10:44 p.m. July 4th.
I adore fireworks. Always have. I love the patriotism they summon. I love the fact that they are typically accompanied by good weather. I love the split second delay between stunning visual and heart thumping audio.
I. Love. Fireworks.
So, suffice it to say that laying, sardine style, in a 150 square foot hotel room with five of my dearest is not my idea of a great way to spend the Fourth of July.
It began as an uneventful holiday. We wrapped up a tremendously enjoyable and totally spontaneous trip to the beach. When I say spontaneous, I mean ‘got-a-call-about-a-last-minute-condo-rental, packed, got-an-oil-change-and-left-three-hours-later’ spontaneous.
It was an awesome week. Low key. Great weather. Quality family time.We were so well rested that we decided to make the return trip back in one day. One very long day.
16 hours in a van.
With four kids.
Who may or my not have inherited their father’s tendency to fidget and their mother’s impatience.
Aside from normal, larger-family traveling woes, all was going smoothly and we were feeling really fortunate about the great time we were making. So much so that Matt altered the lyrics to “Eastbound and Down” from Smoky and the Bandit to include something along the lines of “Westbound and down, loaded up and truckin’ and we gonna do something they say can’t be done….makin’ the drive in one day with four kids in a van…”
I got a good chuckle out of it. In retrospect, we were smug. And I should’ve known better. (Please see previous post if you aren’t sure why.)
Fast forward ten hours later to Chattanooga, Tennessee. We began our ascent into the foothills when I spotted the Ruby Falls sign. I’ve always wanted to see Rock City and Ruby Falls. We pass this way every time we drive to Florida for vacation or to the Carolina coast to see my sister. For miles and miles there are signs that command me to “See Rock City.” Yet I’ve never seen Rock City. So sad. Poor me.
Oh, how I wish I could see Rock City.
Be careful what you wish for. Because you may actually get to see Rock City.
And a whole lot more of Chattanooga than you bargained for.
Having spent nearly 2000 miles in the same vehicle over the course of six days, Matt and I were pretty comfortable with the typical rattles and hums of our van.
The thump, thump, thump that began just outside of Chattanooga was anything but typical. A quick stop led us to believe (Ok, ok…led Matt to believe, since I could’ve been looking at a tire that had turned to cheese and not known the difference) that there was tread separation.
Unsure how to proceed, we traveled a few more miles to get into a more heavily populated area. Our next stop provided cruelty with every turn.
I took every single picture with my feet in the same spot. We were literally surrounded by tire stores. However, it seems that most tire stores aren’t open on Saturday at 7 p.m. on the Fourth of July. Surprising, eh?
We spent the next 20 minutes calling every tire store we could find. Outside of the ten already within fingertip’s reach in Tire Ghost Town, Tennessee. The good news is that our children were completely cooperative and quiet while we made said phone calls.
If you believed that for one second, you clearly have not met my family.
Our children are like vultures, circling as the tension increases in either parent. When both parents are under duress, they pull out all the stops. The scene in our van was unlike any I had seen before. The kids were cackling loudly and completely defiant. Even Thaddeus seemed to be aiming for fast track initiation into this mean, mini-fraternity, crying and filling diapers at a fascinating rate of speed.
Our attempts at regaining order were met with resistance, increasing laughter and mocking while hiding under mounds of blankets they insisted had to make the trip.
What is it about kids acting their worst when we as parents are least able to handle it?
When the bad behavior reached a fever pitch, I freaked out, got of my seat and attempted to open the cargo door to
spray everyone with a heavy layer of crazy mom calmly inform my children their behavior would not be tolerated. However, somehow in my frenetic state I locked the doors and found myself banging on the window telling them they better let me in so I could spread. my. crazy. correct their behavior in a nurturing fashion.
My attempts resulted in laughter that could only be matched by a pack of hyenas. The kids came unglued. I quickly looked toward Matt. My beloved spouse. My support and help in parenting trouble. He would rescue and reinforce.
