For weeks my husband has been working at his new job in New York. Back home in Texas, the kids and I waited for the relocation company to start the process so that we could make our big move to New York. But, as it turns out, we were waiting for an imminent hurricane too, Hurricane Harvey. And on Friday it hit.
Alone in our home, the phone blasted alerts around the clock of potential flash floods and tornadoes ready to strike at any minute. What did I do? First, I turned off the news. The alerts were enough information for me. My rattled nerves could only handle knowing of our individual, immediate danger. Over the course of four grueling days, we waited. When I did venture onto Facebook to check in with the outside world, my feed was flooded with images of friends and fellow Houstonians fleeing their homes from rising waters.
It was almost too much to bear. At one point my dear friend and neighbor walked over, and we let the kids play upstairs while we watched the movie Snatched. We desperately needed to feel a sense of normalcy after nearly a week of impending chaos. The goofy Schumer and Hawn kept us distracted from the extreme devastation around us.
My family lived in Texas, north of Houston, for seven years and never experienced a hurricane. I’m from California where earthquakes reign. Earthquakes come out of nowhere and wreak havoc immediately. So the unknowing and building suspense and tension of a hurricane was unfamiliar and terrifying to me.
Once the worst of the storm was over, we breathed a huge sigh of relief, and our home was completely in tact. Many were not so lucky. At the time of writing this there have been over 40 deaths. And the hurricane continues to take its toll as victims seek shelter and try to rebuild their lives.
The rain continued and the potential for flooding stayed strong. All of the airports were shut with no news of when they’d reopen. I decided to take to the possibly closed and treacherous roads and drive to New York. Our relocation started.
Driving from Houston to New York on my own with our three kids and dog was not initially well received. My friends and family were extremely concerned about our safety. I did what I knew was best for our family. One of the many reasons I wanted to get to New York soon was because I wanted my kids to have as seamless of a transition as possible; I wanted them to start school on the first day.
We left on Tuesday and drove north to escape the storm. Our first stop was to see our family friends in Dallas. They opened their doors to us, and the three kids greeted our kids like long lost cousins. Everyone played, and they fed us comfort food. With soothed nerves and full bellies, we piled back into the car. Now sunny skies greeted us on the open road and we drove and drove. Taylor Swift, Florence and the Machine, Daya, and any and all Kidz Bop songs filled our car and brightened our spirits.
We kept in touch with my mom in Los Angeles, and she willingly became our remote travel agent and navigator. She was a lifesaver. Over the phone we worked out how far I’d be able to drive for the day, and she’d book us a dog-friendly hotel. The first night was Muskogee, Oklahoma. Safely checked in before dark, we grabbed a quick dinner and then fell fast asleep. We rose early the next morning and started our second day.
Stopping only when absolutely necessary to go to the bathroom or eat, the kids were upbeat and surprisingly well behaved. Normally we have epic meltdowns at Target or even walking the dog in our neighborhood; so the fact that they never complained or fought is beyond my comprehension. I’m forever grateful for whatever mysterious force pulled them from the depths of their everyday behavior and bestowed on them the ability to behave, listen, and help me.
The second night, thanks to my trusty mom, we ended up in Terre Haute, Indiana. It was a beautiful, historic, college town, and we were able to walk around with the dog. We ate at a divey burrito place that reminded me exactly of the type of hole-in-the-wall restaurants I ate at when I was in college. The kids loved watching the sun set and rise from our fifth floor hotel room, and they played silly games in the room. They were able to make every new hotel room and every new nook and cranny into a wonderland of imagination and adventure.
By our second night I expected my adrenaline to have worn off and for fatigue to set in, but no. I kept going, like a machine. I never once felt exhausted or incapable of continuing. I also knew that the more we drove the sooner we’d arrive safely at our final destination. Determination was my driving force.
On the third day my mom booked our hotel. It was eight hours away, and I wasn’t sure if I could make it. We stopped in downtown Columbus, Ohio and picnicked in Capitol Square. We saw the beautiful Ohio Holocaust and Liberators Memorial and met friendly people. It’s one thing to attract attention because you have kids, but dog lovers are the friendliest. Everyone wanted to stop and pet Bonzo, our 2-year-old cocker spaniel.
Eventually our scenery changed and the cool weather blew over the mountains and trees. The roads started to wind and Hennie, especially, gushed over the views from her window. We stayed our final night in Bedford, PA. This was the simplest of hotels and the most accommodating. We were able to pull up in front of the room, which made it easy to load and unload the car.
We hadn’t seen Steve in over a week, so our last morning we ate breakfast and eagerly headed off for New York. Over bridges and through tunnels, after tolls and tolls, we could finally see the Statue of Liberty and the immense NYC skyline. We’d arrived. Gleaming with pride, we pulled into a hotel on Long Island where we’ll stay until the lease starts on our home in a few weeks. Steve was able to register the kids for school, so they’ll start on the first day, Wednesday. We did it.
There are so many times when I’ve wondered who I am now—now that I’m a mom. I’ve often felt like I’ve lost sight of my bravery and my fierce independence that once flowed through my pre-mommy veins. But this trip has reminded me that I am now, more than ever, a brave and independent woman. Capable of anything. Only this time my bravery and confidence benefits both me and, more importantly, it benefits my kids and my family.
Today, Sunday, I woke up needing desperately to do our laundry. We brought tons of clothes, the car was packed to the brim with stuff, but we’d run out of clean everything. I went to the car and couldn’t find my keys. The rain started coming down. I’m notorious for losing my keys, so my first thought was immense gratitude that this happened today and not when we were on our cross-country road trip.
I called roadside assistance, and we waited in the rain. Just then, an Indian wedding came outside and everyone was dancing and celebrating. The groom’s procession, complete with a decorated horse, made its way around the parking lot as we watched in amazement. The music blasted and the DJ led everyone in dance. We did the “sprinkler” and the “make it rain.” Afterward, Hennie and Tillie got to sit on the horse. It was the most spectacular event.
As soon as the wedding guests went inside, the car mechanic arrived and jimmied the lock, but we still couldn’t pop open the trunk. Neither of us could work out how to do it. I’ve locked my keys in the trunk before and have had to do this exact same thing, but I couldn’t remember how.
So, we decided the laundry was not going to get done today, and we went to the indoor pool. When Steve finished work, he figured out how to pull the backseats down and reached into the trunk to open it. Well guess what? The keys weren’t in there. At first I thought he was joking, but he was actually serious.
I frantically searched the hotel room again and eventually found the keys. Where were they you ask? They were in my sweatshirt pocket, of course. No, I hadn’t checked those pockets before calling for assistance. I’d checked the pockets of the fleece I thought I was wearing, but not the pockets of the sweatshirt I was wearing. And there you have it, a moment of humanity to end a week of feeling like supermom.