My mother told me many years ago that I was journey proud. She learned this phrase from her mother. It refers to being anxious before a trip. Since I’ve had kids, it’s gotten much worse.
“I don’t think I can make it,” I said, three weeks ago to a friend I was traveling with to Mammoth. Ronan had a paper due, we were missing a day of school so the kids had an extra pile of homework, and I was driving the five-hour trip alone. (Joe would meet us there and share the ride home.)
“Yes, you can,” she said, “And the minute you are on the road, you will be so psyched.”
She was right. It took half a block.
Airplane travel with the kids is the worst, though I have gotten much better in the last year, making two cross-country trips with them by myself that involved planes, subways, and late-night GPS-less driving in rental cars.
“I can’t do it,” I’ve said countless times to my mother the day before I’m meant to fly to New York. But I’ve always managed to get myself and my kids on board. I’ve even arrived at the airport on the wrong day, having been so stressed by online ticketing: the warnings, the prices changing like the pictures on a slot machine — that I accidentally selected the incorrect departure date. Yes, I had to explain to my family, as they stood there at the check-in counter waiting to embark on a trip, that it was indeed all my fault when the skycap said: “Ma’am, you’re here on the wrong day.”
This week, I suffered an unusually bad attack of this journey pride. I had a last-minute jones for the mountains and started looking into a weekend Mammoth trip sans Joe, who works late Friday nights. My dear friends from college even had a spare room for us at their house. I would have to drive up after school on Friday, rent the kids’ gear before 9pm, decide to either send them to snowboard school or spend the day with them on the lower half of the mountain for the next two days, then drive them home myself Sunday afternoon. The weather report put me over the edge. I watched as a storm materialized, fearing that I might have to put on those dreadful chains.
“You just pay someone $40 if you have to use them,” my college friend said.
But what about when you have to take them off? We needed chains in December and Joe thought I’d unhooked them the wrong way and that they were irrevocably wound around the axle. Not so. We got them off, but still, could I do that by myself, with two kids in the car? Even if we didn’t need the chains, snow and rain were expected on the way down. I was afraid I might be too tired after a full day on the hill. Then I was afraid we would all be too tired the following week to get through the litany of carpool, school, homework, baseball, swimming, ballet, piano, CCD – even cotillion Monday night. Would this one weekend put us (me!) over the edge?
By midday Friday I was a wreck. At one point I stood on my stairs with a bag in each hand, unable to decide whether to go up or down. I loaded the car. I unloaded the car. I loaded it again. And yes, I unloaded it once more. I asked about fifty people what they thought. Their answers were mixed: “That’s crazy,” “Sounds great,” “Don’t do it,” “What’s bad about a snow on a mountain?”
“When I can’t make a decision, I flip a coin,” another friend said. “I chose my husband this way.”
“And he lost the coin toss. But when I tossed it, I was disappointed that he’d lost. So I knew.”
“Ok. Heads I go,” I said, fishing out a penny and throwing it into the air. Heads it was. “Two out of three.” Tails. But then it was heads again.
“I don’t care about this coin anyway,” I said. “I’m not going to go. If I thought I could do it, my car would be packed and I would be on my way.”
I realized yesterday, as I woke up in my bed in LA, that she was right — the coin toss had worked. I was hoping it would be tails, that the coin would decide so I wouldn’t feel like a lame loser who doesn’t have the balls to go to her favorite place, to do her favorite sport — with friends! I wanted to be cool.
“I’m sorry I put you through all of that,” I said to my kids, who scored a trip to Rango in exchange.
“It’s okay, Mommy,” they said.
“I’m journey proud. Sorry. You’ll remember that about me,” I said, thinking: for better or worse.