Wednesday, May 9, 2007

From the Archives

I'm in the midst of planning for Creationfest 07. And still wasting too much time in Facebook. So I thought I'd post something I wrote way back in 2003 ...

Diary, July 20 – 26, 2003
Sunday night, July 20

Are cats supposed to puke this often? Probably not. I should get him (it?) looked at. What would that cost? Too much. I am so not a cat lover. Mind you, if he had to pick someone’s bed to vomit on… I guess Clint’s blanket was a good choice. Not because my oldest child is definitely the most difficult person to share living space with and he deserves to have the contents of our pet’s stomach spewed on his bed linens, but because his bedding is cleanable. The rest of us have down-filled quilts. And Clint doesn’t. Not because he isn’t loved, but because he sleeps with chocolate bars and they melt and make a disgusting mess.

Cat vomit is grosser than melted chocolate bars. But raw sewage is viler yet. Seeing dad’s shirt covered in brown liquid this morning was too foul for words.

I’m worn-out. This has been a long day. But it was a most excellent weekend. My fears that I gulped more than I could swallow (regarding hosting an after-wedding party at the lake) turned out to be unwarranted. Other than the little inconvenience with backed up pipes, everything went well. (The police incident really isn’t worth mentioning. No charges were laid. No one was hurt. No big deal.)

My first “stretch out of the ol’ comfort zone” of the summer, and I survived. I didn’t snap. I just got bigger. Stretching does that to you…

Monday, June 21

... However, I’d rather shrink, given a choice. Why can’t I stretch and shrink at the same time? Sigh.
Spent the day doing laundry. And cleaning “our” space in this place. While, at the same time, being available for Max, in case he needs my help. His job at Billie’s on Mondays has been awesome for him. But despite his height, crackling voice and armpit hair, he’s still just a 12-year-old boy and lacks the skill to handle all customer service situations. (Selling ribbon and lace is difficult. Unmanly. Especially when the customer is mute, and communicates by jotting requests down on a personal sized white board.)

At 4pm I headed over to Langley to pick up Clint and Clark from LC&T. They are working this summer as well. They’ve been picking weeds and pulling out saplings. Grunge work. They’re dirty, sweaty and smiling as they get into my car. They’re 8 hours closer to getting their own computers - the only reason they’re working.

I’m obsessing about the wisdom of renting an RV for our trip to the Gorge.
What was I thinking? How can I handle a 23-foot motor home? How am I supposed to manoeuvre it into a parking spot when I stop at an American Safeway for fruit, vegetables and meat? What about when I get to the campsite? Apparently, in the campground I’ll be at this year, there are lines drawn on the grass, and I’ll have to park between two flags or something. And, how am I going to find the Steltings? I don’t have faith in this ‘rolodex-system’ of saving sites in the individual area. What if I don’t find them? What if I do find them, and don’t like them? I’ve never met them before… they sounded friendly on the phone, but… you never know. Why are they being so gracious about sharing their space with me? Are people really that kind? They’re probably weird. They’re Pentecostal.

Denise just called. Derek would like to join me. Did I have room? Sure, what’s one more? No problem.

Derek has graduated from high school. He’s older than Clint. Do I treat him like an adult? Or like a 16 year old? Cuz, truth be told, I treat my sixteen year old the same way I treat my eight year old…
Nuts. I don’t have enough seatbelts. I’ll have to see if Sasha can get a ride down with the R Family.
Last year I took my niece and nephew with me (11 and 13 years old)… they were family. So I could be bossy Auntie Jane and it was no big deal. This time I’ve got Clint’s friends along... two extra 16 year olds and a 17 year old. I shouldn’t be bossy. I should be “cool”. How can I be cool when I’m feeling so old? So responsible?

I think I’m stretching again.
How much bigger can I get?

Tuesday July 22

Yes. I am definitely operating outside of my comfort zone. Just picked up the motor home. Had my hour-long lesson on how to operate and care for this beast. I took pages of notes and plan to read the owner’s manual from cover to cover this afternoon. Overwhelmed I am. What was I thinking? This vehicle is massive. I was white knuckling it all the way back to Surrey. I’ll never to be able to handle this level of anxiety and drive sanely for 5 hours.
How come there’s no one in my life that stops me from making dumb decisions?

I was planning on leaving at 4 am tomorrow. There was a chance that Kevin’s youth group would be travelling at the same time. But it looks like they won’t be heading out til 6 am. That won’t work. I know I have to be at the campsite earlier if I want to park this monstrosity near the Steltings. I’ve talked to them again today. They seem normal. And very accommodating. They’ll save room for Panorama’s Youth Group as well as for me and the R's and the N's. I’m glad they’ve dropped into my life.

Oh crap. Can’t find any of my tank tops. Not one. Are they in storage? At the cabin? Might as well buy a couple while I’m up at the mall getting a bra. Did I mention that? On Saturday, the day of the party, when 100 people were expected to celebrate with us at the lake, my bra quit. Had enough. (This was the little lacy push up job that I put to work after Good Friday when my underwire one poked me to death…Clearly, I was expecting it to work fulltime, when lacy push ups aren’t intended for strenuous labour. Their job is to temporarily lift, separate and entice and beguile. And if they’ve done it well, they get removed almost immediately…) It was my fault. I don’t blame it for breaking down. The timing was lousy was all.

