“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”Gilda Radner

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Seventh Birthday, Eighteen Years, Cool Enough.

Today we took Joey and Noah to the Toronto Science Center (oh, wait it's Canadian: Centre) for Joey's birthday. I won't lie to you. I didn't want to go. Road trips used to be one of my favorite things, but now that I have children I spell ROAD TRIP a-n-x-i-e-t-y. I have daymares about collisions and sudden choking spasms and car sickness and...well, anything that could possibly go wrong.

But Joe really wanted to do it. We've never taken the kids to Canada, or anywhere at all really, and Joey is a bit of a scientist ("when I grow up, Mom, I want to be a scientist with NO girlfriend!"), so I went along with the plan.

It was simple enough, really. Leave early in the morning, get to Toronto around 10 or 11, museum it up, have some food somewhere fun, come home. The first part of the day was great. Joey and I were even selected to go on stage during a science show and assist the presenter. The audience loved me. I mean, us. This is the second time in my life I've been picked to go on stage. It usually happens because I have this thing where I really don't want to be picked (which is weird, right? because it really seems like it would be my niche), and then the presenters think I'll be more entertaining. What with my reluctance and all.

Anyway, all that was a super good time. But then, I started running low on Purell and I was starving and the day was waning, and ultimately, it was just time to go home. The kids were exhausted and so was I, and so we hit the Canadian road. Unfortunately, it was at the height of traffic. We found ourselves lodged in a traffic pack from Toronto almost to Niagara Falls, and then again on the bridge to the US.

Here's the thing. (As Noah would say.) I've said before and I'll say again that being married is one of the hardest things in the world. I love my husband. I've loved him a L-O-O-O-N-G time. Joey actually in the car (because there was nothing but time to chat about the most annoying and mundane topics, from wedgies to Mommy and Daddy's historical relationship), "So how long HAVE you been in love?" There are actually many answers to this question, but Joe and I stick with this one: "We started dating nine years ago, but we've been friends for eighteen." Eighteen years. Eighteen years! Half of them together.

And let me tell you, it is not easy to like someone every day for nine years. Joe is annoying! I know I wax on quite a bit about how wonderful and magical he is, because one of the things this blog is about is counting my blessings and reminding myself of the positive. But for REAL? I knew Joe was annoying about five minutes after I met. For crying out loud, he wore his KEYS on his BELT loop. Who does that? And--UGH!--he swung them around in wide circles when he walked. And he chews too loudly. And he laughs too loudly. And pretty much, if you look up "LOUD" in the dictionary there will be a grainy, black and white photo of Joe there next to it with a caption that reads: NEVER TAKE HIM TO THE MOVIES.

During our insanely long Canadian car ride, it happened that Noah fell asleep. He had been overtired and cranky and I was relieved he was finally getting some rest. He was snoring softly in the back seat when suddenly Joe yelled out, "ARGH!" or something equally stupid and unnecessary. Noah jumped and opened his eyes grumpily. That was it for peace and quiet, I'll tell you.

But things didn't get really bad until we were almost back in the US. Having just broken free of the suffocating traffic, I felt air return to my lungs and relief drip from my hair. Suddenly, I saw a sign. A literal sign. A total game-changer. It said, "Queenston Lewiston Bridge, 2 KM." Now first of all, I have to say that the fact that we Americans don't do the metric system makes me feel ridiculously foolish when traveling out of the country. I feel so...so moronic (and I think I look it, too) when it becomes public knowledge that I don't know the metric system. For example, in the middle of the museum was a fun interactive science setup that measured out three meters, and I unthinkingly blurted, "What's that? Nine feet?" You might say I imagined it, but I swear every Canadian in the room turned and glared at me. And I thought, "I know. You're totally right. I don't even know what our system is CALLED."

Anyway, there was this sign about the Queenston Lewiston Bridge, and in my anxious haste to get home I blurted, "Queenston Lewiston! Let's take that!" Instead of the Peace Bridge, which Joe had been planning on. I hate being a blurter. Are you a blurter? If you are, I'm really sorry. I get you. I feel your pain. There's just no excuse for us.

Joe blurted back, "WHAT?!" and switched off the radio. I slapped both hands over my mouth.

