Are We There Yet?

Every summer, while I was growing up, my family vacationed on a lake in New Hampshire for the last two weeks of August. It was an eight-hour drive from our home in Pennsylvania, and for the sake of my parents’ sanity, it was crucial that my two brothers and I be kept busy for the duration of the trip. Thus, my mother invented the “on car bags.” They weren’t so much on the car as they were in the car and not so much bags as they were laundry baskets. Big ugly ones. Olive green, pumpkin orange, and mustard yellow. But she got them for a buck a piece at the local Dollar General Store, a small price to pay for mental wellness.

Each of us filled our baskets with whatever possessions would keep us content trans Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and finally New Hampshire. I remember filling my basket with the latest book in the Sweet Valley High series, any Tiger Beat or Teen Bob issue with Ricky Schroder on the cover, the travel versions of Connect Four, Othello, and Checkers, and dozens of crossword puzzles and word mazes. These usually held my attention until we hit Interstate-80, a mere four or five miles from my house.

Whether it was the shear excitement of spending the next several days living in nothing more than a swimsuit or the fact that I had the attention span of a nickel, I couldn’t help but ask the dreaded question every parent hates to hear:

“Are we there yet?”

Of course I couldn’t ask it just once. I’m sure I thought the more I asked, the sooner we would get there. And I wasn’t the only one doing the asking. My brothers’ G.I. Joe’s and baseball cards didn’t carry any more mileage than my teen magazines.

Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity, we and our laundry baskets arrived at the cabin on the lake, relieving my parents of our whining to enjoy a vacation they truly deserved.

Yesterday, while toting my daughter Rainey around in a laundry basket, the same strong feeling of restlessness stirred up inside of me. She’s come down with her very first cold, and she can’t bear to be alone for more than seven seconds. So, in order to give her the extra love she needs and to accomplish the activities of daily living, I’ve been schlepping her around in my “on car bag.”

Several times throughout the day, I told Rainey what was on my mind. When my shoulders ached from the load I was carrying, I’d say, “It’ll be so nice when you’re walking. Then you can just follow me around the house on your own two feet.” After unsuccessfully attempting to crack the code of her whimpers and whines, I’d say, “Sweetie, Mama can’t wait till you can actually tell me what you need.” And last night, when she woke up crying for the fourth time, what I wanted to say was “Girl, when are you gonna sleep through the night again?” But while I gently rocked her, I quietly whispered in her ear instead, “Mama’s right here. Mama’s right here. Mama’s right here.”

And that’s when it hit me. I’ve spent the majority of the past 48 hours focusing on some placid lake in the woods instead of enjoying the journey. My basket is overflowing with one 16-pound baby girl who needs me, trusts me, and utterly depends on me.

But, at some point in the future, Rainey will talk herself into a second date with a special someone. And I can only hope that someday she’ll be walking down the aisle into a family of her own. A family with kids who will ask her the same nagging question:

“Mom, are we there yet?”

And if I’ve done my job right, Rainey’s answer will be, “Where we’re going is great, but so is the stuff in your basket.”

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