On the way to Colorado, we had been a caravan, a family of travelers. My partner Kellie drove a Budget truck stuffed with barn wood and boxes. The truck pulled our little along Honda behind it on a rickety car trailer. The kids and I followed behind in Kellie’s diesel pickup. Because I’m too timid to drive either of these rigs, we’d drafted two friends, Dee and Heidi, to help us with the driving.
By ten in the morning, as we crossed the line from Oregon to Idaho, the day had already warmed to 104 degrees, and the road was even hotter. The air conditioning in the truck was broken. Dee drove the pickup with the windows down, the hot air whipping our hair in all directions. It was too loud to talk, so we kept our eyes on the road ahead, trying to make it till evening, praying the kids would keep their cool. But eight miles into Idaho, Dee and I watched as one of the car trailer’s tires exploded and fell to pieces on the highway.
Our caravan pulled to the breakdown lane. As we stood on sand and asphalt, vehicles whizzing by at momentous speeds, we instantly began to melt. The baby screamed. I hunkered down with the cell phone, navigating the maze of numbers to connect with roadside assistance. Forty minutes, they told us. No guarantees.
Dee decided to wait with Kellie in the heat while Heidi took over the pickup, ready to drive me and the kids somewhere cooler. “I know where the Whole Foods in Boise is,” she offered.
Boise Whole Foods would become the only thing I’d see of Idaho both coming and going. It was where I was headed now, day two of my journey with two boys and two dogs in a tiny, stinky Honda.
This time, there was no emergency. Or, to put it another way, we’d become accustomed to a constant state of emergency, the car too hot, the endless road, the baby always on the verge of meltdown.
But Boise Whole Foods was everything I needed. It was vast and air-conditioned. They had vegetables there. By God, I wanted a fancy salad and I was willing to pay thirteen dollars for it.
But more importantly, Boise Whole Foods featured something so practical it was nearly miraculous: a nursing lounge for mothers. It had a door that locked, a sink, a changing table, an outlet where I could plug in my phone. It featured a comfortable chair where I could nurse the baby, along with toys and books to distract my older son while I sat and nursed. To top it all off, its walls featured a series of prints by Berkley Illustration titled “All Your Friends Are Here.”
Strangely, the appeal of the mothers’ lounge was that it was populated by these illustrations, and No One Else. I locked the door. I nursed. I charged my phone. I splashed water on my face. No one knocked. No one sized me up and shouted “Got your hands full there”—the line that was inevitably uttered at every rest stop.
I nursed the baby with my feet up, as my older son and I discussed which of the prints we each loved the most, and which one I should order at Christmas for Mommy Kellie, who was by now 700 miles away. We might have spent twenty minutes in the mothers’ lounge, but it was restorative in the same way that catnaps are restorative. We returned to the car, disoriented, groggy, but refreshed.
*Thanks to Berkley Illustration for permission to use these images.
Boy, pardon me for saying so, but you DID have your hands full! LOL. That sounds like quite the trip, I must say. But the situation you describe – nursing your baby with your son keeping you company sounds very cozy and intimate, lovely moment with the three of you together, sharing time, just enjoying the moment. Nice story.
Thank you. Yes, I did have my hands full–both my car and I were maxed out!
How nice that you found that! I remember having to run home to nurse when i had the babies in nyc. Well I knew I didn’t “have” to but I’m sort of modest that way and I was never good at the baby hiding discreetly under the shirt thing. More places should have rooms like that.
I would love it if there were more designated nursing spots in the world–ones that aren’t just a chair in a public bathroom.
A true sanctuary for a nursing Mom. Lovely…I wish more businesses found the importance in offering a space like this.
I am about to take on a road trip from NY to FL with my sister and two little ones (5 and almost 2). I spent $30 at the dollar store today stocking up on “busy-toys” and coloring books in hopes of surviving it. I even bought a Barbie movie for my daughter who loves them…I freakin’ hate them. Thank God for headphones!
