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Chapter two: Elizabeth

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Anna gets her way, always. She drives me nuts, and I don’t see how we all manage to do whatever she wants. It’s all about her. Everything. Just had to get that out because I’m tired of my opinion not mattering.

Mom, dad, Anna and me have tent camped for the past three years. Usually just a few days here and there in the spring, summer, and fall. Then, last summer mom found a pop up camper for sale on Craig’s list and dad went to look at it, and brought it on home. Anna and I slept in it some nights, and it seemed OK at first, but then large patches of black mold started to spread across the canvas. Mom bought this spray stuff at Bass Pro shop and spent hours out there, scrubbing out the mold. It never looked completely clean again, but at one point she got most of the stains out. Mom hardly ever curses anymore, not like she used to, but one day I heard her screaming the F word and the S word, and Anna and I looked at each other and Anna said, “What in the world?” I ran outside to mom, and she was standing in the pop up camper, with the door wide open, head in her hands like she was crying.

“What mom?” I asked. She pointed to the canvas, at the new mold growth slowly spreading back across the sides.

“That’s it! This camper is going up in flames today!” Mom declared. Later that day, dad announced that he was going camper shopping the next day.  The next morning he packed up the pop up, hooked it to his truck, and came home with a brand new 32 foot Coleman camper. Anna and I watched him coming down our dirt road and looked at each other, surprised. The thing was big! And dad was pulling it, like a pro.

It has four bunks in the back, all for Anna and me. I sleep on the top left, and she sleeps on the bottom right. We took our first trip to a state park around an hour away, just to try out “Easy Does It.” Yes, that’s what dad named the camper. I think it’s a weird name, and I wanted to name the camper “Finnley,” but dad was set on “Easy Does It,” for some reason. I call it “EDI” for short.  It rained the whole time, so we stayed inside and played Scattegories, watched DVDs on the TV (yes, we have a TV in EDI), and made chocolate cake in our oven. We had fun, I guess.

Dad is a truck driver, and he can take off two weeks in the summer, so that’s what he did. He and mom said we were just gonna go wherever EDI wanted to go. That is seriously so unlike them. Mom has to plan every minute of her day and dad is kind of like that too, but not as bad. I saw mom closing her eyes and pointing to the atlas and dad laughing and saying, “OK, we’ll go there.” I think mom is a little nervous, but I can tell she’s trying hard to just go with it. She keeps saying, “Our motto for the next few weeks is ‘go with it’, girls. That means, just go with whatever comes our way.” I think she is talking to herself more than anyone else.

So, we left on Friday, two days ago. We packed up clothes, games, and food, and took off in the morning. Dad headed west, but said he didn’t know where we would stop, but we would stop when we “felt” like it. Really, dad? Since when did you make decisions based on feelings?  My parents are truly acting weird.

Dad drove. It rained. I read the latest Stephen King book, Anna played on her phone, mom and dad talked to each other like they actually liked each other. I am glad, even though I don’t show it. For years, before dad got “help,” they fought and fought and fought, and Anna and I had to move out, away from them. When we were little, like 5 or 6, we would huddle in bed together, until the morning hours listening to dad’s screaming and mom’s crying. I know we were only around five, but I remember crying and Anna holding me close. She didn’t cry, but she closed her eyes and we slept many nights like that. Mom and dad would sleep in, but Anna and me would wake up early and get our own cereal and milk. One morning Anna was standing on a stool, pulling the Lucky Charms down from the cabinet and the box fell over, and cereal and marshmallows covered the kitchen floor. Just then mom came in, saw the mess and started crying. She collapsed to the ground, head in her hands and sobbed. Just right there in the kitchen. Anna quickly started picking up the cereal, one by one, and mom just continued to cry. I helped Anna, and we picked up the cereal as fast as we could, and threw it away since it had been on the floor. I kept telling Mom I was sorry, and I tried to hug her, but she acted like I wasn’t there. Then, Mom left the room and went back to her room and Anna and I didn’t get anymore cereal or anything else to eat. We didn’t want to see mom cry like that again, so we decided we would wait for her to make us something to eat. She must have forgotten, though. We didn't eat that day.

It was soon after that when Anna and I moved in with Grandma Hattie and Grandpa Lewis, and we lived with them until dad could get help. I never really knew what “get help,” meant until years later.  I still don’t know a lot about it, but I do know he went away somewhere for a while, like maybe a year. Mom came to visit us at Grandma Hattie’s, but she worked two jobs, and was tired all the time and we really didn’t see much of mom and dad for years. I am glad we had Grandma and Grandpa, but I missed my parents so much and never understood why it took them so long to “get help,” and why they couldn’t take care of us.

Anna is still mad at them, I can tell. She doesn’t believe them much, as if she’s waiting for them to screw up again. Grandma Hattie took us to Sunday School and church every Sunday and I learned about Jesus and he says to love and forgive, so that’s what I try to do with mom and dad. It’s hard sometimes, but they really do seem different. Or maybe I just hope they are different, so that’s what I’m holding onto.

Anyway, so this is our first big trip together as a “family,” and to be honest, it feels kind of weird, like mom and dad are still feel like strangers. I miss Grandma Hattie. She made everything fun and she would have loved to travel across the country in “Easy Does It.”

Anna always gets her way though, like just a while ago dad asked where we wanted to stop to eat, and I said Cracker Barrel and Anna said Taco Bell really loudly and guess where he stopped?



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