When James was two months old, we made the cross-country drive from my Mom’s house in Seattle where James spent his first days to an old farmhouse in Vermont. We wanted James raised in a more rural area, and we wanted him raised close to the farm where Travis grew up and his grandparents still live. And we also wanted a home that could be a homestead, something increasingly hard to pay for in the Seattle area. When Travis got the job at Colby College a month before James was born, we called our Vermont realtor and our Vermont bank and put an offer on a house we’d looked at over the summer. Even though we’d be living full-time in Maine we wanted a place in Vermont to call our own. Really, it made sense at the time; it was only later that the logic unraveled somewhat! But it felt symbolic – a deepening of our life as a new family. We were making a choice in line with our values as new parents. We were moving out of a parent’s house for the last time.
For the most part, it was a surprisingly uneventful drive. My Dad was bribed into coming along to help with driving and to keep me and James company. It was March 2011 when we left. It had been slow-going over the passes in Montana. And yes, I almost gave myself a concussion when I slipped flat on my back in an icy parking lot in South Dakota. But given that we were driving from Seattle to Vermont in a U-Haul towing Travis’ beloved 1982 Honda Civic and in the Chevy Aveo packed with driver, baby, and me, things were going pretty well. I became adept at leaning over the carseat to breastfeed, much to the joy of many a trucker. My diaper changing skills went to a new level while I changed poopy diapers at 65 mph. We even thrilled the diner connoisseur in me when we got fresh doughnuts, good coffee, and great pie at a breakfast place in North Dakota.
But at some point we found ourselves on I-90 in upstate New York racing a winter storm. Perhaps if we could have stayed heading west towards the Atlantic we could have won, but when we turned north towards Vermont the storm caught us.
Leaving the interstate was bad enough. It’s hard to go from one huge freeway that you’ve been on for almost 3000 miles to small, snowy state highways that are not direct. There is never a “right” way, and inevitably you always feel like you’ve chosen as wrong as possible. We snaked along into Southern Vermont, territory that neither Travis nor I am familiar with. It’s funny when a state as small as Vermont suddenly seems formidable and unknown. We were headed for Burlington and the comfort of Travis’s sister Lindsey’s floor, but… how? No signs proclaimed, “This is the best way to Burlington!” The snow cover was increasing and night had fallen. For those interested in symbolism, our big symbolic move had taken a dark turn.
In the end, Lindsey’s boyfriend Hayden suggested a route that would take us into Middlebury, familiar territory. He said the road shouldn’t be too bad even in the snow. Perhaps he remembers that road differently. We remember it as some of the hilliest driving any fools in the snow ever did. Travis was up front in the U-Haul. Dad was white-knuckled in the Chevy, giving himself handcramps as he followed the U-Haul with his daughter and grandson in the backseat. Although my Dad is a hell of a driver, he’s lived in Seattle most of his life where snowy roads happen once or twice a year. We held our breaths and stayed far behind as Travis somehow got the U-Haul up hill after hill. Not every girl finds Vermont farm boys who started driving tractors at age 10 sexy but I do, especially in snowstorms. Things evened out after Middlebury, thankfully. At this point, James had had it (10 hours in the car is a bit much) and I had him in my lap in the backseat, tyring to quietly distract him while Dad focused on the road.
Gradually things became more and more familiar. We passed Charlotte, Shelburne, and came into South Burlington. Just within sight of Burlington and the grocery store parking lot where we planned to leave the U-Haul we heard the siren and saw the lights. Really? Seriously? 3000 miles, the finish line tantalizing us, and we get pulled over? Apparently the trailer hitch lights just behind the Honda were not working. No ticket, just a warning; a laugh on our part and we were done.
Back on the road, we reached the grocery store parking lot, loaded up everything we needed from the U-Haul, crammed ourselves into the Aveo and drove the couple more blocks to Lindsey’s. Lights on, warmth and friendly smiles and laughs. Homebrews and burrito fixings waiting even though it was 11 o’clock at night. Bedding ready on the floor and the occasional grr of a passing snow plow to lull us to sleep.
Ah yep, we were in Vermont. We were home.