Yeah, my older son was plugged into Harry Potter for nearly the entire ride home. He was no problem at all. I swear, we’d pull up somewhere after driving for hours, and he’d just want to stay in the car, listening.
We had to break our 3yr old at the time from a slight Dora addiction for the same reason. We drove 16 hrs and she did nothing but watch Dora. Her eyes started to look like she had a serious meth problem.
Ha! I know that look.
I once found a nursing room at a Babies R Us, and it was so nasty and dirty. I didn’t want to sit on the chair because it had stains and hairs and other people’s babies’ spit up on it. After that, I would just plop myself down on one of the demo chairs and go at it. Your nursing room experience seems a lot more pleasant. I’m glad you had that respite!
Good for you for making use of the demo chairs! Way to represent. 🙂
Jenn — I think you “twittered” about the 18 month phenomenon of babies. On the airplane I sat next to a couple who both were pediatricians. I mentioned my time with Andre and they both reported that that’s the hardest age for them to deal with in their practice. I thought, “good, confirmation from the medical experts”!
Glad it’s not just me!
Gotta love Whole Foods! Nursing rooms should be standard in more buildings/companies. It’s imperative that women get the privacy they deserve 🙂
In my dreams…
Oh GOD. I remember one road trip from Kentucky to Indiana, which should have been short, but which landed us at two hours stranded by the roadside for a string of towtrucks to timid to leave Louisville by a whole eight miles to find us. Our road side assistance people were a joke, and people kept whizzing by, so Scott and I took turns getting chiggers and ticks in the roadside brush with the then 18 month old Caroline. Finally, this giant, baldheaded man stopped. He could have killed us. Instead, he got the tire iron that neither Scott nor I had managed to make work, to twist the blasted lug nuts off, helped us jack the car up, and had us back on the road on our donut in ten minutes. So glad you had a respite! And I love that the picture people let you share their work. It’s very Beatrix Potter looking to me, if Beatrix Potter had ever featured a big cat or put her animals in business suits. The squirrel looks like squirrel Nutkin and the owl like the one that bit off his tail. And now I have, incongruously, the Tale of Mrs. Tiggywinkle (which featured a hedgehog) stuck in my head. (“Smooth and hot red rusty spot, never more be seen oh…”
Oh, I’m so grateful we didn’t have chiggers and ticks to deal with!
Beautifully written! I felt like I was there with you. Thank heavens for Whole Foods. 🙂
I am in love with this story and can’t wait for more installments.
Thanks–I seem to be drawing it out way longer than I had planned.
Sometimes it’s those little breaks that mean the most. Also I want that squirrel print.
There are a variety of squirrels to choose from. You could assemble a whole family.
I love these entries of yours. There’s this underlying loneliness that resonates with me and is inherent in my road trip experiences. Also, and completely unrelated, i want the owl print!
I can’t imagine why.
I never thought of road trips as lonely before, but you’re right–I think that’s part of their appeal.
Love these posts. There is something so brave and courageous and utterly vulnerable about these road trips. I remember my first big move vowing to always be kind to U-Hauls on the highway (and I’m a speed-demon by birth.) Because I realized as the tears poured down my face and I navigated I-95 through Connecticut, that people in those U-Haul caravans are physically exhausted, emotionally spent and for this moment, without a home. They are in the in-between; they deserve kindness.
I never thought about that, but hopefully I will next time. I always get too distracted by the pictures on the side of the U-Hauls.
In Ireland even the McDonalds have nursing rooms. Catholics overseeing the country’s infrastructure has a few benefits. But those animal illustrations- what a great gig.
If you check out their Etsy site, it’s clear they are working their butts off, but probably having a blast. I can’t believe how many animals in suits there are to choose from.
[…] we’d been keeping in the truck for five days. Destination: Winter Ridge Natural Foods. By now, I’ve learned to depend on natural foods stores (in Idaho, no less) as a kind of respite for weary […]
That sounds like one heck of a trip! The worst part of it was probably the heat! And I agree, you did have your hands full! Which illustration did you like the most? I like these, the ones you have posted.