It had seemed like a good idea at the time. On that beautiful, warm and sunny afternoon, the first time she suggested this trip. But like a bad joke that sounds funnier in your head or like a snappy comeback that falls flat, here she was, with her three precious children sleeping in the back seat, in a torrential rain storm - lost.
She squinted at the road ahead, desperate for some sign, any sign, of a gas station, or food or anything, some sign of civilization. She tried to stay strong for the sake of her children. The last thing she wanted them to wake up to on the first night of their summer vacation was the sight of their mother blubbering, in the driver's seat, stranded in the middle of nowhere.
This would never have happened if he were here. They used to go wandereing off together all of the time and had never been so truly, hopelessly lost as she was right now. An analogy of her life in general. Lara sighed and said to nobody in particular "what was I thinking?"
It had been a beautiful, perfect day, the first truly hot day late in the spring. She had been walking with her son Connor to pick up her two daughters, Clara & Sophie, from the Elementary school at the end of the street. It had become her favorite thing since moving to live with her parents, this ritual of walking, rain or shine, to and from her children's school. A rock of predictability in the ocean of upheaval that had engulfed their family after the accident.
On that bright sunny day Connor had been chattering away as only a precocious little four year old could do, about his day at pre-school and about one of his friends who had gone to the beach for spring break, when he asked "Mama, when will we go to the beach?" They had gone to the beach every summer for as long as he could remember, except for last summer, but that didn't count. "when are we going?" he asked again.
In that moment, in the sunshine, it seemed like a glorious thought as it popped into her head so Lara spoke it without a hint of hesitation. "We'll go on the first day of summer vacation. After your sisters get out of school for the summer. We'll pack up the car and just drive, until we find a pretty spot and then we'll stay there. What do you think of that?" Connor threw his arms around her leg and gave her a sqeeze. "You're the best mom ever." he said and skipped all the way to school.
Connor proceeded to announce this happy news to his sisters as soon as he saw them, and to anyone else who would listen, much to the dismay of his grandmother, who went to great lengths to try to dissuade her daughter from these plans which seemed to her to be a greatly foolish, not to mention reckless endeavor. Lara, however, was a rock of determination. Once she'd made up her mind she didn't budge an inch. But now, here she was, in the middle of a torrential downpour. Maybe her mother had been right. Maybe she was foolish, maybe she had been behaving recklessly. She felt like an idiot for thinking she could do this on her own.
The rain came down harder still, torrential, tropical. Lightening ripped across the sky, thunder boomed seconds later. A little sleeper began to stir in the back seat. "It's okay" Lara said to herself quietly. "Everything is going to turn out okay." Maybe she'd turn back for home in the morning. Surely there had to be something coming up soon. She glanced at her phone, still no signal. "Come on, come on."Lara whispered straining her eyes against the black, willing a town to appear around the next bend. Refusing to give her anxious thoughts any room in her brain. "Not long now" she whispered.
Suddenly, like a beacon of hope, there appeared the dull glow of a small town in the distance. She stopped at the first neon sign that read "vacancy" and got through the next hour on adrenaline and pure stubbornnes. Willing one foot in front of the other. Struggling to unload her three sleepy children, and all of their paraphanelia, out of her car and into their room. She piled them all into one big bed and collapsed beside them.
For a moment, in the darkenss, with the sound of the rain and storm outside Lara though she'd never sleep. She closed her eyes, breathed in the smell of her son's sweaty head, and drifted off.
How it could be possible to fall asleep in such withering despair and wake up to such peace and tranquility, Lara did not know. It was like the world had had a good cry, gone to bed, and felt better in the morning.
Lara sat up, looked around herself and took in the room. There was nothing fancy about it. Everything was economical, and yet not in the least bit shabby. She closed her eyes and just listened - to the sound of the ocean outside the window and the birds calling to each other. She extracted herself from the tangle of arms and legs of her children and quietly got up. Tip toeing down the hall throigh the tiny sitting area she noticed a little basket of coffee things on the counter of the kitchenette. Lara found the mugs in a cupboard above the coffee pot. Simple sturdy cream colored mugs that reminded her of her grandmother.
She sipped her coffee on the balcony. Listening as the waves rolled in, feeling the gentle ocean breeze on her face. She inhaled, eyes closed, not just the smell of coffee or ocean but she inhaled a deep feeling of peace. She sat, feeling calm, tranquil, content. She’d made it. Despite her moments of doubt, they had arrived and this was going to be a wonderful vacation. They were going to enjoy the outdoors. Sunshine, fresh air, swimming, sea shells. It would be good for her kids. It would be good for her too. She needed some fresh air and sunshine and time with her children.
From the bedroom came the sound of stirring little ones, Lara took another sip of her coffee and turned to see her sleepy, blond-haired boy stumbling towards her. “I’m right here” she said quietly, soothingly. He scrambled into her lap and nuzzled his face against her neck. Together they listened to the ocean, snuggly and quiet for a few moments before the girls woke up.
How was it that her girls made so much noise in the morning?! So full of life, ready to seize the day and whatnot. They were in their suits and terrycloth coverups, pails and shovels in hand before Lara’s coffee so much as had time to get cold.
I'll post the next part of this story next Thursday night. If you want this to land right in your inbox please subscribe to posts in the sidebar! (if you're viewing on mobile you may need to scroll to the bottom of the page and tap "view web version").