Posted by: jeanne | June 18, 2016

recovering from iceland – part 5

we’ve actually been home for more than a week, and it’s all of 100F every day. boy does it rankle to be processing photos of us in our winter gear, staring at icebergs.

but to regain the narrative, we arrived back at mikie’s house on thursday late in the evening, with two trains and a minivan as conveyances.  everybody went straight to bed, i think; at least jim and i did.  if any of the other kids were up, then my kids stayed up, too.  i’ll just trust to that.

the next morning was friday.   we were originally ‘supposed’ to go downtown to see a museum, or to ditch the kids with shan and go downtown to the art museum ourselves… but none of that happened.  everybody stayed at mikie and shan’s house way the hell out past dulles airport, and did whatever it is they felt like.  mikie retreated to his basement office to get some work done, shan was ubiquitous with the kids, cleaning when their backs were turned, handing out food when they discovered they were hungry, intervening when connor and mikie started fighting over a toy.  i’m nowhere near the mom she is, and i stand in constant awe of how she handles them.  at one point i said something, and she turned and said, oh you don’t know how bad i can get.  but you need your kali side, i explained.  it’s good to be bad when people are being assholes.

i slept in.  jim got up and had coffee with the grownups.  the kids played.

somewhere around noon i got the idea that i wanted to go see mom, who is at the moment staying in (one of) buddy’s house(s), in alexandria, a far piece from outer northern virginia.  so i packed up the kids and the husband, and we drove the way mikie told us to mom’s (the straight and narrow – dulles parkway to the beltway to route 1), and so i got to relive years of teenage driving in and around washington dc.  relive not for scenery, because everything’s just the same as it was half a century ago, but reliving for the sheer bewilderedness of being on roads that aren’t familiar, under traffic conditions that were at times frightening, trying to find landmarks that i should have recognized but always missed.

but we got there, and mom had the radio up so loud she didn’t hear us pounding on the door until i’d given up and started around to the back of the house, where i would have given her a heart attack appearing at the kitchen window where she was standing half dressed, doing her handwashing in the sink.

it’s nice to be with mom again.  it’s been several years since i’ve seen her, tho we talk on the phone frequently.  the siblings have been saying how thin she’s getting, but when i called her feeble she squeezed my hand with the old overwhelming force of a determined matriarch.  there’s question in her mind, and probably derision among my siblings, but i think i’ve been the actual matriarch for some time.  i’m not flashing that around.  nobody trusts authority in our family – the voice of authority is traditionally dysfunctional in our family.


anyway, we sat and talked with mom (the boys found the toys in the sunroom) and then took her out to a handy burger joint (i had the veggie wrap) and fed her, and then took her across to satan’s own walmart and got her a trackphone to replace her iphone that she had lost.  but actually left it at her own house, which she keeps going back into even tho it’s unsafe and that’s why she’s staying at buddy’s.

and then we left her at home and drove back to mikie’s using a map, which told us that fairfax county parkway would do all the same things as mikie’s way, except for the traffic, and the tolls, and the construction.  he didn’t tell me about it at first because it sounds complicated compared to the way we’ve known from our first drives.  but it was a green, limited access, military grade, smart stoplighted, well cambered parkway.  we even passed a bronze historical marker that said something about a missile site that used to be there, presumably thru the cold war.  i never knew, but when i pointed it out to mom she said dad used to come thru there and nonchalantly point out the secret missile silo everybody knew about.

sitting at mikie’s that evening, i forget whether we had a thunderstorm or not.  i guess it was friday evening.  they were all at a neighbor’s birthday party (interesting to have it after everybody gets off work and picks up the kids), and were still at it when we pulled up around 8 with our dinner in bags (the kids and jim wanted subway sandwiches, but i spotted a sushi place across the shopping center and left them there).   we sat out on the porch with the birds going to sleep and the planes taking off just a mile away.  we’d see this huge painted bird just over there, still huge against the trees, banking away from us as it rose, still tucking its wheels up.  larger than any of the local birds, even buzzards.  dad would be proud of mikie, living so close to an airport.  he loved airports.  he used to take us all down to the waterfront park right next to national airport and let us run under the shadows of landing planes while he sat in the car listening to the pilot say haveagoodday to the tower over his flight scanner.


so okay the kids played; i can be sure of that.  the next day was saturday, and the only thing on the agenda was the kids playing.  so after the usual, we sat around while the kids played.  it might have seemed momentous to the children.

then the adults decided to take the kids to a play place inside somewhere, since it was supposed to rain but didn’t.  so i nipped off in the car to get mom.  with the usual surprising result, since she had the radio on loud enough to cover a hundred trackphones ringing.  bambambambambam. open up, it’s your daughter.

