This weekend, my 77-year-old mother embarked on a new adventure.
Without the slightest hesitation, she joined my 22-year-old niece and her dog, in a stuffed to capacity, beat up SUV for a three-day road trip.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t what they expected.
Just fifty miles into their trajectory, my niece, unable to get her “Tom Tom” to work, became overwhelmed, frustrated, and irate.
“I can’t get the damn thing to work! I don’t think I can do this!”
In my best soothing voice I said, “You can do this. You are a gladiator; a gladiator Minneapolis bound; with a beautiful future ahead of you. You can do this.”
Ten minutes later, with newfound determination, the pair were back on the road.
I called them on the cell phone to monitor their progress whilst McFadden and Whitehead sung “Ain’t No Stopping Us Now” in the background.
Call after call, my mother reassured me that no, they were not stopping at iffy rest stops where serial killers might lurk.
My niece complained that the road seemed endless and my mother complained that her legs were swelling.
Coco, the eight pound Maltese, didn’t complain but you could hear him crying in the background.
As they journeyed on, I heard them describe the long winding country roads of West Virginia, the chaotic traffic in Chicago, and how the minute they drove through the Wisconsin border, they developed a craving to eat cheese.
On the first night, I heard them shriek in perfect unison when they saw the tub in their motel room.
“Oh my God! I think someone was murdered in this tub! These brown streaks could be oxidized blood! OH MY GOD!! There’s a spider on top of one of the beds!”
It didn’t take more for my niece to demand her money be returned.
Three minutes later they were getting back in the car to drive to the Holiday Inn, located two streets down.
“I thought you were trying to keep expenses down,” I said, when I called an hour later.
“I’m also trying to avoid having to drive to the nearest hospital so granny and I can get tetanus shots. And really, did you expect us to sleep in sheets that were harboring more semen than a sperm bank? I knew I should have packed one of those ultraviolet lights the CSI people use.”
“And the Holiday Inn, how is it?”
“Let’s just say that unlike the previous establishment, the clerks don’t look like characters in Deliverance.”
The drive through Indiana resulted in this gem of a conversation.
“Oh my God. Can these roads be any creepier? I feel like granny and I are driving through a ghost town.”
“Did you get the Tom Tom to work?”
“I smashed it back in North Carolina with the bat I brought for protection.”
“Great. Now what are you using as a navigational tool?”
“The GPS on my three-year old cell phone. Oh, and granny’s trying to make heads and tails of an old map I found in the glove compartment.”
“Dear Lord, Granny’s reading the map? You’d be better off if you gave it to the dog to decipher.”
“Are ghost towns common in Indiana?”
“Are you even in Indiana?”
“This place looks pretty retro. So yeah, I think so.”
Driving through Chicago resulted in this dialogue.
“Auntie B, I cannot do this! I feel a thermal nuclear breakdown coming on! These people drive like maniacs and I’ve lost count of how many lanes this highway has!”
“I think I may have awarded you the gladiator title prematurely. Maybe I need to demote you to “gladiator-in-training.”
“Absolutely not. I’ve got this.”
I could hear my mother shrieking in the background.
“This old gladiator’s about to call it quits. I can’t feel my legs anymore.”
They stopped in Wisconsin on the second night.
I became alarmed when the person who answered the phone didn’t sound like my niece.
“I think granny and I may have contracted tuberculosis at the last rest stop. We can’t stop coughing.”
“Maybe it’s the dust from all the junk you’re hauling in the SUV.”
“No, this is definitely a reaction to some kind of airborne bacteria.”
“You’re being ridiculous. Woman up and soldier on. Have you eaten?”
“Granny had the last Twinkie and there’s nothing left. At this point, the dog is looking mighty tasty.”
“Why in the heck haven’t you stopped to eat something?”
“Because we took the exit to eat at Wendy’s and spent the next 45 minutes trying to find our way back to the highway.”
The next day, my mother, Coco, and my niece, finally arrived in Minneapolis.
As we speak, they are hitting every thrift store in the area.
According to my niece, the city is a treasure trove of second-hand shops that sell “vintage” items.
I smile as I play, “Ain’t no stopping us now” one more time.
Two women from two generations; one with little life experience; one possessing decades of it.
Both arriving in a new and strange city after three days of driving.
Fearless gladiators; that’s what they are.
Mom and Niece, I salute you.