It was such a dreary, rainy day to begin the next chapter of my life. I got everyone loaded into the car after breakfast. Fluff rode shotgun in his cat carrier. It felt nice having company up front and he didn’t make a sound the entire ride.
George was surprisingly good too! Twelve hours of driving in a single day is a lot for a two-year-old. I had a cooler full of snacks ready to go, and every time he fussed I just handed him something to eat. There will be a time and a place for well-balanced meals, discipline and regular naptimes, but I figured the 1,100 mile drive to our new “home” wasn’t it. We’re sort of in survival mode right now.
The sun peeked out halfway through Wyoming, and an old Dixie Chicks song came on the radio. It is silly, but I honestly did feel like it was meant for me: “She needs wide open spaces, room to make the big mistakes.” I remember liking that song when I was a teenager, it is strange to be relating to it again.
There are so many people upset with me right now. Mom thinks I’m being selfish. George’s dad was furious at first, but I think deep down he understands that this will be best for me which means it will ultimately be best for our son. All of a sudden, I find myself with no husband, no house, no job. I don’t think it’s wrong to want something clean and sparkly new! I don’t want to be around people who know how messy my life has been; I don’t want to be in all the places we used to go as a family by myself. I don’t think it’s selfish, it’s practical.
The goal for day one was to make it to Billings, since I made reservations at a cheap, pet-friendly hotel. Despite the breeziest picnic ever, a diaper change in a casino, and George somehow squirming out of his car seat while we were traveling down the highway at 80 miles per hour – we made it! I sat in the car for a minute and cried a little. Mostly exhaustion, but also a little relief.
I stacked everything precariously on the little cart from the lobby – our suitcases, the cooler, my computer, a litter box and Fluff. George was strapped to my back like a monkey. This older couple sitting outside with their little Shih-Tzu looked at me with concern. “Do you need help honey?” the woman asked.
What a loaded question! Lately it feels like on the inside I am always screaming, “Yes, yes, PLEASE. Someone help me! This is all so ridiculous!” But instead I just laughed a little, rolled my eyes at my overloaded cart, and smiled while saying, “Oh no thank you, we’ve got this!”
After getting Fluff all set up in the room, George and I went downstairs to pick up some dinner. The woman from earlier was waiting for her order as well. George knows older ladies can’t resist his rosy cheeks and his curly blond hair, and inevitably he wandered right up to her. Of course, she asked all the questions I dread: “Where are you going? Just the two of you? Do you have a job there? Do you have any family there?”
I felt apologetic answering, but that’s better than defensive, isn’t it? I don’t sound sure of myself because I don’t feel sure of myself. I watched her process the information, and I started wondering if maybe my mom was right and this was a crazy, selfish adventure. After a minute she gave George’s hair a quick tousle, put her manicured hand on my knee, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Well, I think that’s just wonderful.” And off she went.
It made me smile as I grabbed our food and we went back up to the room. We jumped on the bed, put the Food Network on tv, and devoured our grilled cheese sandwiches, fries, and a giant slice of chocolate cake. I looked over at my tired little vegetable, staring mindlessly at the tv while stuffing fries into his mouth and thought, “Maybe this is just wonderful.”
I don’t even remember falling asleep that night, we were so tired. But I woke up early the next morning to the sounds of unfamiliar birds outside the window. I took a deep breath and felt that recurring panic starting to rise in me again. I dread the quiet, morning hours when my thoughts seem so loud and everything seems so overwhelming.
But when I opened my eyes, I saw George curled toward me and Fluff curled up just behind him. They were both sleeping so soundly, breathing so peacefully – blissfully unaware of the self-doubt, fear, and loneliness that I fight with every single morning. For whatever reason, they feel safe with me. Here we are in a strange new place, on our way to another strange new place. They must trust me so completely.
I know it’s going to be hard, but feeling them next to me makes me feel like I can do it. Like I have to do it! And that maybe everything will turn out OK. But there’s no turning back now…