We headed back to Utah on Wednesday morning for Thanksgiving and made it there in record time, even in spite of stopping 3 times. It was amazing to notice how just 9 weeks in the countryside had affected me. I was dazzled by the city lights as we entered civilisation. I suddenly didn’t remember there being so many.
It was really nice to see everyone again and I almost felt like we’d never left, or perhaps we weren’t that far apart after all. We also got some Christmas shopping in and took advantage of the closer stores. It was fun to see old neighbourhood friends and catch up with them. I couldn’t help but feel good when they remarked, “you only have 6 weeks left? You’re tiny!” I certainly don’t feel tiny but I know I could be much bigger than I am.
We even stopped in at our old home (yes, still not sold) patched a wall where molly screws were showing and cleaned it up a bit. As Ian walked in through the garage door, he stopped in his tracks, “where couch go? OH NO!” Bryan asked, “Where are you Ian? Is this Ian’s old house?” “Oh no – table” he said, wandering up to the living room sounding devasted, “gone.” Bryan directed him upstairs and again we heard the little worried voice. “Ian’s bed all gone!” It was nice to be back there, but I felt detached, almost like I didn’t belong on the street anymore.
But the fun we’d had together and being with the family again was overshadowed by our return home five days later.
Hours into our snow-falling trip back north, we’d been crawling along at around 35 mph, checking for packed snow and black ice areas in the bright moonlight. Without warning, we felt the Explorer veer to the right as we unexpectedly found some of the dreaded ice. Bryan tried to correct it and we slid a half-turn again, this time to the left. I knew at this point there was no way we were going to recover and we spun again, this time in a complete revolution. As we spun around again and again for what seemed like an eternity, my only thought was the hope of not rolling. “We can’t roll”, I silently pleaded, “I’m pregnant. Please don’t let us roll. Ian will be terrified.”
In spite of knowing we were doomed to the embankment, I didn’t once think we were going to die. I knew we’d be okay; I just feared rolling and all of us being suspended in mid air. The thought of being upside-down for what could have been an unknown amount of time and being 34 weeks pregnant scared me, and then my instincts turned to my little family. We had far too much loaded in the back to tumble too. It could have gone anywhere, specifically, it could have really hurt Ian.
As we’d been hurtling towards the snow-packed grass Bryan jammed the steering wheel as far left as he could in the hopes of not heading towards the side of the road side on. As we spun around on the road for the last time, Bryan called out, “hold on!” I couldn’t help but think about how SUVs were notorious for rolling over. I thought it was inevitable, especially since we had just passed a white pick-up truck on its side surrounded by emergency service vehicles just a mile or two earlier.
Amazingly, we went down the embankment backwards and spun around again in a complete circle, the engine stopping dead. We were now down in the ditch but facing the road.
Although Ian’s film was still running in the background, all I could hear was my own breathing. I glanced back at him, remarkably, his eyes were still fixed on Cars, but he was gripping the side of his car seat. “Ian okay?” Bryan asked. “Yeah” came the tiny reply. I couldn’t believe it. Had he really not noticed we’d been spinning out of control and Mummy had been freaking out?
I remember seeing a Semi and a car pass us by as we were careening towards the grass. Amazingly, they made it past the area with ease. I also noticed they kept on going. Didn’t they see us?
I resigned myself to the predicament and thought we’d be stuck there in the dark, having to wait for a tow truck to drag us back up to the road. As I was catching my breath, I suddenly realised my ring finger on the right hand was hurting, I’d been gripping the door handle harder than I thought. Bryan caught his breath and gathered his thoughts. “Okay, let’s try and get back up to the road.” He pushed the low range 4×4 button and maneouvered the SUV up the slope and amazingly it co-operated.
We sat at the side of the road for a few moments and all I wanted to do was get out of the beast and compose myself. But paradoxically, I was much calmer than I had expected to be. I knew I had to keep my emotions low, hoping I wouldn’t spark the onset of labour, so I took deep breaths and relaxed as best I could. The baby obviously knew I was in distress and proceeded to move around and kick for the next 30 minutes. What a relief that we were all okay, especially our littlest boy.
