At around eight o’clock last Wednesday night, my mom pulled up in front of my building with her car stuffed to the ceiling. She shifted the gear to park, lowered the passenger window and craned her neck over the boxes and bags cluttering the front seat.
“We need to repack the car,” she announced with a grimace.
I cast my eyes down at the four small bags situated at my feet – a black leather purse, a canvas tote loaded up with nosh, a Wholefoods paper bag half filled with things I planned on leaving behind in Florida before u-turning it back to Philadelphia and a nylon and leather shoulder bag containing bare essentials to get me through the three day drive south. After concluding there was absolutely nothing I could forfeit, I muttered a response.
“No kidding. ‘Cause, um, otherwise I’d have to strap you to the roof,” I offered while tapping my hand on the framing just above the door.
My mom got out and together we reworked the configuration. She heaved the oil painting in the backseat so I could shove my bags underneath on the floor. She placed travel guides and maps across the ledge under the rear window while I strategically tucked smaller items in available crevices. Ten minutes later, we pulled onto the highway and set off on our second annual Sarasota road trip, a twenty hour drive to relocate my mom and her car to Florida for the winter season.
The goal was to get past Washington, DC before calling it a night. Besides shaving off part of the leg to Atlanta, it would get us beyond the tangle of rush hour congestion. We made it to Fredericksburg, checked into a hotel and crashed. Seven hours later we awoke, got dressed and pulled back onto the highway. We careened past eighteen wheelers. We eased up when troopers came into view. We ignored all hunger pangs, holding off for the Wholefoods in Greenville. At a little past five o’clock, we pulled into Leslie’s driveway in Atlanta.
“Bahm Bahm Bootz is here!” Anders yelped as he sped his scooter toward my mom’s side of the parked car.
“Aunt Pay! Tickle Fingers!” Olivia exclaimed in between giggles and gallops.
The nanny strolled over, said hello, asked about our drive and then quickly said goodbye, leaving us with the kids until Leslie got home. We all went inside to warm up and tend to business. I had to pee and my mom had to get a drink of water. Resting my bare bum on the cold toilet seat, I heard the echo of voices in the mudroom.
“Come on, Anders!” my mom excitedly coaxed. “If you don’t put your helmet on you can’t bicycle through the pine cone slalom course I’m setting up.”
I bit my lip to stop from giggling.
“Olivia!” my mom trilled. “Tickle Fingers is coming to get you!”
A fit of laughter erupted as the voices faded and disappeared out the doorway, a click of the lock indicating they were back outside.
I finished business, pulled up my pants and washed my hands. Staring in the mirror, I tugged at my ponytail and took note of a blemish surfacing on my right cheek. I closed up my fleece, exited out to the mudroom and then slipped out the door leading to the driveway. Leaning my shoulder against the frame of the open garage, I watched the energy in motion. Anders was zipping around on his scooter. Olivia was pedaling her pink and purple tricycle. And my mom? My mom, with the hood of her sweatshirt pulled up over her head, wiggled her fingers and chased them around.
“Tickle Fingers is going to get you!” my mom sang.
“Look out Olivia!” Anders screamed as he scooted past me.
“That’s silly,” Olivia squealed as she steered around my mom, popping one of the back tires off the ground.
I lingered on the periphery soaking it all in. Part of me looked on at my mom and her silly antics and thought it was utterly juvenile. And part of me looked on at my mom and her silly antics and felt left out. A cool evening chill rustled the pines, wafting the aroma of wood burning fireplaces across the yard. The evening sky faded from pale blue to rich indigo as the sun set and the moon lifted above us. In the midst of pondering where if at all I belonged amongst the whirl of giggles around me, Olivia came pedaling past.
“Look out Aunt Pay! Tickle Fingers is coming!”
I glanced up, focusing my eyes through the limited light, and saw my mom lumbering toward me.
“We better get out of here, Olivia!” I yelped as I pushed myself off the garage and started running in circles.