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Never ask, what else can go wrong! Keep looking for what is going right!
I will never forget the moment I learned this! I was about 9 years old. My little bit crazy and a lot unstable mother, a single mother! Sold our house and bought a 27 foot motor home. Picked us up on the last day of school in South Florida and we hit the road. Now, let’s put this in perspective. I am the oldest of 3, THREE, kids. We are only 3 years and 6 months, to the day, apart in age. For real! My youngest brother and I, our birthdays are exactly 6 months apart to the day and there is another brother in between us. So, my mother, who, have I mentioned might have been a little mentally unstable? Loaded the 3 of us up, 4 including herself and we took off for the open roads. What does this story have to do with things going wrong you’re wondering?
3 kids and 1 mom in an RV | What could go wrong?
We left South Florida, would have been early June, the end of the school year and headed west. That summer was kind of a blur, I have a really cool photo album with pictures from so many States. Excited to be in charge of the AAA campground book, so when mom decided we should look for a place to stop, I got to pick a place. Oh the times before internet! No Goggle or cellphones! My brothers and I would huddle over that book, it had all of the U.S. States in it and we’d try to find places with playgrounds and swimming pools or if we got really lucky, they would advertise a game room. It was an adventure that most people will never experience and I can look back on that summer now and appreciate all that it taught me. Like learning to read a map and look up information about things we needed.
While it was an amazing summer and we saw so many things that I would have never seen if my mom hadn’t made that crazy decision to wander the country. There were moments, when she realized just how off the wall and unsafe this adventure might be. Like when the RV blew a tire and we got stranded overnight in a run down neighborhood in front of a local tavern. Single mom, three small kids ages 8, 6 and 5 maybe, drunks that kept knocking on the windows and door at all hours of the night. I remember that long night and I remember the hike down the road to a service station. The whole walk there, mom kept saying, we have to remember what’s going right. We are all safe, we made it through the night and we will get help. I don’t remember details, but I do remember one of the guys calling his wife and she came and took the 3 of us kids to a diner near by and we had breakfast with her and her kids while the RV was getting fixed. I can’t remember what town or even what State we were in, I know we had already been through California and were heading back East. My only real memory from that adventure, is mom saying, we have to keep looking for what’s going right!
What is going right?
By the time school was getting ready to start, mom had contacted friends near St. Louis, MO and got us signed up for school. She found a rental house and we settled in for the year. Things were never “normal” in our house, 3 kids and a single mother with mental health issues. Life was never boring and I could really write a book about my childhood. We survived that school year, even had to change schools in the middle of the year because mom didn’t like the private school she had started us in.
The next summer drew near and she started planning to hit the road again. By the time the school year ended, we knew we were headed to the East coast this time. I don’t remember as much from the 2nd summer. I was really starting to hate life in the RV. I missed my grandmother’s and what little stability we had had in South Florida. As a kid, you just have to do what you’re told. So we went along and we tried to have fun. My brothers and I were always making up games and finding things to entertain ourselves.
I don’t remember what had happened, but I remember one night, it was raining and mom was crying and I heard her say. “What else can go wrong?” I remember feeling scared, cause we weren’t supposed to ask that. It was like a house rule!
never ask, what next!
We were in Hershey, PA. If you’ve never been, and I haven’t been since I was 9 mind you, circa about 1984. That is a neat place! Friends of ours went, just a couple of years ago and tell me it’s still a lot of fun. So if you’re a fan of all things Hershey, I highly recommend it for a family vacation! This is where I learned my life long lesson. Why this quote has stuck with me for all these years!
I woke up to lights flashing and reflecting off the walls in my little bunkbed in the back of the RV. I knew it was some kind of emergency vehicle. My father was a fireman, I knew what those kind of lights looked like! I remember climbing down and peeking out the door window, thinking maybe one of our campground neighbors were in trouble. Only to see, our dogs being held by a police officer and my mom being loaded into the back of an ambulance.
Keep in mind, I’m about 9 years old. This is the summer after my 4th grade year of elementary school and I’m the oldest of us 3 kids! I was terrified. We had met the campers next to us the day before. They had a couple of kids our age and were there on vacation. I don’t even remember their names! But as I walked out of our RV, the mother of that family grabbed my hand and walked with me over to the ambulance. I remember mom reaching for me, crying and telling me she had broken her leg. Yep! Mom had been walking the dogs, on a hill, the grass was wet and she slipped. It was actually her ankle that had shattered we found out later. She told me to remember where the address book was and to call her mom in Florida. She asked the lady holding me to please help me make that phone call. Then she said, as they loaded her up and she squeezed my hand. Keep looking for the good. We will get through this.
Really mom? They’re loading you up in an ambulance and I’m surrounded by strangers! But you know what? She was right, we got through it. The campground neighbors talked to the policemen and asked if they could take care of us for a day or 2 until our grandmother got there or our mom got back from the hospital. So we wouldn’t have to be taken to a local foster care. I remember the walk down to the campground office and the lady at the desk helping me call my grandmother. It’s almost amusing the bits and pieces of those few days that I remember. Like my grandmother’s voice as she answered my call and feeling like a beacon during that crazy time. The tears as they ran down my face but she made me feel like it was all going to be ok. She would take the next flight out and be there as soon as she could. I don’t remember that evening or anything we did. The next memory I have is of sitting on a picnic table and seeing my grandmother and her little suitcase walking up the hill from the campground office. My grandmother, the lady that was always there to save us after my mom had made some crazy decision.
It was a couple of days before we saw our mom again. Someone from the campground staff went to get her from the hospital when she was released. I remember the night before we left to head back to Florida. Hearing my Grandmother and Mom arguing over who was driving the RV back. My mom, with a hard plaster cast, from her toes to her hip, all propped up on the RV couch, yelling that it was her left leg and she could still drive. Her leg was in a kind of bent, not quite straight position and even as a kid, I remember wondering how she was going to get that leg under the steering wheel! LOL!
In the end, my Grandmother took the wheel. She had driven delivery trucks for my Grandfather’s hardware store years before and she was confident she could get us home safely. As kids, we just knew we were finally going back to South Florida and that was good news to us! It was another week or so of adventures with my Grandmother driving that RV. We humans all made it back safely and in one piece, the RV however, had a few battle scars. The one I remember the most, was when we were leaving a truck stop and one of us had forgotten to put the stairs back up. No automatic steps back in the 80s mind you 🙂 As we took off the stairs hit a curb and they were pushed under and bent. I can’t tell you again how close to home we were, but I do remember having to using a milk crate the rest of the trip to get in and out of the door LOL!
We spent a lot of hours on that trip playing “I Spy” and I remember my Grandmother telling my mom that she was glad that mom had taught us at least one good thing in life. That was to always keep looking for the good!
My life has been one adventure after another. There have been many, many times that I have wished for a “normal” and boring life. Then I remember, that every experience and every twist of fate, has put me where I am today! And without my past, I would not be who I am today!
So today, don’t ask, what else can go wrong! Stop! Breathe! Look around and see what is going right!
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