As I write this, I am sitting in a car with my husband and two children, for the second day in a row, hurtling along a single lane highway that cuts through the never-ending wilderness of northern Ontario (picture trees, trees, lakes, rocks and more trees). Tomorrow, we will be doing the same thing. And to follow that up, we will spend three more days rolling across other sparsely populated regions of Canada.
Why are we doing this? Not because we are crazy (at least, not primarily). No, we have a better reason. We are doing this because, whether we were ready for it or not, Moving Day arrived. Bright and early yesterday, we said goodbye to Montreal, my home for the last 20 years and my husband’s for even longer, and headed west to a new chapter in our lives in Canmore, Alberta. And although we could have flown out, we decided to make it more memorable (this may be the crazy part) by turning the moment of transition into a family road trip.
The day before yesterday, we signed over the house at the notary’s office and came home to watch the movers stuff every last bit of life as we know it into their monstrous, 53-foot truck (I am happy to confirm that no neighbourhood vehicles were crushed in the maneuvering of that beast). We said goodbye to friends. We threw out an unspeakable amount of garbage. Then we picked up fast food and camped out on the carpet in the basement for one last night in the old house.
In the morning, while we packed the car, neighbours came by to wish us well – the next door neighbor who will herself be moving in less than a month to a new house closer to her daughter and grandchildren; the family across the street whose daughter just earned a place on the national cycling team at the same time that she ploughs her way through med school, and whose son, the same age as my daughter, is showing all the signs of following in his sister’s footsteps; the neighbours beside them that we didn’t know well but whose friendliness was evident from the smiles and small talk exchanged when we crossed paths on the street.
And we were treated to eggs and coffee at the home of the neighbours we will miss most, a couple with strong opinions, warm hearts, and two children slightly younger than ours. One last lively debate across their dining room table. One last frenetic playtime between our two sons, who have inexplicably chosen these last couple months of our time in Montreal to suddenly develop an intense friendship. A few tears were shed as we got into the car. And then we were off.
I must say that it is no small thing to leave all of this behind. We will miss these people and places that have been the everyday fabric of our lives. And we sincerely hope that, technology and travel being what they are today, many of the goodbyes we said in the last few days were really only see-you-laters.
But, emotional baggage notwithstanding, we are now on the road, and that means we have to figure out what to do with ourselves, crammed into close quarters for hours on end. After all, ideally we want this trip to be memorable for all the right reasons, and not for all the times we wanted to throttle each other. One of the distractions we have resorted to is the old stand-by – music – with a 21st century twist.
Among his last-minute errands yesterday, my husband stopped at an electronics store and picked up a gadget that lets us plug an iPod into the cigarette lighter (surely a misnomer in this day and age – when was the last time someone actually lit a cigarette with one of those things) and use an FM channel to play downloaded music over the car speakers. Cool, no?
So we have been swapping music. Styx and Eric Clapton were followed by my daughter’s favorite from the Black Eyed Peas. Amanda Marshall and Boston tag teamed with Akon, Katy Perry and Avril Lavigne. We all belted out a Maroon Five hit, and then mellowed out with the Eagles. Alice Cooper seemed only appropriate, school being so recently out for summer. My husband’s favourite from Ozzy could not be left out. And my son, though mostly over his Spiderman fascination, has requested Chad Kroeger’s movie theme song six times and counting.
When even the music could no longer keep us from wilting like daisies, we stopped for the night at a not-so-new road-side motel off highway 11, north of North Bay, Ontario. It was the only thing we had seen for about 75 kilometers, and an internet search didn’t give us much hope of finding anything else soon. Notices in the room indicated the tap water was not drinkable, and the room smelled of cigarettes, even though a no smoking sign was prominently displayed. But the folks running the place were friendly, and the restaurant served good home cooking that settled well in our bellies after a day of in-car snacking. All part of the experience, we told the kids. Just roll with it. And, great kids that they are, they did.
At midnight, my husband and I groggily came to, trying to grasp what all the banging and commotion was about. Then we remembered it was Canada Day. The motel owners were exploding fireworks, literally right above our heads. We were too tired to go out and watch – though considering the timing for us, the celebration felt almost personal. The kids slept on, unperturbed, completely oblivious to the noise.
One thing is for sure – with a start like this, the road ahead promises to be anything but dull.