Friday around noon found Justin, driving his black Mustang Cobra; Stephanie behind the wheel of her Ford Escape; Jennifer steering the Sebring and Tim, riding high in the Budget rental moving truck, pulling out of our driveway bound for Hurricane, West Virginia. I'm relieved to report that they safely made it to their destination at around 10:00 PM later that night and I'm sure each one of them were worn completely out.
I got a call from Tim at around 9:00 AM Thursday Morning asking for directions to the rental truck office and also for Stephanie's cell phone number because Justin's cell phone wasn't picking up. At 9:00 AM, I wasn't surprised so I gave him Steph's number and thought to myself, "Uh-oh, Justin isn't even halfway packed up!". I finally got Justin on the phone about an hour later and he was scrambling. It was showtime! This was happening NOW! I have to tell you, I was glad to be at my office because I knew Tim and Jennifer were in for a LONG day.
They made it to Justin's apartment with the truck and waded right into sorting, packing and organizing things to be moved. I dropped by Justin's apartment after I got off work and I spotted Tim in the truck arranging Justin and Stephanie's possessions, Justin making trips back and forth with lamps, paintings, cd's, cushions, you name it, he was carrying it. Shortly after getting a sweaty hug from my son, I spotted Jennifer coming downstairs carrying her adorable white dog, Charlie, because he needed a potty break. It was obvious she had been working diligently as well and, though she had to be exhausted, she looked pretty good for a woman who had hit the road very very early and hadn't stopped, not to mention she had to keep up a level of benadryl in her system because she is severely allergic to cats and Justin and Stephanie's "baby", Soprano, was in the middle of the madness.
I followed Jennifer up the stairs to the apartment and she and Justin began packing things up in the refrigerator and freezer for me to take home. My favorite flavors of ice cream! Vegetables! More ice cream! All kinds of juices and even MORE ice cream. I hit the creamery jackpot!
Now, I have to tell you, Justin didn't seem too keen on having "two mothers" giving him directions...I don't think he found it nearly as funny as Jennifer and me. We were both laughing, but he wasn't laughing so much and I could swear his jaw was clenched. He had just about reached his limit of his usual civility. We finished bagging things up and Jennifer helped me carry my cache to the car. More than that, she reassured me that everything would be fine and I can't tell you how much that meant to me. She had been through telling both of her daughters "goodbye" - Melissa is in college in Colorado and her oldest, Faye, is in school in Canada, so Jennifer could easily appreciate how tough this whole "youngest child leaving home" stuff is.
I can tell you one thing, Justin is blessed to have a stepmother who cares enough to swoop in and help pack his things up and assist in moving him to another state. She was in the middle of it, allergies and all, and someday I hope he can look back on her investment in his future and truly appreciate just how much she has contributed. I've never been anyone's stepmother, but I can't imagine taking on that role nearly as well. My kids are unquestionably blessed to have her love.
About an hour later, Justin, Jennifer & Tim stopped by (Stephanie was spending her last hours in town visiting with her Mom and Grandma), and the three of them were dragging. Justin was heading for the shower and I had a Bunn commercial coffeemaker that was in perfect working order, but just gathering dust in the garage (we drink a lot of coffee around here but not THAT much), and my Mom had called me at work and suggested that I see if Tim and Jennifer might want it for their new store. I took them in the garage to look at it and Jennifer said it would be great for the breakroom so we were happy to make a small contribution to their new venture.
My Mom had just pulled a homemade peach cobbler out of the oven and, although they were going to have dinner at Kiva Grill (Justin's former employer), we gave them a "to go" dish so they could have dessert when they got back to their hotel later that night. It smelled heavenly and goodness knows they earned dessert after all their hard work. I had told my parents that watching Jennifer arrange things and direct Tim and Justin around the apartment as they were gathering things up, it made me wonder if SHE was related to my Mom. I mean, no one could ever confuse me for organized and I'm much more accustomed to being ordered around than doing the "ordering", but Jennifer was a carbon copy of how I remember my Mom during countless moves. She was on the ball, energetic, rolling her sleeves up and digging right into it all. I was impressed but, well, when I see things like that, it brings up the nagging, niggling question, "Am I adopted and they just haven't gotten around to telling me yet??".
After visiting for a bit around the kitchen table with us, Jennifer and Tim headed for their hotel and a shower before dinner. I knew this would probably be the last time I'd see them before they pulled out because I'd be at work the next morning by 8:30. Tim kindly reassured me that everything would be fine, he and Justin had a lot of work ahead of them getting the store ready, and that I didn't have anything to worry about. I hugged Jennifer and thanked her again for working so hard and she promised me she would remind him to call his mother often, and I know she'll look out for both Stephanie and Justin. It is an immeasurable comfort for us to know they are being well cared for and loved by family. That's such a gift and eases a great deal of anxiety.
