It’s time to head home. When I open my eyes, my head still hurts, but it’s a dull ache instead of the migraine I had yesterday. The first words out of ELW’s mouth are, “we have to check out in thirty minutes.” I roll out of bed and pull my things together. Since I hadn’t really unpacked and a mishap on the stairs means half of our special Missouri eclipse beer was gone, it doesn’t take me long to be ready. I try to encourage the girls to get their things in order, but they just ignore me. Dealing with the seven-year-old this trip hadn’t been the walk in the park I’d imagined. But, I try not to let it bother me as I start making trips out to the car.
Once we’re all nestled in with blankets and notebooks and phone chargers, we pull away from Eureka and start the long trek back to Athens. Instead of a water park stop this time, ELW decides we’re going to motor on through and do the whole twelve hour drive in one go. This time, at least, I get to see St. Louis in the daytime. I ask ELW how often he got to the city when he was a Missouri resident and he starts to tell me about the free zoo and art museums. I’m delighted to see actual graffiti as we traverse a bridge elevated above the docks along the river. Athens doesn’t have proper graffiti.
It takes a few hours to pass out of Missouri and across the long finger of Kentucky. No stops for Derby Pie this time either. In Tennessee, we stop for gas and I get out to stretch my legs at a truck stop. Lo and behold, there among the energy drinks and the iced tea, I find Big Red! Next to Coco Rico (a coconut-flavored soda from Puerto Rico), Big Red is my favorite soft drink. I haven’t had one since I was last in Texas, years ago. I’ve heard people describe the taste differently. ELW thinks it tastes like cream soda. I’d say it’s more like bubble gum. Either way, it turns the tongue bright red.
ELW and I passed the time listening to a season of That Mitchell and Webb Sound, a British podcast we both follow. Then, we listened to another podcast that featured the elated sounds of people witnessing the eclipse in years past. I found the eclipse wondrous and astounding, but these folks were positively orgasmic. I was glad the kids in the back were absorbed in their iPads. Eventually, the GPS told us we were a mile from the turnoff onto our street.
All in all, it was a mixed journey, but one I’m glad to have been a part of. I did a lot of thinking. I didn’t do a lot of talking (for a change). I saw something amazing. For a second, as the celestial bodies aligned, I felt a sense of perspective. I don’t know what’s next now or where I’ll go. I don’t know what I’ll do or who I’ll do it with. I don’t know how this will change me or how it will affect my relationships. But I do know that this is another chapter in my story that won’t be forgotten.