and when we got all organized and in the car, and i managed to pry some of the clutter she’d picked up from her hands and put it in some sort of order in the car (i think we turned it back in with a rusty can of spinach still floating around under the passenger seat) then i called mikie and told him i was on my way.  an hour later i called him and asked him where he was, and so we triangulated to our destination.  mom was all agog at the fairfax county parkway, because it leads from mikie’s house to buddy’s house, and she’d never had to go that way before.

we stopped right before we got there and got something to eat – i recommend wegman’s supermarket for its huge precooked food section.  i had to seriously stop mom from dithering, and had to keep my blinkers on as well.

then, thank god, when we got to the play place we couldn’t eat actual food outside (only the crap they sell), and so we had to retreat to the car to eat our lunch, and it was a lot quieter and cooler there.  then back into the breach, to unleash the kids and balls.  oh the noise.  there’s a little sitting area, more like a cage than the rest of the place, and the adults huddle in there like frightened chimps while the apes are tearing up all the exercise equipment in the big room.  there are fifty children under 10 in the big room, three of them screaming like they’re hurt, one of them sounding like it could be yours.  but the place is also crawling with sock-footed adults patrolling for suicide or murder attempts, and so the spectators sit there and try to talk, or stare at their screens, or morosely look out the window while drinking the swill.  the kids loved it.


mom loved it.  she had me and mikie to yell across to, jim to snuggle up next to, the grandkids wandering in and out to be kissed and tousled, and coffee.

the next stop, once we’d piled everybody into separate mostly huge suvs, once we’d found everybody and they’d found their shoes and socks, and went to the bathroom, and found their things that’d fallen out of their pockets, and broke up the squabbles, and got them sorted into sibling groups and assigned back to proper parents and their vehicles…was kfc.  yum yum, i can’t eat anything they sell at kfc.  but mom is absolutely convinced that there’s no msg in kentucky fried, and so it’s great for her to eat.  anyway, it’s where the kids wanted to eat, so we went there, and i got the boys a mexican pizza because they thought it was going to be a pizza and not a taco pizza-shaped thing with beans.  whatever.  i was pretty tired at this point.  in the two days of being in dc, i put in 600 miles of driving.






they played and played some more.  moms got photos.  we stuffed them back in the car, and did we go somewhere else to play?  wow, i don’t remember.  at any rate, mom and i kissed everybody and stuffed ourselves back into the car for the long airy drive back to alexandria.

chantilly tavern, from 1825

oh yeah, i had to get her back early, because i was due to be on the road at midnight, and tho i got her back early enough, and got back in good time, i still had to spend an hour packing the car and making sure everything was in order before going to bed around 7.  and tho everybody was really cooperative and put themselves to bed an hour or two later, i still only rested, only meditated, only tossed and turned until oh 11:45.

and then mikie was still up, so we made a carafe of coffee, and i put all the freezer and fridge things together, and got the boys up, and put them in the car, and said goodbye and drove off.

the sky had been richly cloudy all afternoon, and by the time we left there was lightning in the air, so we actually saw the mountains as we passed thru the gap at front royal.  not blue, black, with foggy whisps.  it rained, off and on, all the way home.  it was foggy, off and on, all thru the southwestern virginia mountains.  once it got daylight, it continued to rain.  we didn’t do any running around while grandma slept stops at rest areas.  we only stopped once, once the kids woke up, at a gas station, where the cook had left some steak, egg and cheese sandwiches for us to buy hours later.  it was during the worst part of the rain, when i couldn’t see anything, and we pulled off and got food, and then the rain quit.


until we got to our friend dallas’ house, when it just dripped and splashed.  but the kids were upstairs with an actual tv, and i was back on emma’s bed relaxing for an entire cycle – maybe 20 minutes.  and then a bunch of water and chips and things, and we were back on the road after an hour.  thanks a bunch, it was a lifesaver.

and as we came down out of the foothills of the appalachians, the sun came out, and we were home by 3,


and i was sitting on the porch with a guinness by 4, chatting with our lovely housesitters, lark and matthew from another country.  they’d had fun, and after we got home they rented a car and went down to the coast to see what the waves were like, right at the passing of hurricane colin, so we told them to watch for riptides, which i guess they did, because they came back and left to go home, and have been home for a week now.

our houseguest put a wet towel in the freezer to beat the heat; thus the fanciful hat

so it’s about time to end this.  we went from 45 degrees in iceland to 100 in atlanta in just a few days, and are now in a lovely cool spell, so the fans are off.  we still refuse to use the air conditioning, but that’s just us.



  1. Jeanne, I am in awe at the level of your energy. All that planning and organizing for 4 days in Iceland. Great pictures.
    Hope all is well. Love to you and Jim,
    Elsa and Jack


    • and we’re going again this winter.


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