So, after shopping at warp speed, (which means buying anything that looks like it’ll fit) I headed back to Langley to pick up the working boys. Back to Surrey, make some supper, and then back to Langley to drop Clint off at Sasha’s 16th birthday party. Back to Surrey to pack up our house on wheels. ( My car has 250,000 kms on it. I haven’t gone anywhere… just going in circles between the 176th and 200th Street exits off the freeway.)

How am I going to handle this? The party is over at 11, so I’ll have to go back to Langley to pick him up. Home by 12… in bed by, say, 12:30/1:00? Then up at 3:30, so that we can be on the road by 4???? Am I nuts? I might as well just head out at 11 tonight. Pick Clint up and keep on going. I’m a late night person anyway. I should be able to drive til 4. But what then? Park at the side of the road? Can I park this sucker at the side of the road, outside the festival gates? Apparently everyone does that. But… what if there’s a ditch? Would the whole thing tip over into the ditch? Why would there be a ditch? It’s like a desert. There’s never any rain there. That’s why it’s safe to have an outdoor concert there, idiot.

OK. That’s what I’ll do. We’ll leave Surrey at 10:30. Pick up Clint at 11:00. (And load up Sasha’s stuff. He’ll catch a ride with Brian on Wednesday at noon or whenever they leave.) Then we should be able to cross the border by 11:30, and maybe stop at a Safeway before they close at midnight. Sigh. I can do this.

Poop. Derek doesn’t get off work til 10:30, and then he has to go home and pack. OK. We’ll leave as soon as he can get here. Not a problem. I can do this.
(Meanwhile, I keep on packing. Anything and everything I can think of. Unlike last year, when I took the AstroVan, 6 kids, 2 tents, a cooler, a propane stove and one Rubbermaid container with food, this year I can bring tables, chairs, games, a boombox, extra pillows and blankets, buckets, a complete pharmacy, and regular sized toiletry items….)

Clint calls me at 11.
“Where are you? The party is over. Pick me up.”
“Derek and Clark aren’t here yet. I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
He called again at 11:30 and hissed into the phone.
“Jane – why aren’t you here? Just come get me. Now.”
“We’re packing up their stuff, we should be there shortly.”
At 11:45pm, Drew answers.
“This is stupid. Where are you?”
“We’re getting there Clint, a few more minutes.”
At midnight:
“How much longer?”
“We’re turning onto their road now…”

I sway down the Doubroff’s road and stop in front of their house. Sasha is pacing with Clint. All his stuff is on the porch, ready to throw into the RV. Hope and longing are all over his face.
“Sasha, I wish I could take you tonight, but I don’t have any more seatbelts.”
“I don’t need a seatbelt…I’m ready to go. You wouldn’t have to wait for me. I could hop in right now. I really want to drive down with you. I know I’m going to miss something if I drive with the Rubuliaks tomorrow. We’ll get there so late…”
“It’s your dad and mom’s call. If they are OK with you being seatbeltless, well, then …”
Tim and Brita were totally fine with it. Brita’s parents have a motorhome and apparently no one ever wears a seatbelt.
So while the boys rearranged our things into the RV’s bathroom to clear the bench seat at the back, I went into the house with the Doubroffs to get a permission letter and ID for Sasha.
So far, nothing this day has gone as planned.

Wednesday, July 23

On the road again, after Brita prayed for us. (A wonderful send off.) Derek took the seatbeltless bench seat at the back, stretched out and fell asleep. (I didn’t bother calling Denise or Jack to find out how they feel about seatbelts. Seems I’m the only one obsessed with safety.) Clint, Max, Clark and Sasha were at the table. Drew was riding shotgun.

What happens if I get pulled over? I have too many kids in here. Would they confiscate this vehicle? Would I lose my licence? Go to jail? Lose custody of my sons? Is it a requirement in the States to wear seatbelts? What happens when I get to the border and I pass him all the birth certificates I have nicely displayed in this plastic folder? Do they care that I have one too many passengers? Will they call me in? Am I getting tired already? How many hours did I sleep last night? Only 5. That’s not enough. I’m going to fall asleep at the wheel, aren’t I?

“Good evening”
I pull out my plastic covered letters of permission, complete with photocopies of Denise’s driver’s licence and Tim’s passport, as well as the legal documents with Mark’s signature giving me permission to take the kids across the line. Plus I’ve got all the kids’ birth certificates and picture ID in plastic sleeved pocket pages. As I prepare to hand over evidence that I am a thorough, responsible adult, he asks “Where ya headed?”
“Down to the Gorge for a Christian music festival.”
“All these kids yours?”
“Half of them.”
“I assume you’ve got letters of permission and stuff for them all?”
“Yes, right here.”
“OK then. Have a good trip.”

