I arrived at the back of the school with my one allowed carry-on, one suitcase, pillow and blanket. I pounded on the band room door and was allowed immediate entry. The band was finishing up their run-through of “Defying Gravity” from Wicked. Baggage was stacked everywhere; other chaperons were standing around listening; students who weren’t playing scurried about with an air of excitement and urgency. Even the principal stood by, overseeing the preparations.
Soon the motorcoach arrived. Although I didn’t witness it, I was informed that the driver had performed an impressive Y-turn within the confines of the small lot at the back of the school. My confidence in the journey rose a little bit.
Instruments, equipment, and luggage was expertly juggled into the bottom of the bus. Students jockeyed for seats next to their friends. The only thing I cared about was getting a seat with an outlet, because I knew that if I was going to get ANY sleep and not get thrown off the bus in the middle of Indiana for impersonating a motorcycle, I needed my CPAP machine.
I claimed my spot. My son claimed his across the aisle next to his buddy. Wheeling and dealing happened so larger friend clumps could sit together. I ended up moving. But that was OK, because I wound up next to Jen, Escher’s friend’s mom, whom they had signed me up to room with. We were quite compatible, especially after we discovered we both like to chew on ice and prefer to sleep in a freezing cold room with fans blowing.
The ride got underway. We hit Chicago at rush hour and lost a lot of time. I treated myself to a Coke Icee at a rest stop. We stopped for supper. The band director played a couple movies, but most of us were either on our phones, Kindles, Gameboys, or talking to our seatmates. I couldn’t hear the movies well enough to follow what was going on, so I took the opportunity to read a book I had downloaded to my Kindle months ago by the niece of a friend of mine (The Healing Pool by Linnea Garcia – – available on Amazon.com!)
We stopped at one last rest stop to change into pjs and get ready for “bed.” I assembled my CPAP with curious onlookers from in front of me and across the aisle. I explained to them what it was for and they were totally cool with it. Some of the kids made up a place to sleep on the floor UNDER their seats. When the bus got underway and the lights went out, it was “quiet time.” The band director (who refers to himself as “Mama Bear”) had made it quite clear that if ANYONE infringed upon anyone else’s right to sleep, that his claws would come out. He told them that if they didn’t feel like sleeping, that was fine, but they had to at least PRETEND to sleep. The kids really respect Mama Bear, and there was not so much as a peep out of any one of them all night. And I know that for a fact because I really didn’t sleep much, so heard everything.
The sun rose. I had no idea where we were, even though the boy in front of us was tracking our progress on his phone. We stopped for breakfast at a McDonald’s. I’m pretty sure you probably heard the staff moaning in dismay back in Wisconsin as they watched us pour out of the bus and form a line that snaked outside the door.
When we had finally all been watered and fed and got back on the road, our tour guide informed us that she was already changing our itinerary due to the lost time in Chicago. Instead of making the Empire State Building the last stop before we left, it would now be our first stop.
I’m pretty sure that’s where it happened. When we were up on the 86th floor outdoor observation deck, and the wind was gusting at what felt like 100 miles per hour, I’m pretty sure it blew the diamond right out of my engagement ring. At least, that’s how I prefer to think I lost it. That it leaped free and flung itself off a skyscraper is much more dramatic than it slowly coming loose in a McDonald’s bathroom. That tiny diamond spent 27 years with me. It deserves a romanticized ending to its story.