An unanticipated benefit of visiting my parents is that I actually feel tall here. Gravity is winning the battle against my mother, and she is now under 5’ tall (sorry to reveal the secret but it’s pretty obvious to anyone who sees her!). We made a quick trip to Shop Rite this afternoon for some essentials (Klondike bars and Diet Coke), and I was successfully able to grab a package from the top shelf that was out of her reach. I am always the one asking for assistance at home, whether it’s a vase from the top shelf or bourbon from the top shelf, so it was empowering to accomplish the task without having to ask some random tall person nearby. Of course, in COVID times, trying to communicate with anyone from behind a mask or in the same row of the grocery store is awkward and abrupt. It’s unlikely I could have convinced anyone to help, so worst case scenario would have been to eat cherry ice instead of lemon ice. Truly a first world problem…….
These past few days have felt like a mini-vacation and it will be a little sad to give up the pampering when I go home. We were reminiscing about another vacation a few years back that wasn’t quite so luxurious. This is part 1 of the story:
For a few summers when the kids were small, we would rent a house on the Cape for a week with my brother and his family. They were always great vacations, filled bike adventures, hours of mini-golf and beach time, lots of laughs, great food, and always a happy hour on the deck.
One summer we invited my parents to join us, so my sister-in-law searched for a house to rent that would fit all of us. Hans, always economical, was concerned about the budget, but we had a laundry list of must-haves, including something that was waterfront so we could do campfires on the beach. Vicki delivered, and found us an adorable waterfront house in Fairhaven that had 4 bedrooms and a small carriage house with an extra bedroom. I checked out the listing online and the house ticked off all of our boxes except for one. It wasn’t on the Cape, but it was close enough that we could drive onto the Cape for seafood and mini-golf whenever we liked. We booked it.
If I was a person who believed in portent, I would have turned back and gone home in the first hour of the trip. After spending all morning packing the van full of a week of supplies and beach gear, I set off down Rte. 128 with the kids in tow. Hans was going to follow later in his own car since he was heading to Tanglewood later in the week. Traffic was fairly heavy even though it was late afternoon, and as we were getting close to Needham exits, the van starting hesitating just a bit. It felt almost like the engine was cutting out for a few seconds, but then it would catch and we’d start to accelerate again. I checked the gas gauge then looked for any warning lights on the dash board. Everything checked out, so I kept driving.
The van hesitated again, this time for a bit longer, and I began to panic. I moved into the right lane and looked for the next road sign to figure out how far it was to the next exit. The van continued to hiccup, stalling briefly then turning back on. I put on the flashers and started to pull into the breakdown lane. An exit was just ahead, so I pushed the gas pedal to the floor and headed onto the ramp. Somehow I was still moving, but I was losing acceleration quickly. We wound around the exit, and I spotted a church off to the left. I kept my foot on the floor but the van slowed to about 20 mph, with just enough juice left to propel us around the corner and into the parking lot where the engine died completely.
I called Hans. I had passed a Kia dealer along the highway, so I was hoping they might come tow the van to their shop and give us a loaner for the week. It was nearly 5pm by then, and the dealership was closing so they couldn’t help. Hans called AAA and I pulled out a cooler and sat down with the kids on the grass to wait.
5 o’clock mass was about to start, so car after car came in the driveway, making their way to their parking spaces before the organ music began. I don’t remember the entrance hymn that day, but I do remember that not one of those church-goers thought it was odd to see a woman with 3 kids sitting on the grass in the church parking lot eating blueberry pie out of a box with plastic forks and playing a board game. If they did think it was odd, it was not enough to stop and ask if we needed help. We waited next to the van for about an hour—I know because mass was over and the parking lot cleared out—before the truck arrived to tow the van and the 4 of us back to Carlisle where we would start the trip all over again.
It was a good thing that day that it always takes forever for Hans to leave the house, whether for a gig or for a week away. He had spent over 3 hours finishing his packing, checking lights and doors, getting notes and supplies ready for the dog sitter and whatever else he does before he departs for a trip. I would bet that he even left the house at least once, then came back for something that he forgot. That Saturday, his tardiness worked in our favor. Hans was waiting for us in the driveway, my tiny Mazda Miata already packed with leftover luggage that hadn’t fit in the van. The only other vehicle left at home was our Honda Accord sedan, so we quickly sorted through the packed van, squeezed what we could into the Honda, and set off for the second time on our Fairhaven vacation.