After everyone left, and before Justin took off for dinner with Tim, Jennifer, Stephanie, her Mom and Grandma, I hugged my son and told him how much I loved him. I also told him what a golden opportunity this was for both him and Stephanie. Yes, it's going to be an adjustment and he's going to have to learn and PRACTICE the art of compromise and accommodation, because he and Stephanie will be living with Tim and Jennifer for a few months until they can get their own place and, let's face it, little annoyances can get blown out of proportion when you're living in someone else's home and I say this because I know it's happened here before Justin and Steph got their own place. We had our moments! But the love within a family can smooth just about anything out and I know that Tim and Jennifer want our son to succeed just as much as he does. If they can keep that in mind, the inevitable skirmishes will fade out quickly. Plus, there is a LOT of work to be done. Tim's "Direct Buy" will be opening in mid-September and he and Justin will be heading to Roanoke in a week to assist with the opening of that store to help out the owner who is heading to China for the Olympics. It will be a great "dress rehearsal" for them and a lot of invaluable "on the job training" for Justin, not to mention, he will be spending a great deal of time around his father, learning from him, finding out what makes him tick, and vice versa.
It's a unique opportunity - a chance to grow a business and, even more importantly, an exquisite time to strengthen the ties between a father and son. I have great faith that they'll be successful on both fronts and we wish them as much success as possible.
Friday Morning finally arrived, no matter how much I was hoping it wouldn't. Justin had spent the night on the sofa bed in the living room, and as I made my way downstairs after getting ready for work, I first slipped into the kitchen for a cup of coffee. My dad was at the kitchen table and he invited me to step out into the back yard for a minute. He wanted to show me something. I grabbed my coffee and followed him outside and there, gleaming before me in the morning sunshine, for the first time this summer, was the cleanest, clearest my swimming pool had looked in a year. For the first time this season, it looked swimmable! I looked back at my dad and said, "God really knew the exact moment I would need this pool, didn't he?". My Dad totally agreed. I could barely believe it and you have to admit, the timing was incredible.
I walked back in the house, noticed it was just about time for me to leave and I walked into the living room and just then Justin turned over and raised up. I bent down, took his face in my hands and told him that I loved him, I was proud of him and that I knew he would do well. I told him I would miss him terribly, but he would be insane not to make this move and take on this challenge. He hugged me and kissed me on the cheek. No tears from either of us. We both had work to do and it was time to get on with it. (Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to tell Stephanie goodbye - she spent the night with her sweet grandma, but I hope she knows she left with my best thoughts and heartfelt wishes. I believe she does.)
I walked outside and got in my car, so proud of the fact I had gotten through that without a teardrop, and low and behold, my car window refused to budge. I kept pushing the button but no response. And then, after I stopped pushing, the window just fell down into the slot. Like the rear window behind it, apparently this window's regulator had burned out as well. I just sat there and shook my head and I had to laugh. Now I had two windows that needed new regulators, a front end that was held up by a bungee cord and that damn "check traction control" light that refused to go off, not to mention that the driver's side passenger door can only be opened from the outside. Ha! It was way beyond time to call the repair shop. Oh well, at least the swimming pool was clear, right? Thank God for that.
I held out hope that it wouldn't rain before I got home Friday Evening because if it did, my car was going to get rinsed on the inside and me, right along with it. Friday was interrupted now and then with booms of distant thunder, but rain never materialized and by 5:00 PM, I breathed a huge sigh of relief - no rain, no wet seat, I was home free!
I pulled out of my parking spot at work, drove about a mile down Oleander, headed to Pet Supermarket for a few live brine shrimp and feeder goldfish for my cichlids, and as soon as I crossed over the intersection between College Road and Oleander, I saw this mammoth sheet of rain headed straight for me and my hopelessly inoperable window. I knew I was about to get wet but I was wrong. I got soaked. Of course, I had worn a silk suit on friday which doesn't lend itself well to raindrops. I maintained my course, pulled into the pet store and walked in dripping from head to toe. I was already wet, might as well get some fresh food for my fish. I got a lot of stares in the freezing pet store and a few curious looks. I smiled and said, nonchalantly, "my car windows are on strike." and just shrugged and ordered 50 brine shrimp, 50 feeder guppies and 2 dozen feeder goldfish. I walked back outside, slid into the seat of the car and continued to get soaked all the way home. The "sun shower" stopped just as I pulled into my driveway. Perfect.
I went inside and my dad followed me out with scissors, plastic and packing tape to cover the window until my appointment with the mechanic on Monday Morning at 8:00 AM. As my neighbors, Kathleen and Richard, were pulling out of their garage, they graciously offered to let me park the car in their garage, but since the skies were clearing up, I just decided to take my chances and leave it where it was in my driveway. I appreciated the offer but held out hope that maybe it would stay dry over the weekend. So far, so good.
