excerpt from: the little girl with a bow in her hair
I arrived to pick up Baba and her suitcase at 7 a.m. Pulling up to the front door of her seniors apartment I noticed she was already downstairs waiting for me. Her suitcase was smaller than I had anticipated. I slowly opened my door and noticed she was already standing at the passenger door.
‘Wow you’re ready to go early’ I said as she smiled. ‘Are you sure you have everything? That suitcase looks a little small; you know we will be away for a little over 3 weeks?’
Baba smiled and touched my arm gently and said… ‘if I need anything else, I’ll borrow from my Sister in Montreal.’
‘Alrighty then’ I said as I popped the trunk open, picked up the deceivingly heavy piece of luggage and threw it into the car. ‘Wow that was heavier than I thought, what do you have in it’?
‘Oh just a little something to help us sleep at night’, she said.
‘Baba, did you bring booze? You know we can buy booze on the way or in each town we are going to visit, don’t you?’
She gave me that sly smile and said yes dear, but what if we arrive when all the stores are closed? What would we do then? This way we already have everything we need and can stay in and play cards and have a little drinkypoo’.
I shook my head and gave her a big smile… oh she was extremely cute and childlike at that moment. I really loved her and have always been thankful that she was a constant in my life. I helped her into the car and reached over to put on her seatbelt. I slid into the drivers seat and we drove to pick up the last person on our trip… Mom. We arrived 5 minutes later at Mom’s condo, but Mom was nowhere to be seen. I waited for a few minutes then decided to park the car and leave Baba there while I headed upstairs to the 4th floor to help Mom with her luggage.
I hurried down the hallway to #407 and knocked on the door with no answer, where was she? I slowly put the key in the lock, turned, and opened the door slowly. I heard my Mom talking, which I could only imagine was to herself as no one else was in the apartment.
‘Mom’? I said in a quiet voice as I had hoped she was alone. Around the corner of the hallway I noticed her. She was sitting on her bed with clothes strewn throughout her bedroom. She looked very disheveled. Her hair was wild, very ‘Einsteinesque’ (which was not how my Mom ever looked). She was wearing 2 blouses and a sweater; I looked more clearly and noticed she had her pajama bottoms on, no socks, and 2 different slippers.
‘Mom’, I said tersely, what are you doing? I thought you would be dressed and packed and ready to go, Baba is downstairs in the car waiting.
She turned slowly and said in a very timid voice ‘I can’t find my key’s’.
‘You had your keys yesterday, remember, I found them for you and handed them to you. Have you been out since then?’ She didn’t answer, just looked at me, but it looked like she looked right through me. ‘Mom, did you leave them in the kitchen or on the hallway key holder’?
‘I don’t know!’ She said emphatically.
‘Ok, you stay here and get dressed, I’ll look for the keys’, remembering that Baba was still in the car; I rushed through the apartment searching everywhere. I looked in the usual places, now I had to try to think like Mom, but I had no idea where to begin. God, she’s doing this on purpose. She didn’t want to leave this early and now she gets her wish.
‘Mom’ I yelled, ‘retrace your steps’. I ran back into the bedroom to see her putting on her pants over her pajamas. Mom, what are you doing? I told you to get dressed, but you are doing it all wrong. What’s wrong with you? Boy, she knows what buttons to push! ‘Forget it’, I said, ‘I have keys; we can look for yours when we get back.’
‘I need you to get dressed. What do you want to wear?’ Knowing I would have to pack her luggage myself, I threw pants, blouses, sweaters, socks, underwear and shoes in the suitcase. I never even counted how many of each as I figured if she ran out, I would buy her more; ‘now please get dressed Mom’ I said frustrated.
She just stared blankly at me as I gathered up as many clothes as possible to throw into the suitcase. She looked away towards the bedroom door and smiled. What the heck was she smiling about? Did she find this funny? Then I saw her, Baba.
Baba was standing and looking at her daughter and said ‘Anne let me help you’, without skipping a beat she began to pull my Mom’s pants and pajamas down past her ankles. Crap, I thought, in the entire 20 minutes I have searched for keys, packed Mom’s suitcase, and tried to get her moving, I forgot about Baba.
‘Anne’ Baba said quietly, ‘what do you want to wear?’ Mom looked at her and pointed at a blouse that I had packed in the suitcase. Baba slowly took off the blouses that my Mom was already wearing and then gingerly draped the picked out blouse on my Mom, while she hummed ‘you are my sunshine’. Next thing I know, both of them are singing out loud, Baba was brushing Mom’s hair and, although I was angry and impatient with Mom, I couldn’t help but laugh. What’s the old saying? If you can’t beat them… join them? I began to sing along.
The next thing I know, Mom stood, picked up her suitcase looked around and said ‘what is everyone hanging around for? Let’s get going!’
Did I just imagine the last half hour? Were we not all in disarray? At this point, I decided to take the attitude of ‘whatever’! We headed down in the elevator, three generations, three distinct personalities, but yet, three people who loved each other unconditionally.
The elevator doors opened, ‘Let’s get on the road’ Mom shouted, right after calling ‘shotgun’.
We were ‘on the road again’ and what better way to commemorate than to pop in a CD I burned with music throughout the years. Naturally the first artist would be ‘Willie Nelson’. It was turning out to be a stunning day. The sun was shining and there was not a cloud in the azure sky. I could be wrong, but I had high hopes for this adventure. Both Mom and Baba had a permanent smile on their faces, which was contagious. Since Mom had called ‘shotgun’, her duty was as ‘navigator’. She clutched the map in her lap and never let it go. We merged on to the 401 and off to Montreal we road.
Although I had travelled to Montreal frequently and knew that it should take 5 or 6 hours in total, I never took into consideration Baba’s ‘bathroom breaks’. God love her, but it seemed that an hour out she was saying, ‘is there a way we could take a washroom break soon?’
I now realized that the trip I had specifically mapped out, may be in for an adjustment now and then. We were just about to drive through Cobourg, through, being the operative word. Now I decided I should find somewhere quickly as Baba seemed to be fidgeting in her seat.
‘Even a gas station is fine’, Baba said.
‘I am not dropping you off at a gas station Baba. We will find a greasy spoon so that way we can have breakfast, then continue on.’
Baba looked at me quizzically and said ‘greasy spoon’?
‘Yeah, I said, a little diner that has homemade breakfast’.
Baba chuckled and said ‘I’m going to have to remember that… greasy spoon…Wait till I tell Helen… she’ll love it’! I glanced over at Mom and noticed she was still clutching the map in her lap. She turned her head slowly and gave me a smile.
‘Is that okay, Mom? Are you hungry?’ I said. She nodded.