• Lara Flanagan

We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto

Updated: Feb 28, 2020

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A week ago today we were enjoying our first night in Providence, after travelling for almost 40 hours to get to our destination.  It is hard to believe that a week has gone already.  Our 12-month adventure still does not feel remotely real and it is very hard to think that this is anything but an amazing 10-day holiday and that we shall soon be due to return to Tenterfield, the cottage, my lemon tree and to Kevin and Rosie.  I suspect that this fairy-tale holiday feeling will continue until the kids and I find ourselves alone again in New Rochelle in just over 2 weeks.  Then I suspect reality shall set in when we have another temporary home, routine and destination to get accustomed to.

In the past week I have learnt several things that I suspect shall stay with me for a very long time.

Firstly – check your expiry dates on everything before you travel.

Before I left I thought I was very organised.  Incredibly organised with all the trademarks of someone who is compulsive and bordering on being obsessive.   I spent 5 months creating lists, ticking things off, refining lists, crossing things off and spending hours at night tossing and turning so I could get up in the morning and rewrite even more fucking lists. So you can imagine my WTF reaction when we finally got off that plane in Dulles Airport Washington, and we needed to organise some food.  I pulled out my travel card (a Debit card that can be used like an eftpos card or credit card when travelling, you load it up online with whatever currency you need to use, the exchange rate is the best available at the time and there are no international transaction fees) to pay for some sandwiches and the lady at the register looked at me and told me the card was expired.

Seriously.  What the fuck.  I asked her if she was kidding to which she responded “NO”.  I then asked her if she could try it again to which she responded “NO.”   I pulled out one of several credit cards I have for emergencies and used that instead.  When I looked at the card the expiry date clearly read May of this year.  I mean, what a plonker.  What a fecking eejit.  I had not even checked.  I had first got these travel cards when I had visited Providence 18 months ago and had not even thought about expiry dates.  So now that meant I had to use my credit card complete with international transaction fees and I had no idea what the charge was to get cash out of the ATM.   It was easily fixed in that the next day I ordered more travel cards online, they were delivered to Mum and Phil’s address and Mum has already sent them to the US but in the interim I am probably paying an extra 10% at least on every single purchase.   So check expiry dates.

Secondly – freaking out is not an option when travelling along with kids.

The absolute biggest thing I learnt almost immediately was the fact that freaking out is not an option for me at present.  I regularly freak out.  I am an artist at freaking out.  I have a refined sense of the dramatic and am often bordering on hysteria in my head.  I have an active imagination and am inclined to be a bat-shit crazy drama queen at times.   I did have an anxiety about this trip in that I wondered how many times I would freak out but I realised within 5 minutes of arriving at the airport that as a lone adult, travelling with two young kids I was not allowed to freak out anymore.  That sort of pissed me off as I don’t mind freaking out, it is a great way to vent, but on the other hand, constantly working on my inner sense of calm and plastering a “there is nothing fucking wrong with this situation” Pollyanna sort of smile on my face might be really good for me.

We had just gotten through customs at the airport, had bought a juice and had a wander when Archie and Rissie went into the shop to spend a couple of dollars. Five minutes later Archie was standing in the same place, his little face screwed up with tears rolling down his cheeks.  He looked like someone had repeatedly run over his pet bunny in front of him.  I asked him what was wrong and he said to me, “I can’t decide mummy.  I don’t have time.  We will miss the plane…..” at which point his started sobbing.  I then knew my days of freaking out were over.   At least when Archie and Rissie were with me.  Whilst my little son turned himself into a neurotic basket case in the space of 2 seconds I imagined my future of freaking out privately in bathrooms, sobbing and stabbing myself in the thighs with a shampoo bottle whilst showering, putting my head in the washing machine and screaming out loud.   Then I plastered that “there is nothing fucking wrong with this situation” smile on my face and told him that he had plenty of time to choose a packet of chewing gum and that we would not miss the plane as it did not leave for three hours (for fuck’s sake).   After several reassurances that I would not let him miss the plane he pulled himself together, marched bravely to the departure gate where he could sit for the next few hours, whilst watching the door’s anxiously and I went to the disabled toilet where I could say “for fuck’s sake” over and over again out loud for a couple of minutes.