Justin called me around noon on Friday, telling me the caravan was on I-40, WV bound. Tim called me a short while later, telling me everyone was in line on the road and halfway to Raleigh. I smiled...remembering the James Taylor song my kids sang to at the top of their lungs about a thousand times growing up, whenever we took to the car. A song they swear they will never be able to forget, not that they want to. It was their childhood anthem...
"In line, in line they're all in a line.
My ducks are all in a row.
They do not shift,
They do not move.
They have nowhere to go..."
But these ducks had somewhere to go - West Virginia to be specific. These ducks are headed into their future and I hope with all my heart it's as sunny and bright as it portends to be from here...
After Dad and I finally got the hole covered up where a window was supposed to be, I headed outside to the backyard to make sure that the clear swimming pool I had seen earlier in the day was not simply an apperition. There it was - sparkling, crystal clear. My parents had followed me outside to stare at it with me.
I noticed the skimmer needed a couple of chlorine tablets and I headed into the pool shed, still in my sopping wet, silk pantsuit and as I stepped on the platform of the shed, in my sandals, my feet flew out from under me because the surface was slippery thanks to the recent rainshower and I fell flat on my face. My parents ran over and I looked up, sunglasses askew on my head, silk pantsuit now not only wet, but covered in dirt, and I said, "Good grief! This has been a heckuva day!". We quickly assessed the damage - my right hand has an ugly broken blood vessel and is bruised where I caught myself, so is my elbow which also made impact, but the rest of me seems to be fine...a little sore, but none the worse for wear. When I finally stood up, I laughed and said, "Well, today is the first day that my health insurance kicked in. Good to know!". Fortunately, I didn't need it for that spill and, even more fortunately, I must have inherited my Mom's strong bones. I hit that platform HARD and it's good to know my bones can handle my occasionally clumsy ways.
I made my way upstairs, after replacing the chlorine tablets, peeled off my messy, soppy outfit, took a quick shower, grabbed some iced tea and fed my hungry cichlids and particularly my ravenous pair of Oscars, several live shrimp, goldfish and feeder guppies. It got my mind off the pain.
Later that evening, I received a text message from Justin. "I'm 300 miles from home.", it read. I thought, no, you're about 175 miles from your new home but no, that's not quite right. This will always be home for him, I realized. This is where he grew up - at least the last 8 years of it.
After a blown window, a backyard tumble and a cichlid feeding frenzy, not to mention a night of watching "Shark Week" on Discovery, I fell asleep before midnight. My Dad woke me up after 11:00 PM to inform me that Justin had tried to call me - they had made it. My ducks had made it safely to WV. In a row, no less. Thank God. I went downstairs, grabbed a fresh peach, a glass of tea and said a prayer of thanks to God. And then, I went right back to sleep.
Saturday Morning, I spoke with Justin and Stephanie and they sounded tired, but fine. Stephanie gave me a comical recap of her first driving experience in tunnels and real mountain roads. She had me laughing hard as she told me about her fear in driving through Walker Mountain Tunnel, flashes of Princess Diane which immediately increased her anxiety in the middle of driving through that long tunnel at night. Then, she told me that her Ford Escape was really struggling because she had it in overdrive. She reported that after she disengaged it from overdrive, it ran like a charm. She's a great story-teller and I'm begging her to blog all of these things so that she can smile and laugh at what all of this felt like in the beginning. [Note to Stephanie - if you're reading this (and I know you are), BLOG already! I want to know what this new adventure looks and feels like from your perspective and that's a great way to share it.]
Yesterday, rather than mope around and nurse maudlin thoughts, I grabbed a book, a large tea, a couple of peaches and my sunglasses and I went outside to the patio, threw my stuff in the chaise and walked to the edge of my pool, at the deep end, and I swear I felt like giggling. It was still clear and sparkling. Seconds later, I dove into the crystal sunlight dappled water and had a glorious session of swimming and turning flips. Heaven! Sheer watery chlorinated heaven! My muscles loved it, my bones enjoyed it and my mental state soared. I stayed out there most of the afternoon and I have the tan lines to prove it. I plan on doing some more of it later this afternoon.
We miss Justin and Stephanie, just as we missed Katie when she flew the coop and landed in Manhattan. However, things are just as they're supposed to be. What's the point in having wings if you never use them? Katie and Justin are doing just what they were raised to do - take a chance, chase and discover life - and sometimes, you have to chase life to different states, toward foreign shores and a few of us have even been known to chase it on sailboats that get mixed up in tropical storms. You just do it!
We're proud of all of them and we expect great results.