My mother and stepfather have retired to what she calls “the country.” If you’re picturing cows, pigs, and chickens, erase that image. They moved into a subdivision with 350 beige houses. Still, to my mother it’s the country because “it’s near farms.” In truth, the closest farm is ten miles from their house, but my mother’s sense of reality has always been questionable. Also questionable is why they would move at least 25 miles away from their children and friends. My mother’s explanation, “Well, we could have moved to Florida.”
(Why didn’t you, Mom? We would have had a warm place to go during winter.)
My mother says that 25 miles isn’t far to drive. This from the woman who won’t drive on expressways, avoids making left turns, and won’t venture out if snow is predicted anywhere in the state. But she tells me that my making the trip from my house to theirs is nothing.
So I prepare for my first trek out, which according to Google, is a 26-mile fairly straight trip. I call to tell her I’ve printed a Google map. “Google, Schmoogle,” she says. “I have a better way. “First,” she says, “you go to Route 21.”
I live near the city and refer to streets by names, but my mother has a new-found countrified talent. She uses the word “route.”
“Does Route 21 have another name?” I ask.
“Don’t confuse me,” she says.
I agree to Route 21. “Where do I go on that?”
“To Route 45,” she answers. I don’t dare ask if that has another name, but just which way I take it. “You go west,” she says. Then she hesitates and mutters to herself, “Is it west?”
“Mom,” I ask, “when you’re driving on it, do you sometimes see the sun setting?”
“No,” she tells me. “I don’t drive in bright sunlight.” She follows with, “It’s the road that passes the street that goes to Rhonda’s house. She’s the one with the blind cat . . . .”
“Mom, just tell me if I go west.”
“Honey,” she calls to my stepfather, “if she goes on Route 45 past Rhonda’s street, is she going west?”
“Is who going west?” the poor man–probably in the middle of a nap–asks.
I wait as they converse in the background.
“Tell her,” he says, “to look for the restaurant that’s right after she passes Rhonda’s street. That way she won’t turn left accidentally.”
“Did you hear that?” she says. I want to ask why I would accidentally turn left, but I don’t. I just ask what the name of the restaurant is.
“Honey,” she says again, “what’s the name of the restaurant?”
He hollers, “It’s the name of a fish.”
“What fish?” my mother asks.
“Let me think,” I overhear. “Trout? Flounder? Halibut?” Finally he surrenders. “You can smell fish when you drive by. “Tell her not to turn there.”
“Mom,” I say, “just tell me the name of the street NOT to turn left on.”
“Route 45,” she says.
“But,” I say, looking at my notes, “I’m on Route 45.”
“Routes change directions–just like that,” she says. “You don’t want to. You want to get to Route 83 and you’ll get there by staying on Route 45, which becomes Route 83 and Route 60. They all smoosh together.”
I write “smoosh together,” and pray that I will be nothing like her 25 years down the road, or route . . . .
“Route 83 turns again,” she warns
“Is there a landmark where it turns?” I ask.
“Honey,” she calls out, “is there a landmark where 83 turns again?”
He answers, “There was a tavern but they tore it down.”
“Look for rubble,” she says, “and turn left.”
“Then how far will I be from your house?”
“When you see the bank, you’re close.” Before I can ask how close, she calls out, “Honey, how far is the bank from our house?”
My stepfather picks up the extension. “The bank isn’t a good landmark,” he says. “There are seven banks near our house.”
“Then what do YOU suggest?” she asks him.
As they argue, I discreetly put the receiver down, print out the Google map, and drive to their house. I get there 40 minutes later and she answers the door, cradling the phone on her shoulder, still talking to my stepfather on the extension–about what the best landmark is.
“You followed my directions!” she says. “Welcome to the country!”