Heading east. Heading home. Writers we met along the way were all female writers. Kyle tells me we need to write a book together. I am convinced I need to write. He wants us to share our story, his story. We should. I like that he wants to share it together.
Looking into the flat, dark night, I think about our day. Fighting is all we did. We’ve been fighting a lot, dying on swords for patterns we hope to break. Eli freaked out. Kyle pestered. I screamed. Dave screamed once and then remained quiet. Wrapped into the backs, forths, up and downs of our uncertain day, Dave made lunch reservations at Yosemite’s lovely and grand Ahwahnee Hotel. I did not know they close at 2:00 p.m. “How on earth would we not be in Yosemite by 1:00 p.m.?” That was Dave’s complaint.
In the enormous expanse of granite peaks and giant redwood trees I felt small. We were little action figures, really superhero action figures, and we were working our way through the dollhouse that is Yosemite National Park. My super power is still hearing and Dave’s, well, I will ask him. I am back in Utah editing my post. It is Monday morning and he is sitting next to me. Surprisingly his “current” super power is close to mine. He looks over at me and sweetly says, “listening.” “Listening?” I ask and then because his power appears to be so close to mine, I look back at him and laugh. “Listening to someone talk about their friends and all of their friends’ problems. Listening.” Dave responded and I laughed again.
Back in the car: I am writing while listening to music. I’m always listening to music. I should have been today. These headphones could have prevented the angry, sad and nonsensical words that were hemorrhaging from my lips. The Avett Brothers, that is what I am listening to. Their new album, The Carpenter. Eli reaches his hand up. I think he wants to hold mine. Letting go he begins tapping, tapping fervently on my head then my shoulder. Fear filled, I remove the headphone from one ear. “I am not ready to re-enter that world. I am not ready to listen to the narrator’s voice on Disc 3, Track 2, read another word of the “Beyonders.” My headphones are keeping me safely tucked away in the sweet melodies. “I have been homesick for you since we met. I have been homesick for you blah, blah, blah if I die, its for you,” the tapping wont stop and the headphone is removed.
“Mom, can I use my iPod?” Eli asks and as if they had written their very own, (sing with me), “Mom, can I use my iPod,” song together, Kyle really, without missing a beat, then asked, “Mom, can I use mine too?”
They knew they had me. They know I want some space. I said, “yes,” and started handing said iPods over my seat while Eli stated firmly, “Mom, that is Kyle’s!” I kept passing those electronic babysitters/fight inducers back and encouraged them to work it out. “Eli, Take yours and pass Kyle’s to him.”
As I get farther along in this Avett Brothers album I am feeling lukewarm. I have sped through a few songs and hung onto a few others. If only I could have pushed pause on those moments. I was losing my mind or completely fast-forwarded through my less-than-lady-like language. I hate swearing in front of my kids and as hard as I try not to, I do.
Eli melted down hard at El Capitan. Before the collateral damage was too great, I walked him, while holding his upper arm, to the car. I can’t blame him. His mom and dad were not being especially nice, and when I say not nice, I mean that Dave and I were not being nice to each other. As I think about Eli and our El-Capitan-incident, I also remember how insane I thought those rock climbers were as I stood and watched while they scaled El Cap’s 3,500 feet. I wanted to take pictures and Dave wanted to drive on. He wanted to see the sun set at the top. I did not know that. I just knew he wanted to go. In those short seconds of meltdowns and miscommunications, I thought I might lose my mind. Instead, I took a breath, made space for Eli, and once near the car I stopped Eli. I did what my mom has always told me to do, “Even if they push back, even if they are mad, don’t. Don’t let them push you away. You hug them. You hold them close.” I felt Eli relax in my arms, where he safely looked into my eyes, and told me why I suck. I listened. I apologized, told him that I thought we both had made some big mistakes today and I was sorry. I held him close. His eyes are so blue and the late afternoon sun pierced those blue eyes into my heart. I looked at him and heard my mom say, “You are the mom. Don’t let them push you away. Hold them close.” I held him close and have not stopped. Since this moment Eli and I are better. We’ve been talking about grizzly Halloween costumes, and at least six times a day he says, “Mom, I love you!” Thank God for that kid.
Eli let go and we both walked. Only a few more steps and we were at the car, where Eli immediately slipped, and because our car was parked at such a severe angle, his door bounced back and slammed hard on his legs. “I hate this!” He shrieked. He struggled his way in the car, where he desperately tried to shove his head deep under a pillow. He took a deep breath and then sobbed, “We should have stayed home! I mean it! I know we should have stayed home.”
Out of my seat I maneuvered the crazy-way-our-car-was-parked-angle, and made my way to Eli. Safely in the car, I shut his door and made my way back. “Boys, give me your iPods. I think we all need a break.” And somewhere between losing their iPods and Eli’s meltdown Kyle shared, “Mom, I need more music on my iPod. I really like “Green Day.” They totally calm me down.” Flashbacks of my older sister Brenda blaring, I mean, blaring songs like Led Zeppelin’s Blackdog, “Hey, hey, mama, said the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove,” I didn’t see it coming. Eli seems like our Green Day kid. Kyle? Is it all of our fighting? Is Green Day his teenage right-of-passage, which will hopefully lead him into the alternative and easy-listening music of Adulthood? Will Green Day bring him to Feist or The XX or maybe even Coldplay? My twelve year old is listening to Green Day for relaxation and somehow I think it is my fault.
