One week was not enough.
It was plenty long to learn that next time we will need longer and to learn what to do differently next time. They never say “first time’s the charm!”, right?
For one, I’ll have to learn how to transition between Mom Is Coming and Mom Is Here (a.k.a CHILL-OUT). I was in such a hurry, such a manic mayhem whirlwind of preparations and planning that by the time she actually got here it took me days to pull myself out of my head and onto the ground where she stood right next to me.
It seems akin to the wedding warning: plan too much and you’ll plan yourself right out of enjoying your day.
It didn’t help that the week I was supposed to have off got confused with the week I was supposed to have on and my online work needed me to go “full-bore”. We found a good middle ground but the hustle-paced, blinders on to the finish line of a real Break and Mom-Time Goal was quickly re-directed to a working vacation.
So needless to say, my head wasn’t quite in the right place, or even any one place at all really.
My Mom, on the other hand, was in full-blown I’m In Alaska On Vacation Mode and I strove to live vicariously through her.
Mama pulled into town a little over a week ago with energy that even I rarely feel and at 40 years my senior, she moved through the evening with grace and enthusiasm despite the two days of straight travel.
She glided through endless introductions and laughed along with me at the insanity and mayhem we entered into.
From the very beginning it was a push, and roll right along with it she did. From a day of travel, straight into an 8-hour drive (after 4 hours of grocery and odds and ends shopping) she kept pace. For someone with even a slight fear of heights, the drive from Anchorage starts quickly with endlessly gorgeous but still heart squeezing drops.
But still she did fine.
We went up and down and around and over, all through the mountains and cliffs and straightaways and still, she smiled. We went straight from 6 hours on the road with views that would normally make her knees go weak to the next challenge: the bridge.
It’s funny the things you forget, the things that on your first trip in took your breath away, gave you pause, made you question: “where in the hell am I going?” The things that now are just part of the drive.
Despite her fear of heights, I was hell-bent on getting her out on that bridge. I knew the feeling of pride it gave me when I chucked my first rock over (since I too suffer from the fear o’ heights affliction) and wanted the same for her.
We drove across the over 100-year-old bridge and she looked at me…
“We aren’t getting out, are we?”
I smiled and she knew she would at least have to get out of the car but she was certain she wouldn’t go farther.
But she did.
Step by step I got her out to the middle of the bridge where I chucked our rocks off, listening for their plunge all those many, many feet below.
Her first tradition.
The week was full of tradition and customs and how-to’s…mainly how-to’s.
It’s funny how life out here becomes second-hat and suddenly, explaining it to someone else reminds you of all that goes into simply leaving the house. What to bring? What to wear to keep warm? I don’t need my wallet but I do need a rain jacket? But it’s not raining…
Well, no, not yet.
Together we marveled at this place I’ve grown accustomed to and it renewed my awe for it, at least in the spaces I’d grown used to it. The little quirks of daily life found themselves unearthed by a new face in awe of it all.
And it helped me to reconnect with that initial awe.
I think that’s one of the best parts about a visitor out here: you see it all again through fresh eyes.
Of course, those eyes happened to fall upon the busiest weekend the town will see this Summer other than the 4th of July (hold onto your hats y’all, she’s coming) and the Packrafting Festival later this month. From Solstice on, every night was a rager and yes, we do live in Adult SummerCamp 2017 but we don’t always participate. Most nights we return to the solace of our little cabin in the woods to recharge for the next day.
But when your Mom comes in on Open Mic night and jumps right in?
You go for it.
Our first night there and my Mom was outpacing me – she was adorable and hanging damn tough if I do say so myself.
We retired around 2:00am and even though she thought she was reeling me in, well, she was wrong. I probably wouldn’t have even made it to Town, much less the bar after a trip in from Anchorage. Little miss early to bed had surprised even herself, and me.
She had warned me: “Julia, just remember that I go to bed around 8 or 9pm every night.”
Alaska: it’ll disrupt even the most well-worn paths.
The rest of the weekend followed suit with music every night and not the normal music we see here. It was rougher, rock-er, stuff you don’t see all the time. It was a Not To Miss weekend but it was mayhem. I was already tired on Thursday and here she was thinking she was slowing me down.
By Sunday we had bowed out of late-night festivities and spent the day hiking. She saw what it meant to make plans and watch them change as our Late Start Plan got later and later and we found ourselves finally making it up the hill to our hiking location by 4pm and off for our hike by 5pm…just in time for the rain.
She took it all in stride.
The next day was our last before we again braved the uproar of Anchorage and we decided to spend it at The Lake. Of course, I still had to work and of course it ended up taking longer than I had hoped but by mid-afternoon, we were doing it:
I was relaxing with my Mom.
And then Chore Reality set in.
We were leaving for Anchorage in the morning.
For the first time since she had been there, I actually let my Mom jump in and I put her to work (her request, I am not that much of a tyrannical daughter, thank you very much).