"Never mind," I said, removing my hands and waving them all around, like it would erase the echo of my blurty voice from the air.

"No!" Joe said. "You said it! I heard you! Why did you say that! Queenston Lewiston! Why not the Peace Bridge? What do you know?!"

I began to sweat. This is the sort of choice a driver will throw on you, because it's the sort of choice that never has a good answer. No matter what you ever pick, it never works out. If I insisted Joe take the Queenston Lewiston Bridge, there would be some sort of massive delay and it would be all my fault. But if I said nothing and we took the Peace Bridge as planned, there would be a massive delay and I'd be mad. And we'd been in the car a long time and my bladder was well beyond full and it was crying.

"Well?!" demanded Joe.

"Nope," I said. "I didn't say anything. Forget it. Shhh. Peace Bridge. That's what you feel comfortable with. You're the driver. Go with that."

Joe vigorously slapped the steering wheel with one hand. "No! You think there's something wrong with the Peace Bridge?"

"No," I said. "Do that. The Peace Bridge. Yes."

"But you said Queenston Lewiston."

At this point, the exit for Queenston Lewiston was about to jump up and bite us.

"I didn't say anything."

"Fine! We'll take Queenston Lewiston!" He veered into the left lane and took the exit before I could blink. "And if it goes wrong, well, YOU picked it."

GAH! I was horrified. That was a lot of weight to carry, considering the day I'd had. Road trips and science museums and being called on stage. Who could tolerate all of it?

THEN. As we followed the bend leading up to the Bridge, guess what? Oh, yes. Of course. Inevitable. Stopped traffic a half mile long.

The sun was beating in the windows. The boys were awake and playing some loud game that involved them saying "Poop" and "Toilet" a lot, but had nothing to do with a bathroom break. Joe had alternative rock blaring, which sometimes I like but other times, like now, makes me feel like hammers are banging on the inside of my forehead. This, combined with the poop game in the back seat, combined with Joe's intermittent singing, combined with three hours on the sunny side of the car, made me feel a little...piqued.

"What lane should I get in?" Joe asked.

"Oh, no," I said, shaking my head. "You can't get me to fall for that. I'm not picking."

"Just pick."

"No. I picked the bridge, remember?"

"This lane? Or the one on the right?"

"Not picking," I said, holding strong. Then, for good measure, I added, "Stay in this lane."

"I think the one on the right, but I'm staying here," he said. "You picked it."

Crossing my arms and staring out the window for the next while, I tried to tune out the music and the kids and the Joe. I saw a girl with a filthy car whose windshield wipers were frozen in time across her windshield. Like Miss Havisham had gotten ahold of it. I saw a super young couple in a car with the steering wheel on the right side. It wasn't a mail truck. It was a little white sedan. The guy's hair looked like a brown mop and he had HUGE eyebrows. Later on, they'd get pulled over by the border patrol. There was a van full of Amish people (something that perplexes me; I saw Witness and there were NO vans). A driver with his foot hanging out his window. ("How is THAT comfortable?" asked Joe.) Two RVs, both who had their own personal border officers come out to them in line to be searched.

But the wait was too long. I couldn't stare in silence forever. In the backseat, Noah was making gorilla noises and Joey was doing ridiculous movie impressions of a movie he's never even seen. His impressions were based on Joe's impressions from an earlier conversation. Nirvana was droning on and on and on. Joe was chewing his gum and muttering, "Shoulda switched lanes twenty minutes ago."

As our car rolled painfully slowly up into the next slot, only a few cars away from the big border patrol inquisition, I turned in my seat and faced the boys sharply.

"There can be no silliness when we get up to the toll booth. There will be police waiting there to take you away if they think you're acting weird. So just...Be. Cool."

Both boys immediately stilled. Not a lot can intimidate them, but they are both equally freaked out by the police. And by being taken away. Silence fell into the car at long last.

I was about to give Joe a smug look, when I saw him smooth back the sides of his hair, Fonzy style, with one hand. Then he licked his pinky and index finger before using them to smooth out his eyebrows.

He faced me, all smirk and twinkle, and said, "Am I cool enough?"

I burst out laughing. Eighteen years, annoying as hell, and he still makes me laugh.

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