Tempest in Memphis
We are traveling across country in to our new home in North Carolina. I am traveling with four of my five adopted children who include two girls, ages eight and eleven, and two boys, ages thirteen and fourteen, and our family dog and cat. My birth child has just graduated from high school and is with us but driving her own car with two of her classmates, and her own bird and dog. My oldest daughter is staying in California with her boyfriend. After six days on the road, our much anticipated cross country trip is losing its luster.
The geography is green and grassy with gentle hills and many trees. We arrive in Memphis when it is dark. Road construction has caused all lanes to be closed except for one. My son tells me the Mississippi River is beautiful at night and that is how I discover we are crossing a river. When we arrive at our motel in Memphis, we find that it is several stories high and we will have to use an elevator and be some distance from the van. It is impossible to get four children, a box of breakfast items, cooler and dog to our room and maintain a low profile. I know we are allowed to have a dog but if our dog misbehaves or is a bit too large and we don't have any place else to go. I don't want to attract attention.
We have traveled over two thousand miles and there are seven hundred miles more to go. I order Chinese food to be brought to the room. The dog needs to go out and I want to check on the cat. I consider sending a child out with the dog, but the dog may be stressed and unmanageable. I decide to leave the kids in the room while the dog and I go back to the van. The dog does her thing and I call to the cat. The points of her ears appear above one of the seats and she comes to me, mewing. I hold her close, put my lips on her head and feel comforted. I leave her with fresh water, food and litter box, and return to our hotel room.
As I walk down the long hall, I see what appear to be police officers in front of a room. They are in front of my room, the door is open and they are barricading the doorway with their bodies. As we get closer, my dog growls, and I wrap the leash tightly around my fist and pull the dog close to me. "Are these your children ma'am?” My cheeks are burning, I feel guilty, embarrassed and worried. "Yes," I said. “One of your children was running down the hall with no clothes on, yelling, and we received several calls from other guests." “I am so sorry sir (dog growling), I promise they will not be left unsupervised again and we are leaving first thing in the morning." The officers left, I closed and locked the door.
My phone rings and the food arrives. It’s my sister and I tell her I will call back. I pay the delivery person and shovel food onto disposable plates. My children are quiet and well behaved at the moment. I do not talk to them. I have four sisters in Colorado, South Carolina, Missouri and North Carolina. I return my sister Meg’s call from South Carolina. She is calling to tell me that my niece wants to be at our house when we arrive. "NO!" I yell into the phone. The tears start coming and I wail, gasp and I cannot form words. Meg can only hear my hysterics. I tell her I have to leave and I will call her when I feel better. Soon, there is a knock at the door. It is my bio daughter coming to check on me because more than one of her aunts is concerned about my "breakdown". I tell her I am OK, but in the future, I could use a little more support.
As it happened, my eight year old who is moderately retarded, reverted to a two year old persona which can happen when she is fatigued and stressed. She could not resist the temptation to run the length of the lovely, long hallway, naked and yelling, which would be normal for any two year old after a long road trip. I asked the older children why they didn't notice her taking off her clothes and leaving the room. They did not notice because my older son was trying to break up a fight between the eleven year old girl and thirteen year old boy.
I am not angry, I understand. I reassure everyone that we are almost home and that we have traveled in the car more and seen more of the USA than anyone we know.
The next day, as we leave Memphis, my son spots a large billboard advertising a drive-up liquor store. We follow the arrows and I pull up to the window and ask the clerk if he has any merlot. "Yes, ma'am, we have merlot from California." I buy two bottles and a bottle opener, and we are back on the road.