Dave and I are great partners, but somehow today we threw ourselves down the rabbit hole. We left El Cap and headed east-ish toward the Tioga Pass, stopping at a, and I am not kidding, $5.49 a gallon gas station. Dave was hoping for some caffeine and before I could get out of the car he was on his way back. “it’s closed.” I got out anyway and asked Kyle to stay in. Eli was now snoring. Really. I even told him later on, “You snored. You know that sound Wawa makes? That’s what you did,” and then I promptly made the noise [insert swallowing, snorting noise here] so we were clear. We both laughed and he seemed a little proud of his great snoring snort.
Out of the car I looked at Dave and said, “This isn’t good. I think the boys are acting crazy because you and I are fighting.” he agreed. “Are you ok collectively apologizing?” First we told Kyle and once Eli was awake we told him.
Damian Rice’s, “Cold Water” is now playing and as I typed this paragraph’s first seven words, Dave literally almost hit two wild horses in the dark Nevada night. Damian Rice’s mellow serenade is perfect and would have calmed me, even if Dave had hit those horses. Thank God he didn’t. Oh thank God!
We left the gas station, gaining elevation as the sun began to set. “If we had been twenty minutes earlier we could have seen it set on Half Dome,” Dave said and I heard his disappointment. Along the way I realized I was missing something and then I said as much, “Dave, I am sorry. I am sorry that I did not appreciate how important it is for you to maximize your days off.” I knew Dave was feeling discouraged and that traveling with me was for the birds. We kept driving and I kept thinking.
I thought of the lady who offered to take our picture when we were on our Yosemite Hike. She asked and I responded with such disturbing laughter I believe I hurt her feelings. I saw her down the way and apologized, “it’s been a hard day and I would have loved for you to take our picture. Thank you for offering.”
Dave wasn’t talking much. I think that’s what guys do when there really isn’t any more to say. I wanted to make it through the other side of this. I heard words I have been told before, “You fight for your marriage! There is no autopilot, ever! You see things from their perspective. You back down and then you fight some more.” I took another breath and apologized for our rotten day. Insecurely I asked him, “are you still in — even a little bit?” he said, “a little bit.” I don’t know if he was being literal, sweet or funny, but I took it. I talked about how when the boys were young he always took them to the pool while I was getting ready and now when we travel we do all boy/men things and I never take a minute to decompress or shop or drink a green tea without a, “MOM, Mom, can we go? Mom, mom, I want to leave. We are SOOOO bored!” I can’t go with the boys without them fighting and many of our current trips consist of Dave working and me 24-7 testosterone managing. I think Dave heard me because he seemed more relaxed. I asked him if he did and he said, “yes,” in a very nice way. I reminded him that it goes both ways. We need to make space for each other and for each other’s priorities and then I think we can travel better.
We left it at that and stopped. Dave pulled into the backside of a look out point. Immediately my eye saw a woman in a pink jacket. She smiled. Kyle, Dave and I got out of the car, walked up to the edge and then walked further to get a better view. Eli, who had been sleeping, woke up and made his way. As we walked back to the car the lady in the pink jacket’s (Stacey) boyfriend asked me, “where in Utah are you from?” We talked canyons and the awesome hippie gas station just south of Boulder, UT. Dave walked up, Eli got back in the car and Kyle entered our conversation. I started talking to Stacey. I needed to talk to Stacey. Immediately we connected, “sometimes I just do not care what rock formation we are looking at,” I said to which she laughing responded, “Seriously. Monoliths. He wants me to understand every little canyon and geologic formation.” We were laughing so hard I was crying. I was relaxing and oh thank God she was there. “As Dave and my boys get older I feel less in touch with them and all of their man-ness. I am this alien female creature trying to communicate with three dudes. They have no idea what to do with me. It’s lonely and sometimes I just need a moment to catch my breath. How many Sci-Fi-Fantasy-Books-on-tape can one mom listen to or tune out?” She understood and even said something like, “they just don’t get it, but women do. I am glad I am here.” I was glad too. Thank goodness for the overlook, sun gone or not.
We exchanged emails and stories. She shared her favorite books and by the time Dave made his way back to me, after walking straight into a pole first (ouch and yes, blood), of course he had one read one of the books too.
We are not perfect. We are scarred, flawed. I swear and yes, I have to tell Dave exactly what I want for Christmas, pick it out online and put it in a shopping cart. He does the same for me. It helps. It’s not easy being married. It is not easy being a family. Friday, October 19, 2012, it was not easy being on the road. I don’t blame Eli for wanting to go home. I am understanding and respecting Dave’s silence and totally get Kyle’s newly acquired Green Day need. I, well, I couldn’t turn my mouth off and even suggested I have my vocal chords removed so I would shut up already. Kyle immediately said and then Dave, “but you have a lovely singing voice.” (Those words meant the world to me.)
We made it through. We fought our way to the other side. Once over the
Tioga Pass, which parallels the Donner, by the way, we did not starve, we were not stuck in snow with know way out until spring and mostly we did not have to eat each other. Although there were moments when I would have.