“The wind began to switch – the house to pitch and suddenly the hinges started to unhitch.
Just then the Witch – to satisfy an itch went flying on her broomstick, thumbing for a hitch.
And oh, what happened then was rich.
The house began to pitch. The kitchen took a slitch.
It landed on the Wicked Witch in the middle of a ditch,
Which was not a healthy situation for the Wicked Witch.”
-The Wizard of Oz
As I sit on my porch sipping coffee and pondering my military life I hear it.
You know what it is. That hauntingly familiar sound of gears grinding, sticks shifting and plumes of exhaust pluming. It slowly rounds the corner wanting nothing more than to engulf everything I hold dear in life and once, having satisfied its bloodlust, simply drives away.
It is the dreaded moving van.
If only for a moment my skin becomes clammy and a slow dizziness overtakes me.
Then, I suddenly remember we are not due to move this summer.
Well that was an uncomfortable moment. More coffee?
Our turn will be here before we know it so I’m always mentally preparing myself.
Part of my mental preparedness comes in the form of motivational sayings from my active duty husband. Lucky for all of us, many of the quotes come from his highly respected and motivating Marine boot camp Drill Instructor. The man had a way with words. Such a wordsmith was he that were I to post them, women would blush, gentleman would yell, “here, here now!” and my blog would be removed from the interwebs all-together. I give you a palatable family favorite…
“If you ain’t cheatin,’ then you ain’t tryin’.”
He was right you know. With verbal judo as his weapon of choice, the DI impressed upon my then 18 year-old husband a powerful life lesson. While in no way implying nor suggesting unethical behavior, he was simply teaching think outside of the box and get creative with the task at hand. Though a situation may appear difficult or even unsurpassable, you must make it work for you. You mold the situation into a desirable option often, not always, with a positive outcome.
It was just last year that we moved and the year before and two years before that. So, the tale I tell is still so very fresh in my mind.
A cross-country move for many is a life goal on the very top of one’s bucket list. But, for military families, it can be an annual necessity of life whether by planes, trains or automobiles. When we hear the words cross-country, thoughts of car sick children vomiting, less than savory motel rooms, wrong turns taken (even with a GPS) and radiators exploding in the desert all come to mind.
Not for me. I embrace the words of wisdom delivered so many years ago by that warrior god walking the grounds of Parris Island.
I made a decision then and there to make our 7th cross-country the experience of a lifetime.
The house was packed out, the moving van had pulled away and the kids were ready to go. We hopped in our two vehicles and set a goal of 8 hours without stopping. Oceanside, California to wherever 8 hours with too many kids and animals to count would take us that day. Slow and easy was the mantra for our upcoming adventure.
Around hour 4 we reached Yuma, Arizona and small dark clouds began to swirl in the distance. A few lightening strikes, nothing I hadn’t seen before. Fascinating and frightening all at the same time. I love a good desert lightening show, I thought. This trip is going to be epic.
Suddenly the clouds became dark and ominous. Dust Devils began to form with jack rabbits darting to and fro. Something was afoot! In an instant a wall of sand, rain and cloud came barreling down upon us. I immediately lost sight of my husband and our 6 other children. (Side note – I am capable of riding with only one child at a time. Apparently, that is my limit. I chose child #5 thinking I had chosen well only to learn later that I had not). As the storm surrounded us, we lost complete visibility.
Tumbleweed, small rocks and debris were all striking the windshield with bands of rain, then sand then rain again. In this kind of situation, one must make the decision to either maintain speed and risk hitting someone who has stopped ahead of you or slow down and risk being hit from behind. I was tailing my husband closely and watched as my 5-year old’s chubby little hand thrust the dog dish out the window and in a gust of wind he lost his grip. The metal dish bounced on the interstate creating sparks then shot up and hit my windshield. I hit the brakes just in time to see a desert antelope springboard off my car hood, then to my left there was a desert tortoise laying on his back laughing at me. To my right stood a frontier Army ghost brigade at Parade Rest and just as I thought things couldn’t get any worse, my sweet Auntie was directly above my car riding a bicycle waving at me. With the mercy of sudden distraction, I frantically waved back. In that moment Auntie slowly morphed into my husband’s former DI. He was riding atop a tank and called out to me, “If you aint cheaten,’ then you ain’t tryin!”
“Jesus take the wheel!,” I screamed as I slammed on the brakes throwing my right arm across Rebecca to brace her for impact. It was at that point I noticed she was laughing hysterically while filming me with her Iphone.
I repeat, I chose the wrong driving companion.
“Stop filming me and call Daddy right now,” I yelled. She quickly dialed his number and as he always does, my combat hardened husband dryly answered, “Hello, this is Dad, how may I help you?” In my unglued state I screamed, “I cannot drive in this!” He calmly replied, “Just follow the white line on the right until we get through the storm.” So I did. I followed that white line all the way off an exit, down a service road and into a zero-visibility gully not knowing if I had level ground or a 30-foot drop on either side of me. I looked up the embankment just in time to see the red tail lights of the family roadster slowly fade into the storm.
So, this is how it ends? Very disappointing I thought to myself.
I turned to my daughter (who was posting her video) and inquired, “any ideas? I’m tapped out.”
She calmly replied, “get back on the road Mom.”
And so, I did.
As if being shaken from a deep sleep, in an instant we pulled out of the bands of dust, rain and wind into a clear, starlit night.
We pulled over at a rest stop and engaged in a lively discussion with another motorist only to find out we had driven through a Desert Monsoon. Raise your hand if you have ever heard of that.
Exactly, me neither.
I became a different person that evening. I am now a white-knuckled driver who pulls over at the slightest change in cloud formation. I cannot watch The Mummy and I’m still mad at my daughter. I have yet to watch the Scorsese-esque film she created that night but maybe someday.
We never did find out why sweet baby CJ threw the metal dog dish out the window, perhaps he was aiming for the desert antelope.