Road Trip

Milo and I have a tradition of taking off together for spring break. His requirements? Cable TV and room service. My requirements? At least one long walk a day. This year we headed to DC. It’s not so long a drive but the day we made it there was a freak snowstorm, a blizzard that slowed traffic to a crawl. By the time we got to my friend J’s house, it had taken three more hours than we expected. Milo was a great sport. He watched Frozen for the bajillionth time, ate nearly a pound of pretzels, sang aloud to top 40 radio, explained the complicated constellations of Greek mythology and read aloud from his new favorite book, “Beginning Pearls.”

Milo is making a study of being funny. He’s trying out puns. He draws comics and puzzles over New Yorker cartoons. “Beginning Pearls” is cartoon humor aimed directly at a witty 10 year old. It got us through the white-out conditions.

Every now and then he would ask me how fast we were going and how much farther we had to go and calculate how much longer it would take. When his math ran afoul of the weather and traffic he clenched and unclenched his fists, sighed and reached for another pretzel. That he didn’t slam those fists against the window claiming that the weather was out to get him was a huge difference over our last spring break road trip.

At J’s house, after cable TV for him and visiting for me, pizza, salad, brownies and frank conversation with J’s open-hearted teenaged daughters, Milo announced his plans for the next day: a museum for mommy, a tour of where they make the money and the Lincoln Memorial.

Why that memorial?

Because Lincoln is my favorite president. Did you know he freed the slaves?

I did know that. It’s cool that you have a favorite president.

He’s the one Republican I like. He’s from the days when Republicans were the good guys.

As odd and uncomfortable as Milo can often be around people — not just people he hardly knows, but ALL people — he managed to charm J for a moment. And her smile of genuine delight made the hellish drive worth every glacial rotation of my tires.

Our first full day in DC started with pancakes for him and way too much coffee for me. We headed first to the metro. It was cold and windy, but the sky was cloudless and endlessly blue. Milo was the only kid on the streets of downtown, and his skip/run/walk motion, his loud rendition of Michael Jackson’s Beat It and the skull and crossbones on his hoodie drew a great deal of appreciation. On the Metro he squeezed my hand and said, “I’m having so much fun.”

We got tickets for the tour of the Bureau of Printing and Engraving, or as we like to call it, The Money Factory.  The soonest open tour was hours later, so we headed down the mall past the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial, the reflecting pool (which Milo thought would be perfect for swimming long laps) and up the steps to “The Temple.” Milo counted 77 steps. He asked me to write that down.  He read the carvings on the walls to me and gathered a small group of impressed adults around him as he bellowed the Gettysburg Address.

He commented loudly on the presidential portraits in the National Portrait Gallery and was so incensed about Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder being left out of the “American Cool” exhibit that he protested to the unsuspecting gallery guards. At the money factory tour he was momentarily mesmerized by the sheets and sheets of money flying by on the presses. He screamed, “mommy, mommy, that’s 17 thousand dollars RIGHT THERE!!!” But quickly he latched on to the idea of wanting money and why don’t they give you money when you take the tour.

Mommy, I want some money. They have so much money here. Why can’t they give me some?

You have to earn money Buddy, no one just gives it to you. 

Mommy, I want some money. They have so much money here. Why can’t they give me some?

They just print the money here Milo, they don’t pass it out.

(concerned looks)

Mommy, I want some money. They have so much money here. Why can’t they give me some?

Buddy, focus on the tour. 

(more concerned looks)

Mommy, I want some money. They have so much money here. Why can’t they give me some?

Try to lower your voice.

Mommy, I want some money. They have so much money here. Why can’t they give me some?

(even more concerned looks)

Milo. I will give you some money.

You will?

Yes.

How much?

5 whole dollars, but only if you stop asking why they won’t give us money.

Deal.

On our way to the burger joint for lunch I handed him a $5 bill. 

We established our routine — room service, adventure, lunch, adventure, cable TV in the hotel room, dinner, the Dupont Circle Metro escalator. We didn’t ride the metro, we just rode the escalator. The Dupont Circle metro’s entrance is deep. It’s as deep as a skyscraper is high. It takes minutes to ride the escalator down. I told Milo that the ride back up made me anxious, that I worried about falling backward. I worried so much I subtly distorted my posture to compensate for my fear, and by the end of the ride I was horribly contorted and uncomfortable.

It makes me scared too Mommy.

What part of it makes you scared?

Falling. But that’s why we have to do it. Because we are scared. And the more we do it the less scared we’ll be.

Wow facing a fear head-on and without delusion. 

On our last morning we went by my former place of work. I’ve got a freelance project going with them and wanted to check in. I also wanted to see their ambitious new office space and say hello to some old friends/colleagues. It was then that Milo reached the end of his tether. He needed Doritos. He needed water. He had a self induced coughing fit. He wasn’t interested in any of the cool books, or in recording his voice in a state of the art studio, or the beehives on the roof.

Mommy, can we go home now?

Can we go home now?

Can. We. Go. Home. Now?

CAN WE GO HOME NOW?

Can we go home NOW?!!!!

So we went home. That drive was easy. He watched Wreck It Ralph, sang along to top 40 radio, calculated our ETA and read to me from “Beginning Pearls.” The sun shone the entire way.

Same time next year.

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