Planning for the eclipse weekend had started almost a year ago. My oldest sister Kathy was the first to alert us all to the importance of the event, and months ago discovered that many houses and camping sites in the Path of Totality had already been booked. But my youngest sister Karen was persistant enough to find a huge log cabin-ish farmhouse in southern Indiana that would sleep the entire family. While not directly in the Path, it was close enough that we could get there before the eclipse.
(As is fitting for her profession as a psychiatrist, Karen is pragmatic and practical. But as a sign of her committment to this event, she had dressed the statue in her front yard as an eclipse enthusiast. Karen calls the figurine Georgeanne and she has an outfit for every holiday. I warn my sister that this is one step away from decorating a concrete goose and I mock her accordingly, but damn, the old girl looked good.)
So we gathered on the Friday before the event at the Wise Old Owl cottage, where every surface was decorated with either an owl or a moose, but sadly, no woodchucks. My other sister Carolyn and I were the last to arrive from Chicago, as we had been led down the wrong road by an arrogant, disembodied voice from Google maps. In my phone, the voice is known as Joyce, and she insisted we turn at a place we had no business turning. We had been warned that cell service could be spotty and had printed out two different sets of directions, neither of which matched the way Joyce urged us to go: yet still we followed her instructions rather than our own instincts. She gayly led us down winding, unmarked roads and then abandoned us in a field. I believe this was a test by the robot overlords to see if people would blindly follow the voices coming from their phones and may be the precursor to the robot uprising, as we did exactly what we were told and then pleaded for Joyce to come and save us. When they instruct us all to drive our cars into quarries, we will join all the other lemmings at the bottom, holding up our iphones and searching for bars.
Eventually we came upon two gentlemen and a chihuahua sitting on a front porch and they gave us directions back to the main road in a bemused tone, as if we were not the first fools that the voices had led down their road. The chihuahua, however, was furious and had to be restrained, no doubt angered by the clear and present danger that no one except him seemed to understand. It was a weird beginning to the trip.
The house was huge and supposedly slept 20, if your idea of sleeping is two bedrooms on the top floors and then sixteen assorted bunk beds, double beds and pull out couches in one big basement room. It was very cozy down there with all the nieces and nephews and aunts and owls and squirrels. It was also very cold and completely dark, or as I call it, perfect vacation sleeping weather, with none of that pesky natural light to wake you up. I felt like Kevin in Home Alone when I woke up in the dark silence and realized that I had no idea where my family had gone.
The next two days were a whirl of activities, with some people participating in everything and some not moving from the porch swing. I like a vacation where no one judges you for inertia. There were fabulous meals and many bottles of wine, and games and a fire pit and a funtoon boat with a slide, but always lurking in the back of our minds was the event on Monday. We became obsessed with finding gas, stopping at every tiny station to top off a tank in a car that had only driven 2 miles since the last time it was filled. We worried that there would not be enough ice for the coolers and ended up with enough to fill the back of a station wagon. One of my favorite finds out in the middle of nowhere was an ice ATM. You fed two bucks into the slot and it dispensed 16 pounds of ice, no clerks needed. You could even get it unbagged and let it flow right into a cooler. Clearly this is once again the robots looking to catch us off guard as we complacently let them control the flow of cubes, but I’m willing to let them have this one. You can just never have enough ice.
Sunday was our last evening at the house, and after another amazing meal with lots of wine to wash it down, the core four sisters sat down to try to figure out who owed what. We are all smart women; some of us hold advanced degrees and at the very least, all of us can use a calculator. So we were amazed and chagrined when the simple task of dividing up costs turned into an SAT math problem, one that assured that none of us were getting into college, not even a community one. For over an hour, we subtracted and divided and swore and multiplied and could not come up with the correct sum. A spread sheet was created and abandoned, amounts were rounded up and down and the final amount owed was furiously scratched out in order to begin again. One by one, the grown nieces and nephews left the room, completely embarrassed by their algebraically impaired mothers. At one point, my brother-in-law begged to let him eat the cost of the whole trip, just to get us to stop. I’m still not sure the number we came up with was correct, but it was such a relief to move on that I don’t even care. There is no place for math on a vacation, especially when combined with a nice red.
*Math is Hard.
Next: Part Two: Hopkinsville