Wha? How easy was that? He didn’t ask how many kids I had in here. Didn’t compliment me on my organizational skills. Wasn’t impressed with my ability to drive a motor home.

Oh look. A sign. $86 fine for not “clicking” your seatbelt. The Americans do have a law. If we get stopped, who would pay that fine? Me? The Doubroffs? Derek? The Ellis’s? Maybe we’d all share the cost? What would that be in Canadian dollars? $150? Split three ways, between the three families? Only $50 each… I guess that’s affordable. But, what if we get stopped more than once? Could I say we already have a ticket? That it wouldn’t be fair to keep fining us for the same crime…?

Am I getting tired? Uhhh. No. I’m fine. Wonder if there’s a 24 hour Safeway around here? The parking lot would be empty this time of night. That’d be a good thing. No problem parking this puppy then.

By 2:00 everyone was sleeping. Except me.

At 3:00 I saw a sign, (thank goodness, otherwise, how would I have known?) that there was a 24 hour Safeway at the next exit.
There was a gas station at that exit as well, so I filled up with gas, then took up 4 spaces in the Safeway lot.

I woke everyone up and we went grocery shopping. We had the place to ourselves. The Ellis bros had $100 each from their parents for food items. Sasha had none. My kids had me looking after their needs. Clint and Derek each bought an individual serving sized container of chocolate milk. And some chips. Plus Clark threw in a loaf of WonderBread.
Derek said, “I think I’d rather have the money. We’ll eat the MisterNoodles and Capt. Crunch we’ve got packed.”
Sasha, on the other hand, asked to borrow a $20. He wanted to buy some fruit, crackers, cashew nuts, pickles and canned green beans.
My kids loaded the cart with candy.
One gets quite a glimpse into the lives of others when shopping with their children at 3 in the morning in a foreign country.

I was the only one wearing a seatbelt when we got back on the freeway at 4. Drew crawled onto the upper bed above the cab, Clint stretched out on top of a row of coolers, Sasha reclined in the passenger seat, Derek claimed the bench seat again, while Clark and Max fell asleep lying sideways on the table seats.

Am I tired? Should I pull over? Are my eyes burning? Do I have any make up left on my face? How much longer? Can I make it? What if I drive straight through? Will I be able to sleep at the side of the road? Or will the motor home feel tipsy? What’s with that? Why am I so worried about tipping over? Am I tired? The sun’s going to rise soon. Is that cool? No. I’m a sunset person. Sunrises are no big deal. People should be sleeping when the sun comes up. I’m definitely tired.

At 5 am I pulled into a packed rest area and parked behind a 5th wheel, in between two semi trucks. Dang I’m good. Driving this unit is a piece of cake. Maybe I should be a trucker someday.

Max and Drew are up and want to chat. I forbid them to move, breathe heavy or whisper. I’m tired and am going to sleep sitting upright in the driver’s seat. I passed out immediately and woke up at 5:45 refreshed and friendly.

I guess I missed the sunrise. Max said it was nice. Drew liked it too. They feel like talking, so we yak about the upcoming concerts as we roll down the I-90 east.
By 7:00, we’re nearing the festival site, and the anticipated long line up of parked vehicles at the side of the road is simply not there. Is no one coming this year? Am I the first one here? The Steltings were going to leave at 10 pm last night, so they must have beaten me. How am I going to find them?

We drove through three checkpoint areas, and not a single parking volunteer knew anything about a rolodex system for saving sites in the individual campground. I do not know what the Steltings look like, or what type of vehicle they drive. I’ve got their cell number, but they are not answering. I don’t know what to do. Give up on the idea of camping with them (and any/everyone) and simply follow the kid with the conetype flashlight and park where they tell me?
What should I do? Cry? Pray?
Sasha took charge.
“Let me out. I was a volunteer parking attendant two years ago. These guys don’t know anything. I’ll go to the hut and check for myself.”
I stopped driving, let him out and waited. Did I pray? I can’t remember. But he came running back with in minutes. ‘They’re in area 304, and they’ve saved space for us. Let’s see, area 304 should be…. Uh… oh, look. We’re at the end of row 304, turn here.” And sure enough, Rick and Sandra Stelting were right there, waiting for us. I was the second one from our group to arrive so I had LOTS of room to berth my boat. I even drove the right front tire up on blocks by myself in order to level us so the fridge would function properly.

I’m not a fisherman. (Fisherwoman? Fisherperson?) I’ve never caught a fish. But when I parked and levelled that baby it felt like I was an Eskimo and had landed the whale that was struggling at the end of my line. The Inuit village that was waiting for me to provide blubber for them could sleep in peace. We wouldn’t starve this winter.

Am I over-dramatizing my role in providing shelter and transportation to my “village” of six young men? Possibly. But when you’re operating on 45 minutes of sleep and have an active imagination, everything gets blown out of proportion. So give me a break.

Part Two tomorrow.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I haven't laughed this hard in several days. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one I know with a freight train running full steam through my brain at all times.

Wow. You rock.
Rachel on the other hand, is no longer my friend and SHE KNOWS WHY.