For my people, summer travel generally means car travel. I like the Northeast in the summer. I love the beaches, and I particularly dislike summer air travel. Once in a while we get on a plane, but more often than not, come summer, you can find us in the minivan. Ah, the minivan. I have detailed fantasies about an asteroid taking it out, but last time I checked it’s still here, and 101,000 miles later, we are still tooling around in it.
With any trip, after the planning (I am bad at that), comes the packing (I am even worse). Everyone knows, that if I am left to pack for all of us, at least ONE person will travel without underwear. Thankfully, on these trips, I can count on the kids to pack themselves. Hell, if they want to travel with underwear, they have no choice; even the little ones have a list. God knows what’s in their bag, but at least I don’t have to pack it.
Packing is bad, so bad that it comes in stages, like grief. Here are the ones I can think of, so far:
1. The denial phase: This generally involves me sitting on the floor in my bedroom overwhelmed. Many things in my life have me sitting on the floor of my bedroom overwhelmed, but none more than packing. In this phase, I tell myself that this time will be different. This time I won’t pack 14,000 little bags for myself (M hates this, he especially hates that of the 14,000 little bags I pack for myself, NOT ONE of them zips shut). But I like to put things in little bags because I believe it is easier to find things if they are in little bags. (I also love collecting little bags, and summer travel lets me use them.) I have a shoe bag, a toiletry bag, a book bag. You get the picture. In this phase though, I am completely convinced that this time I will remember my underwear and this time I’ll be more streamlined, because when you travel with 14,000 little bags, you are likely to lose one on the trip.
2. The kitchen sink phase: This follows pretty quickly, and we are all guilty. I get asked questions like: I just made slime, can I bring it with me? (NO), and When you said three outfits, did you mean six? (NO), and IS THREE FOOTBALLS TOO MANY? (YES). In this phase, the kitchen floor looks something like this:
I don’t even know that the hell is in those bags, but I’m pretty sure we need none of it. This phase also has me emptying out the Stone Age contents of the freezer into a bag to bring with us because if we have yet to eat it at home we are definitely going to eat it on the road.
3. The I hate my children phase: I know they have packed their own bags, but that’s pretty much it. I asked one of them to empty the dishwasher and was turned down, so I had to move down the line. I asked them to empty the garbage. Three times. The garbage, which is bursting forth with crap, has still not been touched. Every so often, I pass by and shove all the crap down so it looks a little less awful, but then someone washes his hands and used 200 paper towels and leaves them all on top…
4. The I really fucking hate my children phase: This phase has me outside, drinking. Ok, it’s usually iced coffee or kombucha (DON’T), but I’m still sitting on the back step, shaking with anger and chugging a cold beverage. Inside, 5 children are all in front of a screen. One is crying because her iPod keeps shutting down and she isn’t sure how she’s going to make the trip. Another is playing some princess shit on MY ipad, which makes me crazy, because there is literally nothing in this house that they don’t touch. One of them asks me why we have to take car trips when other people get to go to Hawaii in the summer. Yeah, says another, how come we’re not going to Hawaii? I just spent 20 minutes wondering from room to room trying to remember what it was I came into the room for, and I am strung out. I try to explain that not only is Hawaii on the other side of the world, but that seven tickets to Hawaii… oh, whatever, they don’t even care.
5. M’s intervention: At this point in our marriage, he knows better than to tell me I’m wrong or to calm down, so he just reminds me that this trip was my idea. Of course, that never makes things worse. He then tells me to channel friends of ours who never seem to lose their shit. He says, correctly, that these friends of ours would ditch the kids and go for coffee. We look at each other and we both know that if he and I leave the kids and go for coffee, we may never come back. We may even go to Hawaii.
6. Retreat: At some point, I come back inside the house, and finish up the packing. At some point, the TV is turned off. At some point, our stuff gets in the car, and we follow suit. The children are even moderately helpful – at least some of them are. And at some point, we get on the road and the packing phase ends and the puking phase begins (another story, entirely).
But nobody ever emptied that trash.