When there appeared to be a 2-hour line in front of us at customs at Los Angeles Airport, Rissie asked me anxiously if we would have enough time for our next plane.   I thought to myself “Oh god I think we are screwed, we are going to miss it and then we will be fucking doomed” whilst responding to Rissie, “Of course honey, heaps of time.” My cheeks hurt from smiling and being calm.   When the pilot on our flight from Los Angeles to Newark advised to be prepared for very bad turbulence, Rissie grabbed me by my arm and looked at me with anxiety in her eyes.  In my head I slapped her hand off my arm whilst screaming “don’t fucking touch me, I don’t do turbulence, I am too young to die, we are all going to die.  We are all going to die.  We are all going to die.”  In reality I patted her hand and said, “we’ll be fine Riss, just a few bumps,” whilst smiling sweetly and biting my inner gums until they bled.

After we had been diverted to Washington and had been sitting on the tarmac for 90 minutes, when they announced that two of the toilets were now blocked and no longer in working use, I looked at Archie swiftly and in my head I said, “you didn’t do one of your indestructible turds did you, you filthy little cretin?’ whilst  saying to him, “don’t worry buddy, we will be off the plane soon.”  After dealing with the flight to Newark, the delays, the absence of anyone who appeared able to help, after getting to Penn Station and all of that I then had to deal with Rissie who burst into tears every hour or so and sobbed mournfully, “this is the worst day of my life, I never want to miss any planes again and I am so very tired.  I am so tired mummy” I gave her a cuddle and said we would be on the train soon when in reality I wanted to say,” Give me a fucking break, I am tired too, you at least slept on the floor on a blanket that I smuggled off the plane, whereas I have had an appendage on every piece of luggage to ensure it did not get stolen and I have also been keeping an eye out for axe-wielding crack cocaine addicted madmen who happen to like fucking hanging out at Penn Station.  I am tired too.   I AM TIRED TOO.”

So the biggest thing I have learnt is that it just does not work if I freak out.  I am so calm that I am like Pollyanna on Valium.   By the end of this trip, I am sure a semi-trailer on fire could be heading towards me on the highway and I will probably say, “Ooopsy Daisy, here comes a big old semi-trailer.  Let’s pop out of the way for a little while shall we?”  I will become a hateful nasty calm person that is impossible to talk to because I will always be shoving the bright side of life down people’s throats with a rusty shovel.   (Sorry about that I suspect I am freaking out in real life via the keyboard – at least the kids can’t read it.)  Mental note to myself, never let Archie and Rissie read my blog.

Finally – I cannot escape the indestructible turd.

The final thing I learnt this week is that I cannot escape the indestructible turd.   As soon as we were advised that the plane’s toilets were blocked I thought of my son, though in reality, he had been nowhere near the toilet.  (Thank god for that, they could have all been blocked if he had of had his way).  Then yesterday he was in the shower and I checked on him to see if he was ok.   I noticed he had left some nasty little skids in the toilet which is a no-no in my book (as he should bloody well know).  I got rid of them and flushed the toilet.  Then I watched mesmerised as the toilet made a funny gurgling sound and the water started rising.  For fuck’s sake give me a fucking break. Due to my week of not freaking out in public I stared at the rising water for probably about 5 seconds longer than I should have before calmly asking Strachan for assistance.   Archie was naked in the shower.  If I freaked out, god only knows what his reaction might be.  I had seen what his bowels could do.

We managed to clean the water up, Robert got a plunger from somewhere, it was all fixed rather easily.   Strach and Robert remained calm.  I did not freak out.

My mind remained uneasy though.  The boy with the bowels of steel had struck again.  He was going to be with me for the rest of my life.

I went to the basement to scream into the washing machine.  I have a newfound love for washing machines.

So many things I have learnt this week.

#Motherhood #Travel

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