- Find Cinda’s “City Clothes” (a.k.a. collar and leash)
- Divide the recycling into: tin cans, aluminum cans, bottles (without tops), plastic 1’s, plastic 2’s
- Collect trash and organize into bags
- Pack for Anchorage
- Haul water
- Take out slop bucket
- Take out compost
- Use anything up that The Chief wouldn’t eat that would go bad in the day and a half that I was gone (see: salad, not always but this time I had a funny feeling that mac n’ cheese was the only offering of Chef Bachelor)
- Book a hotel
- Clean out the truck and put Cinda’s bed into it
- Check fuel levels (since we weren’t able to pump from our diesel barrel due to a locked pump with no clue of a key
And so we started in. It was a long list but with so many of them short To Dos, we would be back to relaxing and then on to making a quick dinner to take to The Lake in no time.
A few hours later, grubby as all get out from sorting through recycling dating back to April amongst the mosquitos and other delights and we had 30 minutes before we needed to start making dinner so that we could leave for The Lake right when The Chief got home.
30 minutes where I could cross a few more things off the list. I was in Go-Mode, a mode that had apparently been locked into overdrive for the past two months.
My Mom looked at me and said: “Sit down. All day, all you’ve said you wanted to do was read. Read, daughter.”
And so I did.
And then I fell asleep.
About 10 minutes before The Chief got home I put dinner prep into full-speed and an hour or so later (behind schedule of course) we left for The Lake.
It was a beautiful evening filled with lakeside gardens and a sunset to make you stop in your tracks, filled with good friends and food and a Cinda vs. Mao the Cat interaction that still leaves me giggling.
Finally, it was midnight and a big day lay before us: Anchortown Trip.
We drove home, stopping for an amazing sunset and then I walked my Mom to her Girlshack 30 paces down the way and said “goodnight”. We made a plan to rendezvous at 9am and leave by 10am.
Oh plans. So cute, aren’t we?
By 10am I had crossed almost all the pre-leaving projects off my list and I was doubled over almost retching from pain after jumping off the back of the truck straight down onto the tow hitch.
Covered head-to-toe in grease and gas and garbage yumminess from loading the truck, I finally got back to somewhat normal and faced the next task: tie-downs.
You know how everyone has their expertise and as a couple you develop habits as to who does what and when in order to maintain the forward momentum of the well-oiled machine that is your coupledom?
And, in our well-oiled machine, The Chief does the driving when it comes to tie-downs. I always mean to step in to get better at them (because as a lefty watching a righty do them, I always end up somewhat backwards) but then something else screams for attention and in the mayhem or leaving for Town or leaving for Home, I always get stolen away or play helper.
But not this time. My Mom looked at me as if to say “It’s all you, kiddo”.
It’s not that they are hard but they certainly are infuriating to pull apart and without patience, well, they just don’t work.
A few tries later and a few missed communications in my role as leader in the straps and we finally had secured the load. There was trash on there that I’d wanted out for the three Summers I’ve been here and now, it was all packed up and ready to go and fingers crossed it didn’t blow away.
The trip out was uneventful in the best of ways.
We made it back to The Bridge and my arms didn’t suffer nearly as tight of an anaconda grip from my Mama as the first time we crossed.
The mountains were high and so were our spirits, even with the ever-increasing complaints of the truck. She was shifting like a drunk, clanging into gear with a thud and then slowing back into it. It had my brow knitting a sweater but we were on our way to the doctor, both for the Lou and the truck. It would be fine.
By 9pm we arrived. 3 hours later than planned after a serious stop at the halfway mark to register the truck (whoops!) and make two trips to the auto parts store to borrow their tools to get the old license plate off (it was a sort of do-it-yourselfer type job with roofing screws because why not? I guess…)
We arrived and headed up to the room in the elevator that Cinda was pretty sure was possessed. She panted and circled me until we reached our floor and walked into…
The most amazing hotel room I’ve ever stayed in.
In the notes for special requests I mentioned that it was my Mom’s first time in Alaska and that if they had a room with a view that would be awesome.
And awesome was an understatement.
The view, maybe not but the view in the room was on point.
All I need to say was: there was a jacuzzi tub inside the room.
I think that explains it.
But, tuckered out after a day of checking the load vigilance and worrying after the truck and getting out to stretch Lou’s bones and stopping for gas and emptying garbage and this and that and the other…we were ready for bed.
Plus, my Mom had to wake up at 4am to see if she could get on an earlier flight since when she had called to check-in they told her she would likely miss her connection (why is that flight an option then, I ask?).
At 5:45am I awoke to her telling me “goodbye and see you soon.” and as I heard the door close behind me I realized that it was over.
The trip I had been planning for and building for and cleaning for and prepping for was over. I whispered “I love you Lou-Lou” over to Lou, probably more to comfort myself than her and then convinced myself to go back to bed. I had tossed and turned all night and had barely slept. The truck had an appointment at 8am so by my calculations I had a couple of hours to rest.
And rest I did.
And then I woke up to The Day When All Hell Broke Loose…