Knowing it was probably the worst area to be sitting, Bryan waited for the traffic behind us to go past and he grabbed the torch (flashlight) and checked there were no leakages or damage to the vehicle. Thankfully everything was fine and we slowly made our way a little further north to the next rest stop a mile away. There we changed and fed Ian and commented how lucky we’d been. A few more hundred feet up the road, the ditch was steeper and narrower and we probably wouldn’t have made it out of there, and would have inevitably rolled. I was most grateful the SUV was okay, having us all stranded out in the middle of nowhere with limited resources (and now no signal on the phone) was not a thought I wished to entertain.
Just before we pulled out of the rest stop (just a public bathroom), we did what in hind-sight we should have done before we left Utah: we offered up a prayer of thanks and asked for a blessing of safety. I felt assured that we would make it home, I had no doubts. Making it home was the only option; there was nothing around to stop for the night. All we could do was keep going.
Although it took a long time for the roads to improve, we slowly made it to Missoula and then finally home further south. Missing our record travel time to Utah by a whopping 4 hours, we eventually pulled up the driveway minutes before midnight and almost 12 hours later. Although my allegiance to our new home is patchy at best right now (after being back in the old one), I couldn’t help but feel relieved when I saw our house. All I wanted was to lay in my bed, relax and get a good night’s sleep.
My lingering stress was broken by Ian as he ran into our living room. “A-ha! Couch back!” I couldn’t help but smile.
On leaving for Utah, we’d lowered the thermostat in the house to 50ºF (10ºC). Walking in there it was surprisingly comfortable. A few minutes later, the chill set in and it was suddenly unbearable. We quickly changed for bed and shuttled Ian into our bed too. I ran to the bathroom and removed my contacts and snagged a velux blanket to throw on top of us while we heated up. As I ran back into our room Bryan said, “Ian, tell Mama what happened.” “Da car was spi-nnin’ an’ spi-nnin’ an’ spi-nnin’. A fast. A fall down an’ in a water. Oh no. Stuck.” So he had noticed after all – although I’m not really sure where the water element came from, but his little mind had registered that we’d been in trouble.
As I clambered into bed to escape the cold air in the room, the sheets and my pillow were an uncomfortable ice bath against my skin. My teeth chattered as I lay there huddled in the fetal position trying to get warm next to Ian. Hours after I’d fallen asleep, my dreams were still on the road driving home – I couldn’t escape it.
With only 5 hours of sleep, Bryan went off to work and Ian and I got the rest we needed. I have never been so grateful to lie in my bed and be woken to a bellowed, “Mama. Wake UP!” – Dead on eight o’clock.
I’ve been wandering around this morning, going through my daily routine but there’s a different feeling in the air – at least for me. I feel a lot more reflective, staring at inanimate objects around the home and feeling a little detached from it all, but definitely grateful for what is suddenly much more important. As my eyes have scanned my new home – looking at what was left out before we left – my thoughts have wandered with them. There are the thank you cards for the baby shower I had and for the upcoming one on Thursday night…a future event that I may not have attended. The answering machine showing two messages, one from the JC Penney catalogue store in Hamilton telling me my pillow cases had arrived for pickup. Pillow cases. Suddenly they don’t seem quite as important. My kitchen could do with a good wipe down, but in spite of my usual over-zealous nesting instincts for extreme cleanliness, it suddenly doesn’t matter. I’ve scanned our empty walls and suddenly don’t feel so rushed to have our pictures hung up on the wall. It’s just pictures after all.
Lessons learned from not driving the mountain passes are that they are more likely to be plowed and much safer than the draw of I-90 – something I wish we had known prior to leaving on our trip. Next time, ask a seasoned local. I am definitely much more reluctant to make that drive again for Thanksgiving in the future, and would obviously prefer that the holiday be moved to a much more relaxing April.