I came back into the living room after loading the washing machine with clothes. My toddler-aged daughter, who I often call “Miss A,” was standing next to the coffee table with three bags in front of her.
Two were bags of prunes. The other was a sandwich baggie of chocolate-covered espresso beans that I keep hidden in the back of my cupboard when I need a boost of energy–and fast.
Miss A squealed when she saw me coming and grabbed two prunes in one chubby fist. I knelt and sniffed her breath like a kindergarten cop, searching for the scent of coffee.
I tried to pry her fist open, but she shook her curls, pushed against my chest with her free hand, and said, “No!”
I filled a Sippy cup with milk, grabbed her satin-edged blanket that she can never resist cuddling, and inched closer to the nursery. She toddled along behind me in her pink velour jumpsuit—reaching for the blanket with one hand but keeping the other close to her chest.
I waited until her belly was full of milk, and my off-key version of that heartbreaking Dumbo theme song was lulling her to sleep. Then I pried her fingers open and plucked out those two squished prunes, dumping them in the trashcan next to the diaper genie.
Pulling the door behind me, I looked at the coffee table scattered with espresso beans and prunes that my daughter’s body—with its tiny loops of lightning-fast intestines—was now digesting.
Something told me this did not bode well for our twelve-hour road trip.
We left at 3 a.m. The question of whether to drive straight through or get a hotel room was answered by the fact that I didn’t finish packing until 8 p.m.
I am not a morning person under the best of circumstances. My husband, on the other hand, treats our annual trips to Wisconsin—where he participates in the opening day of buck season—like Christmas. He all but whistled as he made his coffee, snapped the lid on the sugar, and slammed the cupboard doors.
Meanwhile, it was all I could do to drag my body out to the truck, strap the seatbelt around me, and curl up with my feather pillow that is almost as dear to me as my daughter’s satin-edged blanket. My husband was the one who made sure our daughter was fetched from the crib and strapped in as well.
Foolishly, I’d thought that since Miss A had taken a nap with no combustive diapers that she hadn’t consumed much—if any—of the espresso beans and prunes.
However, I began to worry when two hours passed and she was still peering around the truck with pie plate eyes.
“You think she’ll sleep?” I asked my husband.
He quirked his mouth and shrugged. I reached for my husband’s gas-station coffee.
We started playing the “last resort” Curious George videos at 4:45 a.m.
Twelve hours later, as we pulled in the drive of the Wisconsin dairy farm, Miss A had slept a total of one and a half hours.
Curious George 1 and 2 had been played a total of six times.
At that moment, I really wished I hadn’t forgotten those chocolate-covered espresso beans.
Dear readers, what’s your favorite road trip memory?
Library Journal named Jolina Petersheim’s debut novel, The Outcast, one of the Best Books 2013: Christian Fiction. Her sophomore novel, The Midwife, will release on June 1. Jolina and her husband share the same unique Amish and Mennonite heritage that originated in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, but now live in the mountains of Tennessee with their young daughter. Whenever she’s not busy chasing this adorable toddler, Jolina is hard at work on her next novel. You can visit with Jolina at www.jolinapetersheim.com
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