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The dog is underfoot, stressed out because Joyce and I are running up and down the stairs frantically looking for last-minute things to pack. Bruce, our little brown Pomeranian mixed breed, isn’t allowed upstairs in our house where the bedrooms are, and he just knows that something is up that he is not included in. We try to ignore him, but Joyce, being the animal lover that she is, can’t help but stop mid-stairs, turn around and go back down the stairs to scooch down and give Bruce some attention.

joyce and bruce in the den

Meanwhile, I am running around looking for clean underwear.

It’s the night before our big cross-country trek, and we are 20-somethings who have barely been outside of the confines of the core New England states. We are planning to drive clear across the country from Connecticut to Colorado, stopping at every tourist trap along the way.

<<Pause>>

So, that didn’t happen. Well, maybe in the back of my mind somewhere, it did. 

The True Story (see prior post, She’s Not Here) is that my husband and I are taking a vacation we have delayed for the past 14 years. We are getting ready to soak in the breathtaking views of the West around the region of Yellowstone National Park.

It is the night before our trip, and as usual, the packing never ends. My strategy: Whatever I do, I must make sure that Mike does not get the carry-on bag with the flat tire. No, I am not being considerate. I am simply avoiding the inevitable crankiness that would stem from my husband dragging a bag on wheels that isn’t actually on wheels, completely.

No, this carry-on has a hole in one of the plastic wheels from the thousands of international (and domestic) flights I logged as a communications manager for the company that manufactures the world’s best helicopters. (Sikorsky).

Let me add that the “dragging” of the carry-on will be done through four airports (both ways), since there is no direct flight to Wyoming. You will have at least two connections if you’re flying out of Hartford or Westchester, and at least one out of a major New York airport.

If my husband should end up with the flat-tired bag, you can expect that the grumpiness of a caffeine-starved, sleep deprived, stiff and slow moving guy is going to get real old, real fast. 

You married women know what I am saying. (To be fair, the crankiness of a breakfast-deprived, overtired, too-chipper-for-the-early-hour gal is no cup of tea for the husband either.)

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So we’re packing for Wyoming like the weather will be as it is at home in Connecticut: maybe a little chilly as in “early spring chilly,” and maybe even warm enough for shorts. Comfortable, casual attire, with the ability to layer. No problem.

I pack my new, red NY Giants nylon pullover. He packs his old, gray New England Patriots T-shirt. (And yet, we get along so well…)

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I pack my hiking boots and not a single other kind of footwear.

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He packs his sneakers, hiking boots, and, is that another pair of sneakers?

We get the suitcases packed, set three separate alarms so we won’t fail to get up on time to make our flight, and go to bed. And then, it happens.

I am WIRED. As in, my brain will not settle down and go to sleep.

Why not, you ask? It isn’t that I am excited about this great trip we are about to take (even though of course, I am). It isn’t that I’m not tired. Heck, sure I am.

No. It is my affliction that keeps me up. Specifically, I have the Curse of the Writer. I cannot sleep because I have suddenly realized that I have not packed a critical item that I will need literally from the moment we pull out of our driveway.

A pen.

I’ll need to take notes of the funny things that happen, the things we eat, the people we meet, the highlights of our days. Yes, a pen is the one thing I cannot leave home without.

I start the silent meditation. “Pen…. Pen…. Pen….Pen… Pen…”

I am embedding the mental note with repetition as I drift off to sleep, hoping that my subconscious will grab onto it and then remind me when I wake up to grab my favorite pen and immediately put it into my bag.

Pen… Pen…” (snore, snore, snOOOOOOOre).

How blissful it must be, to be able to drop off to sleep, non-pen-dependent and worry free.

I resist the urge to issue a sharp elbow to my husband’s unsuspecting ribs, roll over, and resume my mental chant.

Pen….Pen… Pen… Did I pack anything to read on the flight? I’ve bought John Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley to bring with me. Inspiration for my future writing. I need to check that I put it into my flat-tire carry-on.

I would have jotted it down on a note pad on my bedside table so I could see it as soon as I woke up but, well, I didn’t have a pen.

Pen… Pen…Pen…. Somewhere around 11:30 p.m., I must have fallen asleep.

The good news is, I remembered the pen. The bad news is, the journal I packed to write in was tucked away in a carry-on stuffed in my overhead bin. This, you can now be happy to learn, is the true reason airplanes provide barf bags. They doubly nicely as note paper until you can get a proper writing depository for the golden words yet to flow from your mind to your precious pen and onto the pure blank page.

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The next day as we are driving to the airport in the pitch black of 3:45 am, I tell my husband about my sleep crisis and my absurd fretting over remembering to pack a pen so I could capture our adventures in the moment.

As if I wouldn’t be able to find a pen anywhere in our travels (like at a news stand at the airport, or a gift shop?).

He pauses. Ya gotta love a man who takes a moment to pause before passing judgment on your crisis du jour.

“Wow. It really sucks to be you,” he says, with complete compassion for my plight.

Yes. Yes it does.

So grateful that he gets it.

Next up: How Many Dogs Does That Woman Have Anyway?

Bonus content coming up with the next post:

How to find your place to stay. I’ll post some ideas on the Facebook page but if you’re going this year, you should have your lodging figured out by now. Otherwise, consider going off-peak – in the Fall before the park closes for the season.

Copyright 2017 Marianne Heffernan

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