The morning I left to visit my sister, I was busy packing, stashing my kids with various neighbors, and scribbling notes for my husband that he would have preferred to find in a neatly typed email.
I had five errands to run in town before I met up with my taxi driver, who insisted I provide him with an actual address instead of meeting him “down by the river” as I had originally proposed.
Even while traveling—contained and portable—I was kind of a mess. Put a giant sock over Pig Pen and you’ve still got dust.
At the airport, I ditched my suitcase at the counter, flashed my driver’s license at a couple of bored TSA attendants, and charged the nearest snack kiosk—a distraction from the tattered act of collecting myself.
On the plane, I pulled out my bag of chocolate pretzels and tore off the top. The strip in my hand didn’t break the seal as promised. Instead, the pretzels remained enclosed in their hermetic pouch, which, when prodded with my fingernail, my bootstrap buckle, and finally my earring post, only heckled at me to try again.
The plastic crinkled between my damp fingertips, giving me away to an airplane full of seasoned travelers, of which I was obviously no longer one.
They’ll give you plain pretzels in a minute, I told myself.
But for all the flights I’d taken with my three children, swallowing my own spit or skipping the bathroom, this time—I thought—I should really have the chocolate.
After flipping the bird toward social propriety, I turned the bag upside down and tore it open with my teeth like a jungle cat, flinging pretzels at the lady with the sable collar sitting two seats away.
Without my kids in tow, I really had no excuse.
The truth is, in the same way that I prefer shopping online to confronting salespeople, to whom I always confess my weaknesses within thirty seconds, I’m happier traveling by car with my kids than I am alone on an airplane.
Last weekend, I drove to Vermont with the kids and the dog. While I jammed a bucket brimming with toys into the car, the kids buckled themselves in and stuffed all the snacks I’d carefully prepared down the hatch. By the time we hit the highway, they were squawking at me from the back seat like baby birds. I reached into my reserve and tossed pita chips behind my head, one by one.
In this way, the kids polished off kettlecorn, peanut butter sandwiches, apples, bananas, blueberries, and Nutella snack packs in three hours.
Anything less would have been met with calls for my resignation.
In addition to a swath of nasty little finger streaks, which are better suited for the stall of a public restroom than they are for my leather seats, the Nutella snack packs got me this:
“Mom, you are seriously the BEST EVER!”
It wasn’t embarrassing at all.
Still, I’m grateful that next week, when we’re driving back up north with my husband, who eats ten pounds of trail mix a week and is still as lean as a fox, things are going to be slightly different.
My partner is mine for a reason.
He’ll pack the car according to his spreadsheet formula. He’ll take out the trash, close the garage door, and charge the iPad to 100%. He’ll remember everyone’s ski poles.
Me? I’ll relax in the front seat, catching up on emails until I get carsick and reach for the salted peanuts. That, my friends, is a vacation.