Sink or Swim
Tell us about a time when you were left on your own, to fend for yourself in an overwhelming situation — on the job, at home, at school. What was the outcome?
It was 1973, late August. We were moving from northern Michigan (Terry is a Yooper) to southeastern Pennsylvania. We had two little boys, aged 4 and 2.
Terry was driving the big U-Haul, and he led the way. I was in the car, a fairly new and inexperienced driver, with the little boys in the back seat. This was years before our nanny government made us strap little ones into seats that kept them immobile. I can’t imagine how they would have survived the trip back then. We had build up the back seat with suitcases and put a mattress over that, covered with blankets and pillows. They slept, played, and kept themselves pretty well occupied.
In the front seat, I white-knuckled it all the way. I was terrified. I’d never driven in heavy traffic, or used cloverleaf interchanges. I’d certainly never been tasked with keeping the vehicle in front of me in plain view while I coped with all the other things I had to deal with. One child was still in diapers. The older one was fully potty-trained, but needed to stop every now and then. We didn’t have cell phones back then, so communicating was pretty tricky. I’d do my best to get in front of Terry, letting him know we needed to pull over. Sometimes there was a handy rest stop. Other times it was just make do with whatever shelter we could find.
I’d never had to do anything like that before, and I still don’t like to drive in heavy city traffic. By the time we finally arrived, I was a wreck. My nerves were shot, and I was barely holding on to my temper. When I’m stressed, I don’t cry and whimper. I get mad. Poor Terry. He didn’t have a clue how terrified I’d been.