Annie is home from her semester abroad in Florence. It's great to have her back in the nest, and I really looked forward to sacred drive time to the Cape for Christmas since we hadn't been together since the fall. Any parent will attest: talking with your kids while driving can bring forth delectable conversations that would never be obtained sitting face-to-face. Cheek-to-cheek brings out the best in us.
Once the car was packed up, we headed towards the highway. As we drove north on I-95 and over the Sikorsky Bridge in Stratford, Connecticut, I mentioned that once her brother and I were driving up to the Cape and got so entrenched in conversation that I forgot to bear right on 95 towards New Haven, and instead followed the road left and ended up in Hartford, which is too far west.
"I couldn't believe it," I told Annie. "We were so into our discussion that I hadn't noticed we were going in the wrong direction. Can you imagine??"
Well, no need to imagine. The state of Highway Twilight Zone seems to have happened in just about the same spot ... without my realizing it until I was practically home. Annie and I were talking about Florence, painting, pasta, the Renaissance, leather stalls in the market place, shoes, traveling, adventure, and about 30 minutes (okay, an hour) later, I noticed signs that read "SOUTH." In our state of intense mother/daughter blah-blah, I gave a flash thought to the fact that the last few signs must have meant if you turn off the highway at the next exit you'll be going south.
"So what were you saying about those Italian boys in Sicily?" I asked as Annie continued to recap her past several months in Italy.
As she talked deliciously on and on about new life revelations and being away from home, I continued driving and driving in the direction that I thought was north. We were making excellent time. Stopped at McDonald's to get a snack, got back onto the highway and continued driving and talking, driving and talking.
"Hey, we're making great time to get onto the ferry," I said. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a sign for Fairfield. "Oh, there must be a Fairfield, Rhode Island, too," I thought.
Twenty minutes later I saw a sign for Sherwood Island.
"Wow, who ever knew there was a Sherwood Island in Massachusetts," I thought.
SHERWOOD ISLAND? That's about 30 minutes from my house in Westchester. But I had been driving for over an hour.
"Annie, I think I made a wrong turn," I admitted sheepishly. "You know where it said to take the second right off of the Merritt to get onto 95 NORTH to New Haven?"
"I thought that McDonald's looked a little familiar," she said. "I mean they all do, but that one looked like I stopped there once with friends from Westport."
"Oh, don't be silly," I said with feigned nonchalance. My eyebrows raised innocently as I cleared my throat and focused on the road.
"Wait, Mom, don't tell me," she said. "You mean we've been driving for an hour in the wrong direction?"
"I was distracted talking to you," I said. "I think the mistake happened when I took the first right SOUTH to New York City instead of the second right north to New Haven. We made a loop."
"I was wondering why things that were on my right an hour ago were now on my left," she said.
It was an hilarious moment when we realized we were literally treading highway and making absolutely no headway whatsoever.
"Don't tell Daddy," I chastened.
"Mom, it doesn't matter," my darling daughter said. "So we added an hour of extra driving onto the trip. What's the rush?"
Living abroad had opened up her sense of adventure, even if this one was driving back and forth on the same length of highway for 60 minutes.
"What's that phrase? 'It's not the destination, it's the journey,'" she said. So very wise, my daughter.
"It's like we were in a Bermuda Triangle," I said as I tapped the odometer to make sure it hadn't been ruined by some bizarre magnetic force.
In full and renewed command of the wheel, I turned off at the next exit and re-entered the highway in the opposite direction. This time, the right direction.
"I can see how you confused 'north' and 'south,'" my daughter said encouragingly. "They both have 'o's' and 'th's' in them, and the signs are the same colors."
As it was, we missed the 3:45 p.m. ferry departure on the Cape, but in some other parallel universe, my daughter and I were grateful that we were able to sock in an additional hour of great conversation.
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