Oops! Forgive me—I forgot one. This weekend a friend reminded me of it. Hm-m…some friend. So I’ll resurrect these original blog posts of mine just this one time.
I speak of the memorable trip my small daughter, elderly cat and I took to Newport, Rhode Island wherein I got lost in the wilds of New Jersey. It was early January, 1980. The trip progressed well. We started out from Austin, Texas and drove up to my sister-in-law’s house in one of Dallas-Fort Worth’s center cities. That was the time my brother-in-law queried my daughter about how “cat” and “dog” are—or rather—are NOT spelled. It went something like this: “Okay, Gretchen, how is “cat” spelled?” The poor kid is a phonetic speller. And Jeff is a born and bred Texan. Her reply went something like this: “C…A…A…T.” “No,” replies her uncle with his strong Texan twang, “it’s spelled ‘c-a-t’. Okay, now, this is easy. How do you spell dog?” “D…O…O…G,” Gretchen dutifully replies. “No,” Jeff replies once again, his muscular Texas drawl doing the verbal equivalent of push-ups and pull-ups a Marine would have been proud of. “It’s spelled “d-o-g.” I let it go. More on this topic later. I’m just glad she finally learned to spell the English language.
We reached Roanoke, Virginia as darkness fell with a resounding crash, found a hotel, ate supper and collapsed in our beds. Next morning, frigid air, but clear skies greeted us with a great big grin. I should have been warned—it wouldn’t last. Oh—it remained clear, sunny, too. That was all. Up I-81 to Harrisburg, PA. I continued on, dutifully following my Rand McNally map. I found I-78…no problem. But just past the state line with New Jersey, the plot thickened. I came across a sign that read something like I-78 South and I-78 North. South? Despite the fact that the car tried to turn toward the southbound lanes, instinct tells me, Rhode Island is north. Right? Wrong. Within five miles I hit village streets. Endless village streets. I’m still headed north though, by gosh and by golly! At least give me a “P.” (It stands for Persistence.) I don’t know how many miles we travelled through those tiny towns and small villages. Thousands and thousands of them, surely. The sun was going down and I was getting desperate—still without a single clue where I was. I knew I had to cross the Tappan Zee Bridge, but where was the blasted thing? It isn’t small. It crosses the Hudson River, for Pete’s sake. It’s huge. Mammoth. Get the picture? So finally, near tears, I stopped in a parking lot to peer at the map—still clueless, but persistent. A nice man left the building whereby the parking lot was located. “Can I help you, lady?” he asks pleasantly. After my pathetic admission, and he finally stops hee-hawing, he points down the street and says, “Go down three blocks then turn left for two blocks then turn right and you’ll see the bridge…or something to that effect. I clung to those directions like a drowning man clings to a life preserver. “Don’t say anything to me just now,” I ask child. “That goes for you, too,” I order the cat. Everybody stares at me with round eyes as I mutter the directions to myself over and over. I go down two blocks, turn left and go down two more, turn right and—there’s the blessed bridge. Where did it come from? It isn’t like New Jersey hid the thing behind an Invisibility Cloak. Like I said, the darned thing’s colossal.
Eureka! City lights ahead! Not many, granted, but any are better than the none I’m currently seeing.
So we cross into Newport on the wide, stable Narragansett Bay Bridge and…now what? I don’t have a clue where my husband is…don’t even have a clue where the Navy base is. It’s big, too. It’s not like they put up signs that point the way. No siree, Mama! Not the Navy. They can cross trackless seas without a road map—and presumably, so can their wives.
Ever witness an already wild-eyed woman come completely unglued? I guess I scared him because he grabbed his phone pronto. My wonderful husband tells me to meet him at the Burger King in ten minutes. (I have a six-year-old with me and they all like those cute paper crowns, right?) "Just one question. Where’s the Burger King?" It’s not like I know this place. It isn’t like I couldn’t get lost on an island. I just got over being lost in New Jersey, for God’s sake!
I have fond memories of the place after all these years. Except for starting my child in school on a Friday. What idiot does that? Don’t ask. My poor phonetic speller came home with a spelling test she’d all but failed. From the list previously mentioned daughter brought home, the first-grade teacher had a New England accent. A strong one. I had not yet met her and I already knew it.