And I’m sure he would have done just that had he not been doubled over, face turned away, burying his mouth in his shirt so the kids wouldn’t hear his own breathless cackle.
While I considered which family member would get to enjoy the first dose of my motherly love, an actual human answered the number I had been dialing. Finally, a live person at a nearby tire center! They were open! We were saved!
Hold the applause.
In the same breath the man answered the phone and said “Hello!” he informed me that they were closing in five minutes. It was evident this guy was not going to miss his fireworks.
Although I pleaded my case and offered to pay extra, he let me know there were two cars in front of us and it would not be possible.
After Matt and I took a moment to each have our own, quiet, personal temper tantrum, we regrouped and quickly made a hotel reservation.
There was 45 minutes of sunlight left and I was determined to make the most of it. By golly, I was going to See Rock City! We got directions to Ruby Falls/ Rock City and headed up the foothill.
On a bum tire.
With four unruly children. And two adults who were quickly unraveling.
But we made it!
We were super excited as we unloaded, brushed ratty travel hair and tried to give quick, stern instructions about the importance of not leaping off nearby cliffs.
Then we raced across the parking lot and up the stairs to the entrance.
Turns out there was really no need to run.
Since they close at 8 p.m.
And it was now 8:20 p.m.
Oh, how I wish I could See Rock City.
Ok, on to plan C. Getting a good night’s rest at a nearby hotel with plans to be at the tire center when they open at 9 a.m. Quick tire change and on to actually see Rock City. Easy enough, right?
Have you ever attempted to jam six people into a room the size of a closet? Have you ever attempted to jam six people who have very strong opinions about the air temperature, water temperature, pillow density, thickness of bed comforter, noise associated with air-conditioning unit, smell of the surroundings, comments on the drapery, mini-fridge, microwave and lack of snacks into a room the size of a closet?
It’s super fun.
But not as fun as it could be if you added parking lot fireworks to the mix at 10:40 p.m. Cause then you’ve got yourself a real party.
And apparently my frat offspring love to partay!
And then, like a gift from heaven, the skies opened up and it began to rain. All fireworks ceased and everyone fell asleep.
Except the baby.
Because he is clearly still in the early pledge training of the previously mentioned fraternity. And he was obviously charged with the task of keeping the parents awake.
Which he did.
So much so that we were concerned his volume would disrupt other patrons. After we made several unsuccessful attempts to quiet and console, Matt took him out to our minivan at 2 a.m. I would have taken him out myself but his diaper came detached on one side and he peed through his pajamas all over mine.
However, like all good moms I packed extra sets for all of us.
Huh. Maybe not.
The good news is that he quieted down and they were able to return to our room a bit later. Just in time for us to get back to sleep so he could awaken us at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., 5:15 a.m. and for good at 6:50 a.m.
Please don’t be too concerned about the baby boy. The sun is now up and he is sleeping soundly even amidst the earsplitting noise in the minivan.
Typical frat guy.
So, after a horrendous night’s sleep, we were at the tire center, raring to go at 8:50 a.m. We were chomping at the bit for the door to open at 9 a.m. so we raced in to get things started.
Again, no need to run. Since NONE of the three assigned techs bothered to show up for work.
Apparently they HAD enjoyed their fireworks.
Sue, the cashier, felt confident that someone would come to work. Fortunately, a bit later one tech arrived. After 30 minutes of chasing our kids through an empty Walmart store, we were like Willie Nelson. On the road again.
My hope was a morning trip to actually See Rock City. But wouldn’t you know, much like our kids were the evening before, the weather was less than cooperative. Low clouds and rain.
Oh, Ruby Falls and Rock City….one day I will see you.
Now that we are once again westbound and down, everyone’s spirits are on the rise.
I don’t actually see their lips moving…but don’t be mistaken. There is no doubt they are making plans for tonight’s party.
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be……
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