Friday, December 18, 2009

Road Trip

It was hard leaving my bug eyed best friend Jennifer as we loaded up the wagon to start our cross country journey to Seattle. “Lets promise to always be best friends and write all the time” she said. “I promise” I said as tears trickled down my face. “And no matter who we meet that wants to become our best friend, we will tell them that we already have a best friend, but we will let them be our second best friend, okay?” “Deal” I said.

“Time to go!” yelled my dad. Jennifer and I looked at each other. Never again would we play Donnie and Marie. She being Marie of course. Never again would we ride on her four wheeler. Never again would I smell her mother’s perfume and think that she smelled like Italian Dressing, and not the low-fat version.

After we gave each other a final hug, I trudged my way to the wagon. Everyone was ready to go. As we pulled out of the driveway, Jennifer said “write me when you get there!” “I will, I promise!” I yelled. My father turned and looked at me and said “why are you yelling? Jennifer is right outside your open window!” It was true, she was running along side the car as we were heading down the road. She looked a lot like a pug chasing cars. Finally, when my father reached 25mph going through the neighborhood she stopped. I guess she ran out of gas, but she sure gave it a go for the first half mile.

It seemed like we drove forever. Every day a little bit closer, yet still so far way. I think it was because we had to stop every 10 minutes, so my mother could go to the bathroom. By the second day of the trip we had reached Nashville. We were moving from Mount Juliet Tennessee, a suburb of Nashville, but it was an all day trip just to get to the city . It was summer, but I was already digging for my winter coat since I knew it would be somewhere around January when we finally arrived in the Emerald City at the pace we were traveling.

By the time we reached St. Louis I realized that Jennifer and I had never exchanged addresses. I pondered this for a moment and then decided that I would just have to get a new best friend to replace her. Friendship loyalty is not a big priority when you are fourteen.

My parents made the trip fun. We saw many beautiful things along the way. We even saw Mount Rushmore as my dad raced past it doing seventy-five mph. Even through a blur it was magnificent.

Yellowstone National Park was a beautiful place. It amazed me that it could be sweltering hot on one side of the park and snowing on the other. Too bad I hadn’t changed out of my bikini before we went from the hot side to cold one. None of us expected the radical temperature change, so we weren’t prepared. Would we freeze? Would they find us huddled in the station wagon? Evidence of an attempt to build a fire by the friction marks on my legs from rubbing them together at a fast and furious pace? “Faster!” my father would yell. He would have kindling under my legs that had been the fake wood paneling on the side of the wagon. Like a mad woman I would rub my legs together like sticks, just as I had learned in Girl Scouts, before my unfortunate horse incident. Nothing, not even a spark. We would eventually give up, sharing the last two cans of Vienna Sausages and waiting for the sleepiness of hypothermia to kick in. I would be found clutching my paper bag in my frozen hands.

“Meredith, what are you daydreaming about back there?” my mother asked from the front seat. “We need to go inside the gift shop and buy some jackets. Let’s go before we all freeze to death.” Just the thought of freezing, after my imagined scenario, caused me to have a severe anxiety attack. I couldn’t breathe...Help...throat’s closing...heart attack! I couldn’t find my bag anywhere. More anxiety. “Oh for the love of Pete” I could hear my mother mumble. She whipped out a plastic bag and handed it to me.
“Breathe into this bag.” The first breath caused the plastic to suck to my face. I freaked out so much that I clawed at the plastic breathing harder until the whole bag had consumed my head.
People were walking by and staring. It looked like I was trying to commit suicide in the back seat while my mother was applying fresh lipstick in the front seat. She finally realized that I was making gagging sounds in the back seat and the noise wasn’t coming from a tree frog. She turned around with a look of annoyance and whipped off the bag. I sat there as blue as a smurf with my black tongue protruding from my mouth. My mother just rolled her eyes. “When you get your natural color back, you better get into this store missy! And that tongue best be in your mouth!” As she stepped out of the car and headed to the gift shop, I swear I heard her mumble “freak” under her breath.

We made many stops along the way, but none more memorable then when I got sick. We were somewhere around the halfway mark. We had a family meal at Adam and Eve’s Rib Shack. It took me several years to figure out the whole Adam, Eve, rib joke. But I digress, I felt fine. I enjoyed my dinner. We went to the hotel afterwards, and I felt fine. We went to bed, and I felt fine. I woke up in the middle of the night drooling, sick to my stomach like never before. I can’t get up, I will puke, lay here, don’t move...I’m going to puke NOW. I bolted into my parent’s room which was connected to ours. “I’m sick and I am going to throw up” I yelled. My parents were jerked awake by my yelling and the words “throw up.” I bolted into their bathroom and projectile vomited all over it. By this time my parents were standing in the door with looks of horror on their faces. It looked like a scene from “The Exorcist” minus my head spinning in circles, the preacher, the holy water, and the scary voice of the freaky possessed girl who was the star of the show. “Go to bed” my parent’s said gently and with sweet compassion. Never had I seen such a look of total empathy. “You can clean this mess up in the morning.”

The sickness wore on. I couldn’t shake it. I had to take Dramamine constantly. Partly to knock me out and partly to keep me from vomiting nonstop. I would have to lie down in the back seat. My head pressed against my brother’s leg. Since he couldn’t complain about me being on his side of the car due to my weakened condition, he would dangle french fries under my nose creating a shout from me to pull the car over. Wretch, gag, puke, back into the car to subject myself to more torture from my understanding sibling. More french fries under the nose and finally a voice from the front seat “Craig Lane! what are you doing to your sister?” My father would look in the rearview mirror and see my brother in full action. "Hey" my dad would say to my brother, "are you going to eat all those fries?'...Thanks dad.

Finally a break in the illness. I had recovered and was back in fine form. I was envisioning how my life would play out in the new state. I had high hopes as I was determined not to become the wallflower I was in Tennessee. I would be popular, probably the head cheerleader during football season, homecoming queen, an all-star athlete. Gaggles of girls would follow me around as I walked through the halls of adoring fans. I would set trends in the latest fashions. My posse would ask me for advice on makeup application and bra padding. I was so excited. I almost exploded! “ARE WE ALMOST THERE?” I yelled at the top of my lungs causing my father to lose control of the vehicle and sending us into a 180-degree spin.

After much screaming and my life passing before my eyes, we all finally saw the sign welcoming us to Washington.

Goodbye Tennessee. Hello new life . . .

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