Date: 24th June 2005
Subject: Driving us crazy
Place: Big Sur, California, USA
“Daddy, it’s time to wake up,” says Cameron as he peers into my sleeping bag to try and stir me.
“Good morning Cammy, did you sleep well?” I ask sleepily. I open my eyes to see his luminous skeleton pyjamas bearing down upon me.
“I’ve had a really long sleep,” he says brightly. “Do you know what Dad? I need to wear my skeleton pyjamas on that different plane because otherwise I won’t be able to sleep.”
And so another day of Cameron’s new obsession begins.
We have breakfast around the campfire. It seems de-rigueur when camping North American style to have a pit fire morning and evening so we comply; besides we have no other way of cooking. It takes half an hour to light the fire and a minute to heat the ready cooked sausage and bacon; an inconvenient way to cook convenience food.
“Are we going on the airplane to England today?” asks Cameron.
“No Cam,” replies Kirstie, “we’re going in the car today.”
“We are going on an airplane to England aren’t we mum?”
“Yes Cam, in about six weeks time. Now eat your breakfast will you?”
“Will we have breakfast on that plane?”
“We’re not going on an Air New Zealand one are we?”
“Is it a Virgin Cove one?”
“Yes sweetheart. It’s a Virgin one. Now please eat your breakfast.”
Dad, this is like an Air New Zealand flight
Today is a driving day. We have a few hundred miles of tarmac to cover today to get us close to San Francisco for the weekend. So we head for the freeway in our little blue rental car and play a few games to pass the time as we drive.
“OK it’s your turn Cameron,” says MC Kirstie.
“I spy with my little eye something ginning with b.”
“Is it a bum?” asks Matthew giggling.
“No, it’s an Air New Zealand flight,” says Cameron bringing his round to an early and predictable end.
After an hour and a half we stop to refuel, have a coffee and stretch our legs. I buy some tangerine lozenges for the next leg of the journey. Little orange sweets in an little old fashioned orange tin which the boys start to fight over as soon as we get back in the car.
“I want the tin,” asserts Matthew.
“No I want it,” cries Cameron.
“But you’ve got a Mickey Mouse tin and a Minnie Mouse tin so I need this one.”
“I don’t want Mickey. I want the orange one.”
“You can’t have it.”
Kirstie wrests controls of the tin away from the fighting boys and issues each a single lozenge to distract them from the fray. The tiny tangerine shaped sweets pack the punch of a dozen juicy fruits and silence the boys for a moment.
“These are nice,” I say to Kirstie, “Where are they from?”
She looks closely at the tin. “Says here they’re made in England.”
“Are we going to England on an aeroplane?” asks Cameron.
“Yes Cameron, in six weeks time, remember?” replies Kirstie.
“And I’m going to sit next to you Mummy aren’t I?”
“Yes if that’s what you want.”
“And will it have trays?”
“On that Virgin Cove flight?”
“It’s not a Virgin Cove flight Cameron, it’s actually a Virgin flight,” interrupts Matthew.
The fighting resumes until more lozenges are issued.
An oasis of refreshment on the way from the desert to the coast
Another hour and it’s time to look for some place for lunch. The kids spot somewhere and start to sing a song to let us know, “The M Place, The M Place, where everyone gets a toy.” Cameron strains at his seat belt to get out and both let us know they are ‘really, really hungry.’ We’d never been into McDonalds with the boys before this ‘Big Trip’ but somewhere on our travels standards slipped and we succumbed. Amazingly it took only one visit for the boys to pick up on the brand and become loyal advocates for it; there really must be some brilliant marketeers at work there. I’m still not keen on them but it has to be said the kids really do love them and when you’re on the road they’re fast, cheap, and always there, and you get half an hours peace with your meal. Perhaps the ‘M people’ have reeled me in too. We sit at a little plastic table, drinking coffee and watching the boys play with their new Lavaboy and Sharkgirl dolls. The new toys seem to make them happier than their Happy Meals.
“I need a wee Mummy,” says Cameron.
Kirstie looks pregnant and tired so I offer to deal with this lunchtime routine.
“Come on Cameron, let mum have a rest and I’ll take you,” I say.
In the toilet cubicle Cameron chatters away.
“It’s not like that toilet on the airplane is it Dad? You can see under the doors in this one can’t you? And the basin is outside. And there’s no little cups. And there’s water in it so you can hear the wees can’t you Dad? You can’t hear them on the airplane toilet can you Dad?” I stand and wait in silence, hoping no-one else comes in.
