We’re going off on vacation tomorrow to Stowe, Vermont, and I am, as usual, a bundle of nerves. I have this rare condition that causes me to totally freak out and become insanely stressed when travelling, a situation that doesn’t really support the idea I have of myself as a person who loves to travel.
I don’t love to travel. I HATE to travel. I love it once I get there, but I am hella lousy at the journey.
So naturally there is a ferocious northeaster bearing down on us, scheduled to arrive exactly during our planned hours of travel. I would say we should wait a few hours and travel after the worst of the storm has passed, but then there’s a winter storm warning for the hours following that in Stowe.
Do I sound negative for someone going on vacation?
I am not a negative person. I am, generally, not a worrier. Being in a car under adverse road conditions flips me right the fuck out. I literally white-knuckle it. My boss wonders if there isn’t some childhood trauma behind it all.
If I went in for that sort of facile psychological analysis, which I don’t, then I would relate this story:
I am nine years old. I am attending my grandfather’s wedding in Vermont. My grandmother died just over a year ago, quite young, really, but that’s emphysema for you, so Granddad is marrying his old college sweetheart, a woman who will quickly gain fame in our family for her utter awfulness. They are both graduates of Middlebury College, so that is where the wedding is held.
I am pissed that I am not a flower girl.
During the reception, snow falls lushly over the landscape outside. My favorite cousins and I create goofy line dances to the stupid grown-up music, and make gagging noises at the couples who dance clenched together during the slow, mushy love songs. My thick winter tights keep falling past my waistline, and I repeatedly yank them back up every few minutes, thinking no one can see.
When it is time to go my cousins and I are having so much fun together that my mother and my aunt and uncle decide to scatter the children according to their tastes for the ride back to the Cape — my cousins and I will go with my mother, and my brothers, older and bored with me and my younger girl-cousins, will travel with our aunt and uncle.
My mother drives an old Ford Camp-O-Van, almost an RV really, with the cushions in the back folded down to form a big communal bed, and we romp and squeal back there for a while until my mother asks us tensely to please keep it down. I notice that it is snowing quite heavily now, and that my mother has assumed her “concentrating on driving” pose, her hands clenched close together at the top of the wheel and her shoulders hunched up around her ears. The road is twisty, and as I know we are in the mountains, I imagine steep cliffs falling off to either side of the road, like in the Road Runner cartoons. I imagine the camper going over the edge.
I decide my cousins need calming down because they are very young and probably frightened by the storm. I tell them stories for a while, made-up fairy tales that come sliding out of my mouth without my having to think about them, and they hang on my words, eyes wide. When I run out of stories we tell each other jokes.
Because my cousins are about 4 and 5 years old, I think their jokes are very babyish and I have to fake laughing at them, but they are cracking themselves up way too much to notice. One of the jokes is such a favorite that they repeat it over and over for a good half-hour, retelling it each time the hysterical laughter dies down.
Q: Why did the baker sell the donut shop?
A: He wanted to get out of the (w)HOLE business!!!
I am no longer capable of being distracted by their jokes and laughter, and instead stare, mesmerized, out the windshield from the way-back seats. The snow flying toward the car reminds me of the stars in old episodes of Star Trek when Scotty goes to warp speed, and the pinpoints become lines streaking past the ship.
But I’m not really one for tracing things back to childhood trauma.
Tomorrow, Matt will drive us in our rental car through the rain and wind and possibly snow and I will knit a long purple scarf in the passenger seat and repeatedly ask myself why the baker sold the donut shop.
And then I will answer myself.