I’m pretty sure our little trip back to Minnesota could be its own little book.
The novella would begin with Sue, a woman in her thirties who foolishly packs her bathing suit, despite the purple welts on her back. She has just returned from trying an alternative therapy involving glass cups, fire and suction.
She then boards a plane in a collared shirt with her enthusiatic daughter and less enthusiastic husband, and begins a sixteen hour trip, which could have been six, for a few more hundred dollars.
After deboarding, she stands in a one-deep line at the car rental counter for twenty minutes, while the twenty-year-old counter girl flirts with the customer in front of her. Turns out, he is the producer of a dreadful reality television show. Finally, they are summoned to the counter, where fatigue leads her to place her initials next to a dollar amount that is twice as much as the reservation estimated.
Her husband, Ben, lovely and supportive, agrees to drive the 60 miles to their final destination, despite wanting to rest in the fetal position at the nearest hotel.
An enormous thunderstorm forces them to pull over for a dinner of omelettes and pancakes. The first of many servings of hash browns is devoured. They listen with delight to the long vowels coming from the tables around them. The rain stops and they press on.
Family is waiting in the driveway to greet them. Sue marvels over her nephew, Sameer, the same age as her own daughter. She wants to gobble him up, but it is too soon.
An infant is placed in her arms. Tears stream down her cheeks. She kisses her sister, who suffered much for this little bundle.
It’s off to bed.
Friday brings more infant holding, toddler juggling and some grocery shopping. Sue and Ben cruise through their old grocery store crafting a meal plan for the family. They do not run into anyone they know, it’s been ten years, after all.
Sue plays the Beatles version of Rockband and cooks with her siblings. She holds the baby and watches her daughter throw herself into playing with fresh toys and her cousin. Grandma reads stories. Grandpa gives them a ride on the lawn mower.
The new parents are tired, happy and slightly feverish.
Saturday morning, Ben and Sue take the preschoolers to the park. They run a relay race and feed the ducks. Sameer jumps and yells while throwing whole pieces of bread. Nora methodically tears the slices into little pieces and drops them to the ground.
More cooking, Sue makes homemade falafel and others clean up the gigantic mess. Then, more Rockband, this time, with toddlers fighting over drumsticks. Nora says Sameer can have a turn with the drumsticks once she goes back to Oregon. This, despite Sameer’s generosity with the Mickey Mouse truck earlier.
In the middle of the night, Sue wakes to a little voice, “Mama?”
“You are my friend.”
In a few hours Sue wakes to an alarm going off. Not a clock, it sounds like a smoke detector. There’s no smell of smoke. Sue traces the sound to the utility room but cannot find the source. She races upstairs and wakes her father from a dead sleep, something she has not had to do in fifteen years. A gas detector has detected the slightest whiff of CO2 from a pipe. It’s thrown into the garage and after assurances of safety, Sue returns to bed, where her family has not stirred.
Sue can’t sleep, so goes upstairs for coffee. She takes the fussing baby for a diaper change and settles him so mom can get a few more minutes sleep. She refills the nursing mom’s water bottle and figures out how to use the coffee maker. She remembers the days of doing tasks the her right arm, and holding an infant with her left.
The grandparents want a family picture, the other grandparents want Nora for the day. Ben and Nora are sent along. A few pictures are snapped. The rest of the family heads to brunch. More hash browns are consumed. Sameer sits on Sue’s lap.
Nora has taken to referring to Ben and Sue as “Ben” and “Susie” rather than mom and dad. Later, she starts calling Ben, “Beardy.” The three of them rejoin at Ben’s parent’s house and promptly fall asleep. Later, there is playing outside and discussion of Nora’s brilliance and beauty.
Then it’s back to Sue’s parent’s house. Suddenly, it’s time to pack and mentally prepare for the return trip. Sue still longs to sit and talk with her siblings and hold the baby.
The next morning they drive to the airport, stopping for a last breakfast with Ben’s parents. Sue is feverish and dizzy. A few Tylenol takes it all away. Nora sleeps in the car, meaning she will not sleep on the plane.
People on the plane are friendly and willingly change seats so Ben can sit with Sue and Nora. Despite the relatively trouble free travel, they arrive in Portland exhausted and nauseous. It is 95 degrees. The car is waiting the economy lot, Ben drives home in record time. Nora is asleep when they arrive. The window air conditioner in the bedroom is turned on and Nora is deposited in the middle of the bed. They will all sleep together for one more night.