Road Trip Day 1: Driving

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You have not done a proper road trip until you have walked several random exits off of I-80 east of North Platte, Nebraska in the heat of the mid-day sun, looking for a set of $600 retainers… AFTER backtracking eighty (80) miles, AFTER hearing a quiet little voice in the back seat of the Subaru wagon (AFTER the movie ended), say “I am not sure where my retainers are. I think they fell out of my shirt when we stopped to adjust the bike rack”. “Eighty (80) miles ago in North Platte?!” (Breathe, breathe, breathe, Anne, I commanded myself).

“I guess so”, he said. (Breathe, breathe, breathe Anne!).

“Well, I need to turn around…” I replied. “Don’t worry, Sweetie. Its’ ok, I don’t mind driving 160 miles out of the way on our 974 mile road trip today. I am calm and patient. I love you so much.” Actually, this is NOT what I said. I didn’t say anything at all, for about 30 miles. I was too busy praying “God please help me. Help me. Help me”.

We did not know exactly which exit that I had taken one hour back while freaking out about the lame bike rack bouncing on my back bumper for 974 miles (another blog explains that stupid bike rack). So we searched for the most familiar-looking exit, on I-80 in Nebraska… Let’s see, we knew it had a dirt road, some trees, lots of grass… This was impossible. They ALL look the same!

So, we suffered walking along potentially familiar exits for 200 yards or so a piece (both ways, uphill). Did I mention it was 2 pm on a very HOT late June afternoon? Remember those little black no-see-ums that bite? Yes, they were with us too.

The first exit, I told him he would pay $10 to the first person who finds it because that was the right thing to do, and it would be cheaper than the $600 that would be coming out of his car savings account to replace them. The second exit, I upped it to $20 to the finder, and figured it would be doubling each exit we walked. He whimpered a little bit. I had no mercy; I let him know he needs 1) a $600 emergency account in case this happens again, 2) a plan for his retainers while he eats, and 3) to never ever ever wrap them in his shirt again. I probably added a few more emphatic “ever”s.

So we walked the obnoxious Sahara, er, Nebaraska roadside, searching. Only my daughter had a shred of serenity about life. I thank my lucky stars for her, she usually does have peace and tranquility in her heart precisely when I am raging inside. I was willing those retainers into my eyesight. He was frantically counting money from lawn mowing, chores, birthdays, etc. as he walked slower and slower. Then, after only 2 exits and 1.5 hours, a miraculous sight- 2 dirt encrusted but intact retainers half on and half off the road!

We had a huge long hug, catching back our mutual tears. It felt so good. He said something teenagerly typical, like “Oh Mom, I knew we would find them”, and I just thanked God over and over and over that I did not lose my cool-THAT was the biggest miracle of the day. God showed up big time for me, NOT in giving us the retainers back, but in helping me to unconditionally love my child no matter what he did, or what pain he caused. I was guided to be fair and honest as a parent about consequences while also not berating him, thus making him feel like a worm for making a mistake. Thank you God that I could be led to love on him like that.


After the hugging, we popped back in the car for another 9 hours of driving.

To be continued…

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