Driving Miss Baby
In America, there are many things we do exceedingly well: apple pie, long-running TV series and musical theatre, to name a few. Entrepreneurial spirit, “can do” attitude and deep-fried things, to name a few more. However, best of all among our list of achievements is the Great American Road Trip.
My longest road trip took place in my senior year of University, when my friends and I drove from New Jersey to New Orleans for Spring Break. It was a 23-hour journey and I drove most of it because we had borrowed my parents’ station wagon for the trip. Needless to say, we had a great time, earning our beads in the French Quarter, drinking Hurricanes until we were sick, and standing outside Anne Rice’s house until her security guard came out to give us postcards signed by her. And I only got one speeding ticket on the way. Result!
Now that I’m in my second decade of living in the UK, I’ve become more British in my attitude towards car travel; that is, whereas I formerly would have been happy to drive four hours for a good manicure, now I look upon four hours in the car as an eternity, only to be undertaken by direct order of the Queen.
Or at least, that was before Baby arrived.
This past weekend, we headed to Wales for some QT with Grandad and Grandma. Usually, this trip takes us three hours. With Baby it took us six. We are now intimately acquainted with all the service stations on the M4, due to feedings, dirty diapers, and the fact that babies shouldn’t spend more than 2 hours straight in their car seat without a break. I suppose it’s good for us to have a stretch, too.
And on top of all this, we’ve become one of those cars on the motorway that are crammed with stuff. You know the ones, where you can’t see through the window on the far side of the car as you pass by because it’s blocked by tat and the father’s seat is so close to the steering wheel that he could use it as a teething ring. Babies need a lot of junk, it turns out. I used to pack a nice, fat suitcase for a three-day weekend. Now the make-up and hair dryer stay at home and I settle on one outfit to wear the whole time. Who am I trying to impress anyway? As long as I have a change of underwear and socks every day, that’s all anyone asks. Baby, on the other hand, needs anywhere from 3-6 outfits per day depending on how much overflow occurs. She then needs sleeping and bathing paraphernalia, as well as entertainment, nappies and enough bottles and sterilisation equipment to set up a high school science lab.
However it’s all worth the schlep over the River Severn for a taste of fresh air and the smell of green, green grass.
Having a baby means you better be going nowhere in a hurry. Maybe this is no bad thing. I used to be in a hurry all the time, so she’s helping me to stop and smell the roses…or her dirty nappies, as it were. I can promise you one thing: the days of 23-hour road trips are on the shelf for now.