For years Hubby and I had a long-standing tradition of spending New Year’s Eve with friends in Cleveland.
Some people might be thinking: Cue the sad-sounding trombones.
The reality is our New Year’s celebrations in Cleveland have been wonderful.
Some years we dressed up all fancy-schmancy and traveled to decadent restaurants while other years we huddled beside the fireplace in our jammies and fell asleep before the ball in Times Square touched down.
One year as Hubby and I set out to make our annual trek, the weather looked hairy. But we were young and stupid, so we packed up our car and pressed on.
After we passed Buffalo and got on the Interstate, the snow started pelting the car so we couldn’t see.
We turned on the radio.
Yes, the radio.
It was either that or Hubby’s tape-deck and collection of mixed-tapes featuring Kenny G.
My husband gripped the steering wheel. The snow was blowing the car around and we wanted to know if the whole trip would feel like we were driving through a wind tunnel beneath the heavy feathers of a rapidly molting white bird.
And then we heard it.
The Thruway has been closed from Buffalo to Erie.
As if on cue, the cars slowed and stopped. We turned off the engine to conserve gas. There was nothing to do but wait.
And listen to mixed tapes.
Oh, I forgot to mention that I was two months pregnant at the time.
I don’t know about how it goes for other women, but during that first trimester, I had to pee.
After sitting for three hours in my husband’s tiny black Honda Prelude, I panicked.
“I have to pee.”
The windshield wipers swished back and forth and, for a moment, we could see.
“Well, you’re going to have to hold it.”
I looked out my passenger side window, at the stillness of it all and contemplated how I was going to make it to a bathroom when I couldn’t even see an exit ramp.
But this need to pee was non-negotiable.
I tried to explain it to my husband so he would understand.
“You know how you don’t like to eat Lucky Charms for breakfast?” I said. “Well, I don’t like to pee on myself.”
In my experience, any time someone tries to ignore a biological urge, that urge becomes more urgent.
I popped open the car door. Snowflakes fluttered onto my lap.
“I see an RV ahead,” I unbuckled my seat belt. “I bet they have a bathroom. Either they’ll let me in, or I’m going to have to cop a squat.”
I walked down I-90 between the rows of stopped cars, glad for my hat with the earflaps. People saw me coming and rolled down their windows to ask me questions – as if I could tell them when the snow would stop, how much longer until we would start moving, about what was causing the delay.
I only knew I had to pee.
I slogged through the snow that came up to my knees and kept my eye on that RV with the Canadian license plates.
Knocking on the door with urgency, I was greeted by a man in a red ski-mask with cut outs for the eyes and nose.
I explained to the masked man that I was pregnant and that I had walked really far in the snow.
Because I had to pee.
The man in the ski-mask walked back up the steps and gestured for me to come in.
I looked back at my husband’s car, a white lump in the distance. Before I’d left, I told Hubby once I was in that he should give me ten minutes, that if I wasn’t out in ten minutes, he should come get me because someone was cutting me into small pieces.
So I followed a man in a ski-mask into an RV.
Surprise! The RV was filled with Canadian hockey players who were super-friendly, eh?
After I used their facilities, they offered me snacks and told me not to hesitate if I needed to come back.
On my way out, I wished them a Happy New Year, and they held up mugs and shouted something
unintelligible in Canadian.
Several hours later, we got moving again, but traffic was diverted back to Buffalo where Hubby and I were forced to spend the night in a Microtel, which felt much too micro after having spent so much time crammed in such a tight space.
We didn’t make it to Cleveland for New Years that night. Instead, we had spaghetti and meatballs at one of our favorite restaurants.
I was pretty hormonal, and I remember crying as I pushed pasta and meat sauce into my mouth.
Our waitress appeared with a tiny bottle of champagne.
“This is for you,” she announced. “From your friends in Cleveland.”
And then I really sobbed.
Because I missed them.
And because I couldn’t drink champagne.
Except I probably could have.
But it was so lovely of them to remember us.
Stranded on New Year’s Eve.
Last year we made it.
And we ate raclette.
And everyone made it to midnight.
And it was positively perfect.
Last night, we got about 10 inches of snow.
It better melt really fast.
What are you doing to ring in the New Year?
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Nearly 13 years ago, I was very pregnant. And as my 9th grade English class watched a scene from the film To Kill A Mockingbird, I got all weepy. It was a scene in which Atticus, the perfect father, sits on his front porch swing, instructing his daughter, Scout, about something or other, and it occurred to me in that moment – in a very real way – that soon I would be a parent, instructing my own child about life, its soft places and its hard edges.
I started to sob.
How would I ever do it?
Atticus had all the answers.
He had the right words.
Even after the movie ended and somebody had turned the lights on, I kept sniffling while conspicuously chomping on potato chips.
Teachers aren’t supposed to have favorites, but I had a soft spot for one of my freshmen boys and, as my shoulders heaved and I wept hysterically, he pondered aloud:
“I wonder what she needs more: tissues or a salt lick?”
I choked on my snot.
Class ended, and I went to the bathroom to
pee pull myself together.
As a parent, I’ve always channeled Atticus. A defender of justice, he fought for it even if he knew he would be beaten in the end.
Atticus argued for big principles like equality and duty, but he never lost sight of the fact that, in the end, it’s human beings and their choices that make equality stand or fall.
And he tried to instill the values in which he believed in his children.
These days, I watch my son and his friends walk to school, and I swear they come home taller each afternoon.
I have done the best I can do with Tech, who just six months ago asked me to stop calling him Monkey.
Lord, give me strength because his questions are becoming harder.
And I am no Atticus Finch.
As I look outside my window this morning, I’d like everything to stay. The trees are undulating softly, and the light reflecting off the leaves is making me squint. Right now, everything is green with possibility. The sun fills me with hope and reminds me of the goodness to come.
Is there a particular scene from a movie that stays with you? That you associate with a time in your life? That has helped you to parent?
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