Moving Day broke exceptionally early. Our house still needed to be cleaned and our trailer loaded before the early departure time of six AM. Elijah had been up a lot the night before so I pulled myself from bed sluggishly at five AM and began cleaning what I could. Breakfast was something quickly thrown together from the scraps of food still left in the house. Knowing that I was going to be cleaning all morning, I skipped the shower and went straight to work on scrubbing the tub. Other people began to rise as well and it quickly became apparent that we’d bitten off more than we could.
It was going to be another hot day; this time tipping the scales at a whopping 104 plus excessive humidity. Needless to say, Mom was down for the count before too long, cloistering herself in her bathroom to use her nebulizer. Dad and Douglas worked relentlessly at fitting everything we’d decided to move ourselves into the trailer. What had been an easy “We have plenty of room” quickly turned into “Not everything is going to fit.” While Elijah slept, I busied myself collecting trash, sweeping the floors, and forcibly choosing to remain hyper-analytical for fear that the sizing stress would suck me in and I’d have a breakdown.
We did not make our six AM departure. In fact, we sailed right by it along with seven, eight, and nine o’clock as well. By eleven thirty, we finally decided enough was enough. Mom was at the end of her rope trying to find those last minute things. Dad discovered a huge pile of things he couldn’t bare to part with but didn’t have room to take, and Elijah had woken up eager to help the only way a bored two year old knows how to- he got in the way. We packed the Jeep, the Impala, and the trailer to the brim. Dad and Douglas piled into the Jeep with our Border Collie Seumas. Elijah, Mom, the cat Socks, and I shoe-horned ourselves into the Impala and we made our way to our first stop: a real breakfast which, at that point, was off the lunch menu at McDonalds.
We ate in the car and shared easy laughs. So Mom could relax, I took the wheel first and we headed out of town. Socks began meowing; something he didn’t stop save for a few short naps, until let out of his cage in Kentucky.
Before long, though, it became apparent that the Jeep was pulling too much weight. We went back and forth over our walkie-talkies to decide our best course of action. It was decided that we’d switch to a truck. Dad and Douglas would drive in that, Mom would take the Jeep with the dog, and I’d take the Impala with the cat and my kid. We pulled over in Chapel Hill- not two hours from home- and Dad, Douglas, and I began the long process of switching everything over. Mom stayed in the Jeep and Elijah stayed in the car with the windows rolled down. I checked on him occasionally and it was obvious he was getting uncomfortable so I kept pushing the water on him.
When everything was loaded onto the truck, it must have been close to two. We got into our vehicles and began the caravan to Kentucky once again. Before long, I knew something was wrong with Elijah. He was tomato-red and despondent. In the rearview mirror, he stared at nothing with blank eyes. It was obvious that the heat had taken a toll on him. I said his name over and over, louder and more desperately. When he didn’t respond, I slammed on the horn repeatedly in an attempt to get Mom and Dad’s attention and pulled over. I quickly got out f the car on the side of the freeway and went to my son. Again, I called and called his name but he just stared someplace beyond me. It was only when I gave him a firm shake that he began to cry. I gave him soda to drink since I knew he’d have more of that than water, and got back in the car, driving quickly to catch up with my folks to get help. It wasn’t long before I spotted the Jeep and the U-Haul. I slid in behind then and cast a happy smile to Elijah in the rearview mirror. He was, once again, red faced and despondent. This time, I put on the hazard lights and sped dangerously quickly to get around them, blasting my horn as I went. We pulled over and Dad had me strip him down to his diaper. We gave him more to drink and decided he needed someplace cooler so we found a truck stop. I cooled Elijah off in the bathroom, before getting more soda from a waitress and having him sit in the restaurant’s air conditioning. When he started talking about all the trucks, I knew he was getting better so we got back into the car and drove on.
Someplace in Virginia, we hit a traffic jam that extended for miles and hours. We all crawled along at a snail’s pace, occasionally weaving through the traffic in an attempt to find a quicker lane. Somewhere along the way, Mom- the only one without a cell phone that worked or a walkie talkie- got separated from us. We spent the next few hours driving through every rest area and squeaking around Beckley, West Virginia (a place they had often stopped for dinner on trips to Cincinnati) trying to find her. The sun fell behind the hills and our worry grew. We called the state police to see if there had been any sort of distress calls from her. Around nine-thirty, we found her. She had asked another motorist at a rest area if we could use his phone.
Our reunion was short, however. The anxiety of losing Mom had both kept me awake and drained me of my energy. Someplace outside of Charleston, my vision began to blur and I began to lose my depth perception. The car lights all had tracers. I told my folks I was going to pull over and get a motel for the night. They decided to carry on. At eleven o’clock, I handed off Socks to my Mom and took Elijah to the Knights Inn in Charleston, West Virginia.
Had I had even a smidge more energy, I’d have left the motel as soon as I unlocked the door to my room. It was frigid and everything had a bizarre sticky filminess to it as if someone had used too high a concentration of the cheapest soap possible to clean (and failed miserably at cleaning). There was a hole in the wall where the door handle had hit it and a spot on the floor than sank as if the boards beneath had rotted through and were covered with cheap carpet instead of fixed. Elijah was thrilled! He ran around the room, playing with the microwave that was haphazardly stacked upon a dorm style mini fridge on the floor. He tried in vain to climb onto the high beds and giggled the whole time. It was after midnight before I was able to pull him close to me (since he didn’t want to sleep in his own double bed) and drift off to sleep. I woke at five and took a surprisingly good shower. While Elijah slept, I organized the car a little better and threw awake the assortment of garbage we’d collected. Elijah woke up around seven and put up a fight about leaving the motel. He pouted all the way to Cracker Barrel where we celebrated his second birthday.
We drove straight from there to Newport, Kentucky. Elijah drifted off to sleep in the back and I, not fully recovered, yawned in the front. Hitting Kentucky gave me a little boost and I enjoyed the great feeling of “home” that had visited me when I first walked the streets of Seattle. I’m not sure how acres of corn, horses, and barns and rain soaked city streets can inspire the same feelings but they did.
Instead of going straight to my folk’s new home where the movers would surely be, I took Elijah to the Newport Aquarium where he darted from one exhibit to another like one of the fish in the tanks. He loved the frogs and the jellyfish. It took him a good long time, however, to cross the glass parts of the walkways where you can see the water below. At the gift store, he got a little plastic fish that swims with him at every bath and a sippy cup that broke the next day.
After that, we hit up Skyline Chili for lunch and took it home. Unbeknownst to me, my Uncle Gordon whom I’d not seen in years, followed me to the new house. He got out the same time I did and welcomed me home with a bottle of Patron, thus securing the “Coolest Uncle Ever” title and instilling in me the idea that maybe I can have two homes: my beloved Pacific Northwest and the home that we left when I was three: Kentucky.