We spent the day in Kingston, Ontario, visiting friends and eating Steph’s Grandma out of the house; on the way home, Steph stuffed herself behind the wheel one last time. ”I can’t believe we haven’t had one scratch on this car. Or a ticket.” she said, knocking on the dashboard.
Well, thaaaanks a lot. The next day, as Steph slept in her bed in Toronto, Kelsea and I hit a stand still about 30 minutes outside the city. The phone truck behind us did not. It clunked into the back of Betty, jolting us forward and leaving two dents that look like claw marks, or perhaps vampire fangs, on the rear hatch. No real harm was done, and no insurance claims filed, but the bump had an ominous feel, like something had begun to change.
We made it to Syracuse without any more hiccups, and after our nap in the parking lot, the house welcomed us with open arms. They gave us a room, offered us food and feeling bad that she didn’t make a bigger hooplah about our ending, Jennifer Siracini, director of development, called in the 24 hour news station to document our final casseroles. We explained that this house was special because Jennifer originally inspired the logistics of the trip. We explained that we’d made the same two or three casseroles all over the country, that we wanted to do this to say thank you to everyone that helped us. But when asked about the best part, about the biggest thing that we took away, I flubbered and mumbled. How could I answer this question in under an hour? How could I reduce all the phenomenal people, ridiculous living conditions and personal changes to a couple sentences? I’m still trying to figure it out. Check back in a few weeks.
An hour later, we left six casseroles steaming on the counter and took our last meal outside on the screened-in porch. The sun set over the Interstate and sirens whined in the background as Kelsea and I spooned poppy seed chicken casserole off our plates. I felt at peace and my mind was quiet, which, for anyone who knows me, is a really..really…big deal. I had expected an emotional overload. But as I emptied my plate, I much preferred this ending.
Some things never change, and Kelsea and I woke up at 2:30 the next morning to see Harry Potter. It made me cry and it woke me up. I drove straight through to New York without a single cup of coffee and twitched around my apartment all night long, unable to sleep and thinking “What will I do next? Unpack my closet? Clean the oven? Write a book? Buy a couch?” This attitude lasted until Kelsea left and I found myself alone at my desk for the first time in two months. It was weird. I heard the police sirens, the children playing at the school next door–all of the normal things, the city things, still happening, still moving. But I was just sitting. With focus and disbelief and a sense of contentment that I have not felt in a very, very long time. I suppose this is what happens when you do the things you are supposed to do. When you follow your gut, no matter the credit card bill or the idiocy. I don’t regret a single thing that has happened over the last two months, and I cannot wait until the three of us can get together and do it again.
And Taylor Swift? Still playing.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a final thank you, a final wrap up and what’s next to come.
On Friday afternoon, we took off for Canada, land of wildflowers and ambivalents, with 4 goals: change the oil, stop at duty free, make it to Toronto by midnight and coerce Stephanie into abandoning her life and staying with us forever. How did we do?
1. Oil Change Driving through Michigan, land of spare parts and bankrupt automakers, one might think it would be easy to find a cheap, quick oil change. Not so. After two exits with Starbucks, Fiber 1 bars, post offices and gas, we began to lose hope in our chances of finding liquid oil to ensure Betty’s smooth transition to Canada. Leave it to the WalMart atlas to save us.
Yes, indeed, about two miles before the only WalMart in Michigan with a Tire and Lube Express, Steph remembered that our atlas chronicled services offered at different stores around the country. She found our locale on the map, matched it with the cities in the front directory and lead us to an oasis of a WalMart, hidden in a forest off an unmarked highway. That’s about four miracles in a row.
2. Stop at Duty Free In need of face wash and…other things…we approached the Canadian border around 11 pm hoping the duty free would still be open. But, alas, we did not see it, so after paying a highway toll, Steph decided it would be a good idea to ask the two security guards in combat boots in the middle of the road where we might find the duty free. Which meant that hours after explaining how to go through customs so that we did not get pulled over, we got pulled over. The two American guards poked around our car, asking about “that thing on top” and offering to write “we have weed” on the side of our car, so that Canadian customs would stop us. We giggled and chatted for about five minutes, and I learned that customs guards on a Friday night are just as bored as the guy working at the bowling alley. We all need someone to talk to, right?
3. Make it to Toronto After one Tim Hortons stop and two wrong exits, we pulled into Toronto around 2 am. And I’ll be honest, all I noticed were girls in really trashy outfits. But the next day, I saw the city’s beauty and charm. It’s like a little New York, which means you can live in Brooklyn and still walk/ get cabs to the Lower East Side. Despite the 3-week and counting garbage strike, the streets ran clean, and everywhere you looked, people sat on patios, smoking cigarettes, sipping on coffee and catching up with friends. To counter the four hour walking tour we took to see all of this, we dined that evening at The Fat Belgian and stuffed our faces with burgers, mussels and grilled calimari. Did I mention we were going to Kingston the next day to inhale Steph’s grandma’s peach cobbler? Yeah…about that…Canada’s pretty nice.
4. Coerce Steph to abandon her life Though I’m sure the idea of another 7 hour car ride held a lot of appeal, we could not pry her away from Toronto. She sent us off with a delicious home-cooked dinner party (oh, how we have changed!) and woke up at 6 am to pack the car. And I really can’t say any more, other wise this blog is going to become the most cliche piece of mush you’ve ever read. Suffice to say, leaving sucked.
So. I’ve been terrible with updates lately. We went to Canada, and they don’t have Internet there. That’s a lie. They do. I’m just getting tired.
But we do have exciting photo updates! Vegas, California, Oregon and Seattle for your viewing pleasure. Stay tuned tomorrow (I promise…ok, fine, by Friday at least) for real-time posts on Chicago, Canada and Syracuse. Here’s a teaser: