I hear it across the WalMart parking lot as I'm loading groceries into the back of the Expedition.
"What?" I ask.
The guy betrays not a hint of humor or goodwill as he repeats, "Did you know there are goggles hanging from your trailer hitch?" Like my underwear is showing. Like he caught my children picking their noses.
I look down to see that in fact a big pair of aviator goggles is dangling from the hitch. The work of Jesse, no doubt. But on this day, I care even less than usual.
Yesterday I composed and crossed off numerous lists. I packed for a two-week vacation wherein we all drive to the McGee cabin for a long weekend, then separate for a 70-mile, 8-day backpacking trip by Mark and the big boys and a drive to my parents' in Dallas for me and the little kids. I turned the car into a snack-laden entertainment center with art supplies, books, and movies for eight. By afternoon, all was in order and I headed out to gas and wash the car.
As I pulled into a parking lot, the drive cut out, as if the car had suddenly been shifted into neutral. Long story short, after consults with the dads and our mechanic, the verdict was that nothing can be diagnosed or fixed until the now-intermittent problem becomes consistent but that our car will lose its transmission within a few thousand miles--as in, the number of miles I was about to drive.
Since this was a problem without a solution, I decided there was nothing doing but to carry on. We could probably make it safely through the first leg of our trip and reassess from there. If things looked good, I could make it to Dallas and fix it there. So a bit of a shadow was cast, but the trip would go on.
But as I went to bed that night, my mind turned to dread. I couldn't quit worrying over children somehow being hurt. I finally fell asleep, but woke up a few hours later to more fear and worry. My mind kept going to two children in particular and thoughts of them being unsafe. Before long, I was lying awake at three in the morning crying at the idea of,well, dead children. Two in particular. Crazy, right? And I'm usually not a big worrier.
Finally, I heard Betsy fuss and went in to give her a pat on the back. As I knelt next to her crib in the dark, I suddenly had an idea. An idea that immediately quieted all my fears.
I didn't have to go.
Mark and the boys could fit in the Subaru and still do the backpacking trip--the real purpose of the whole trip anyway. And I could just stay home with the little kids and remove the Expedition from the equation.
I felt immediate peace. The disappointment of opting out of a long-awaited vacation was eclipsed by the joy of feeling that my children were safe.
Crazy, right? But the truth is, I believe in that kind of inspiration. So when we woke up in the morning, I told Mark, "I'm not going with you." We gathered the kids and had a family meeting to explain the change of plans. We moved our gear from one car to the other, and a couple hours later, I stood in the driveway and waved goodbye to my boys.
And the little kids and I were left with two weeks to fill with fun of our own devising. We walked down to see the parade. We made plans to watch fireworks with friends. And we went to WalMart--every girl's holiday dream, right?--to replenish the empty fridge.
And that's when Mr. Helpful felt it important to add a little snark to his heads-up re my trailer hitch. So here's my real response to him.
"I realize that I live on the border of mayhem to a degree that's annoying to some of the people around me. Life with a large family creates a vortex of details to manage and tasks to remember and clothing to wash and problems to solve that completely obscures little things like misplaced goggles. And since today in particular involved fear of death, changing plans on a dime, grieving over a lost opportunity to see my mommy, and--that bugaboo of modern life--car trouble, I'd appreciate a pass. Or at least a little gentleness. Thank you."