After lunch we continue our drive North. The boys are more settled now and sit and play with their K-nex while listening to a Disney CD for the last leg of the day’s journey.
“Look Mum, look what I’ve made,” shouts Cameron above the CD holding up a multicoloured assortment of randomly connected pieces of K-nex.
“Oh lovely,” says Kirstie without even looking.
“Is it an Air New Zealand flight?” asks Matthew who by now has clocked his brother’s obsession.
“Yes,” says Cameron, “a little one. But it’s not going to England. The big one is going to England but it’s not an Air New Zealand flight.”
“Is it a Virgin Cove one?”
“Yes and it’s got trays and breakfast and headphones and pillows and backpacks. Yellow ones. Will it have backpacks mum?”
“Yes sweetheart I think it will have backpacks.”
“And this is the backpack, this yellow piece. See.”
“Can I have a look Cameron?” asks Matthew reaching over and grabbing the plastic.
“No leave it. It’s mine.”
“I’m only looking Cameron.”
“NO. IT’S MINE.”
“OWWW. Mum, Cameron hit me with his K-nex. DON’T DO THAT CAMERON or I’ll feed you to the bears.”
Kirstie reaches for the lozenges once more. I dread to think how another four weeks of road-tripping will affect the boys teeth.
With the lozenges in place I suggest another game to help pass the final hour of the journey. “Look guys we’re nearly there now,” I lie, “I need your help to look for the hotel now.” We’ve settled into a rhythm of three days at primitive National Park campgrounds followed by a night in a hotel or motel. It’s a good combo and by the fourth morning of camping everyone looks and smells ready for a good wash and brush up. Kirstie relishes the thought of a hot bath and I look forward to a night without barbequing. The boys like the hotels too and after a brief stay in a Holiday Inn Express in Los Angeles have become loyal advocates for that brand too.
“Is it a Holiday Inn Express?” asks Matthew.
“Well, maybe,” I say, “see if you can see one and we can see if they have any rooms.”
A few quiet minutes pass then Cameron bursts into song, “The M Place, The M Place, where everyone gets a toy. Dad. Dad. Can we stop? Can we stop?”
“No Cameron,” says Matthew, “We’re looking for a Holiday Inn Express now.”
“Like the one at Lost Angeles airport?” asks Cameron.
“Yes. With a swimming pool. And a TV.”
“Yes with yogurt.”
“We had yogurt on that Air New Zealand flight didn’t we Matt?”
We have a pretty good idea what Cameron wished for on his birthday recently
We check into a motel and head to the swimming pool to help release some of the boys’ pent up energy. After a long swim in which the boys play ferries, towing each other between the Islands of Savaii, Upolu, Manono and Namua, we head back to the room to wind down for bed. Matthew spends thirty quiet minutes studiously drawing and colouring his Happy Meal bag. Meanwhile Cameron spends five unsupervised minutes drawing on the bedclothes and table. We catch him before the damage is too great and redirect him to a blank piece of paper. Kirstie and I enjoy ten minutes peace before the bedtime routine.
“Ta dah” sings Cameron announcing the completion of his work and doing a playful somersault off the bed and onto the floor.
“What’s that you’ve drawn sweetheart?” asks Kirstie looking at the big red squiggle that fills the page.
“This is a very quick Air New Zealand flight. The one that we go’d on with yellow backpacks,” he explains.
“That’s beautiful Cameron. Time for bed now.”
My little skeleton friend
The day ends as the day began with a pair of skeleton pyjamas crawling over me. “Stop Dad, Stop Dad,” squeals Cameron, “stop tickling me.” I relent for a moment until the creases of laughter on his face subside and then begin the attack once more.
“Want to go to bed Dad. I’m tired. I’m tired,” he pleads. He looks ready so I pick him up and place his head on the pillow. I cover his pyjama bones with a blanket, pass him his bottle of milk and give him a kiss on his forehead.
“Goodnight sweetheart, sleep tight.”
He reaches up grabs my hair and softly moves my head around to give me a series of little soft kisses; first on the forehead, then one on each cheek, one on each ear, one on my chin and finally one on the nose. He relaxes back onto his pillow and tugs at his blanket.
“Dad, that different big plane to England will have blankets on it won’t it?”
I smile. “Yes Cammy, I’m sure it will have blankets on it.”
“And Dad, when the pilot says it’s nighttime you have to go to sleep don’t you?”
“That’s right Cammy. And it’s nighttime now isn’t it?”
“Yes Dad. Night. Night.” He closes his eyes with a squint and sucks on his bottle.