying, my dad took me back out to the van, buckled me into my car seat, and pulled the van into the garage. I stopped crying. All was right in my world again.
My mom will laugh when she tells the story. In its own crazy way, it’s hilarious how much I depend on routines. But this passed week was the first time I realized, that must have been torture on my parents when it was happening. Sure my mom will laugh about it now, but I bet they were both at their wits ends in the moment.
On Sunday evening we headed out on our first family vacation: a 16 hour drive to New York City. Our first leg of the trip was the 2 hour drive to my parents’ house to drop off the dog. Milo slept the entire way, so it seemed like we were getting off to a really good start. We dropped the dog off with my parents and had a quick dinner with them.
We got back on the road and, within a half hour, Milo was crying. It started off as a whine, just a little whimper. Slowly he started to escalate until he was screaming and an hour had passed. I was driving and Nick was in back trying to soothe him. I focused on my part, driving, but all I could think was “he needs to fall asleep. What if he screams the entire way to New York?!” He fell asleep for a half hour and then woke again. It took another 30-60 minutes to calm him down.
I was taking another shift driving at 3am through the hills of Pennsylvania when I started thinking about it. Was this one of those moments we’ll tell stories about 20 years from now? This is how it happens, isn’t it? It’s not always the glorious moments, it’s the moments you wonder how you will survive that turn into the stories you’ll tell over and over again. I think stories about me from childhood are hilarious, but I wasn’t on the receiving end of them. Now that I’m a parent I realize how the process of making these memories can be quite painful at times.
Needless to say, we all survived. We had a wonderful week with family and wouldn’t change a moment of it for the world. The trip home even went slightly smoother than the ride out. But yes, someday I will tell Milo’s spouse about that first vacation. And I will warn her that someday she will have her own stories to tell.