A journey of 974 miles begins with getting out of the house | July 6, 2022

The boys and I are on our way back from our third annual Fourth of July road trip to Michigan to visit Kyle’s cousins.  We break the fifteen-hour drive into two days in order to test the strength of our marriage because it’s important to me that we stay overnight in Madison, Wisconsin – approximately eight hours from Grand Forks – so that I can spend the remaining seven hours of the second day’s drive telling the boys how much I love Madison, Wisconsin (note: I love Madison, Wisconsin).  This leisurely approach to travel means that our departure time from Grand Forks is more of a suggestion than a necessity, as leaving at 10:00 am versus noon just translates to the kids swimming a bit less in the hotel pool in hip, cool, cheese-filled Madison, Wisconsin.

Of all of the myriad of life lessons I’ve gleaned from my mother, the most impactful is this: When Mom is ready to go, we go.  As a child, it didn’t matter if my sister and I were half-dressed with our toothbrushes hanging out of our mouths or if (more likely) the event we were attending had ended hours before – the moment our mother, the Queen of Time, hustled out of the bathroom in a cloud of steam and perfume and announced, “Okay, we’re leaving,” we were expected to be belted in the car and halfway down the driveway.

Upon the emergence of our firstborn babe, I looked lovingly up at Kyle and said, “Okay, we’re leaving” – and with that, took my rightful(?) place on my own throne.

My dear and patient husband has taken a “I’ll be a good sport about this so long as we’re not really late” stance to his circumstances – and so, as thanks for over a decade of aforementioned good sportsmanship, I decided to surprise Kyle this year by departing for Michigan on his (instead of my own) defined schedule.

“What time do you want to leave tomorrow?”  I had asked breezily so as to not give away my big plans.

“Oh, mid-morning, I guess.”  He had answered with the equally-breezy-albeit-slightly-defeated air of a man who had stood in our kitchen looking at his watch many, many, many times before.

I got out of bed the next day at 9:00 am, which you may think is mid-morning but I can assure you is not.  My plan was thus:

8:30: Wake up to Kyle’s alarm (if not up already)

8:30 – 9:00: Feed the kids; clean up breakfast

9:00 – 9:10: Drink quick cup of coffee

9:10 – 9:40: Shower and get dressed (minimal effort since we were going to sit in a car for eight hours)

9:40 – 9:45: Pack up toiletries (because I had packed the boys’ and my own suitcases the night before)

9:45 – 10:00: Put away any remaining clutter; make beds; start dishwasher; take out garbage

10:00 – 10:01: Let Kyle know I was going to wait in the car “for him to finish up whatever he needed to do”; pat myself on the back

Kyle’s alarm went off at 8:30, and it turned out I wasn’t up already because I had gone to bed at 1:00 am after packing up every single thing in the house and putting away 50,000 loads of laundry (this number is factual and not an exaggeration).  I actually got downstairs at 9:05 because I needed to scroll Facebook to see if it was anyone’s birthday, and also do the Wordle.  No matter, I was a fast coffee drinker.  I was an even faster coffee drinker when I was doing something while drinking coffee (don’t question this sound logic), so I decided to sort out the mail and a pile of countertop papers while also “making” the children breakfast of cereal and grapes.  Meanwhile, Kyle was quietly drinking his own coffee and puttering about packing up all of the real stuff we needed that I had missed the night before.

“I’m going to shower and get the van,” he told me.

Oh, right; I forgot to mention the minivan.  In the past, we had driven my car to and from Michigan, and then set the whole thing aflame when we arrived back home because it was the only appropriate solution for the Category Alpha Biohazard that had developed inside after thirty hours of non-stop Kosior-ness.  It was getting pretty expensive constantly buying new cars and setting them on fire, so Kyle decided that this year we would rent a minivan (which we would take care of because we are only disgusting in our own vehicles).

“Great,” I said breezily.  “What time do you think you’ll be back?”

“Probably about 9:45,” he said.  “Is that okay?”

“Oh, yes,” I said.

He walked upstairs, and I slugged back my coffee like it was a ye olde tankard of ale.  After coughing and sputtering (but like, in a totally regal way), I amended my schedule thusly:

9:20 – 9:30: Put away any remaining clutter; make beds

9:30 – 10:00: Shower and get dressed

10:00 – 10:05: Pack up toiletries

10:05 – 10:10: Start dishwasher; take out garbage

Now I may not know how to shoot down a cup of coffee, but I, like all mothers everywhere, know exactly how long it takes to put crap back in its place.  I stepped into the shower exactly at 9:30.  Except it was more like 9:45, because my seven-year-old had needed a second breakfast and I had wanted to send a couple of emails and text my mother.

Kyle was (obviously) back at 9:45, and he popped his head into the bathroom as I was shaving my legs with the speed and quality of a farmer shearing a sheep in order to save a few minutes.  I stopped and pushed the hair off my face, breezily.

“I’m going to put a few things in the van,” he said.

“Great,” I said.

“Anything else you want me to do?”  He said.

“Would you take out the garbage?”  I said.

“Sure thing,” he said.

“Oh, and water the plants?”  I said, suddenly remembering something that should have been on the original schedule.

“Yep,” he said.

“Start the dishwasher, too, would you?”  I asked, deciding to hedge my time bets by Cinderella-ing him with so many to-dos that I could still beat him to the van.

“Yes,” he said.

Five minutes later (10:00), I was out of the shower and drying myself off when I realized there was going to be a stack of wet towels molding away in the basket for a week.  No good.  I did a quick mental calculation; I could do a load of laundry and have it in the dryer by 10:45-ish if I started it this exact second.  I sprinted like Lady Godiva on her horse (aka nude) to the laundry room down the hall from my bedroom.  I was standing there pouring soap into the machine when Kyle walked past holding a load of blankets.  The look on his face said something like, “My wife is so beautiful and smart and wonderful and I’m so lucky to be married to such perfection.”  His mouth, on the other hand, said after a long pause, “You wanted to bring a couple of pillows, right?”

“Yes,” I said.

By 10:45, I was dressed and 10000% packed up and cleaned up and everything else-d up.  I carried my suitcase down the stairs and presented it to Kyle as if it were a box of gold.

“Where are the kids?”  I asked.

“Outside,” he said.  “We’re ready when you are.”

“Great,” I said.  “I’m just waiting on the washer.”

We stood in the kitchen together for another five full minutes until I heard the laundry buzzer go off.  I switched the wet towels to the dryer, checked to make sure the garbage was taken out and the dishwasher was running, and locked the front door.  The boys were playing basketball in the driveway; Kyle was talking to the neighbor.  I got into the driver’s seat.

“Okay, we’re leaving!”  I shouted.  First one in the van; you’re welcome, Kyle.

The photo above is of the minivan and also Kyle.

I try not to read the news – good or otherwise – while I’m on vacation; so I’m sorry to say (but not too sorry, I guess) that I don’t have any nice news to share this week.  I’ll have extra-nice news next week to make up for it.  Happy July!

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