"What? You haven't left yet?" my mom asked on the other end of the line. "You know it's going to take you at least an hour to get here with traffic. You might not even get here until 7:30."
I checked the time on my phone and it was 6:02.
"Oh calm down, Mom. Traffic is easy after 6. That's why we didn't try to leave here at 5. That's when it's awful." Truth was,we left the Merc feeling a little frisky and felt the need for a pre meet-the-fam quickie, followed by a post-quickie shower. Don't judge.
"I bet you'll be the last ones here," Mom said.
"I bet we can make it there in 40 minutes. Leaving now."
My parents live in Keller, Texas, population 40,000. It's not a small-town as far as small-town Texas standards go (i.e. he setting of Texas Chainsaw Massacre), but it wasn't the type of city life Cayden was used to.
I wondered what he'd think of the house down the street with a vineyard in the front yard and llamas in the back. I wondered what he'd think of the brand-new, sprawling castle-like home developments across the street from an old, run-down mobile-home neighborhood around the corner from our 'hood. I wondered what he'd think of my street, with SUVs parked in every other gated drive way, gas-guzzling, shiny, lifted trucks in the others; a variety of dogs barking and wagging their tails at each gate, waiting to see who drove by.
But I had plenty of time to wonder about that because after two minutes of driving, we were stuck in stand-still traffic.
"Wow, is this what traffic is always like?" Cayden asked, staring out at the rows of cars seemingly parked on highway 75.
"During rush hour, yes. But this isn't rush hour, so it's either construction or an accident. Either way, at this rate, Mom's right, we're not going to get there for another hour and a half."
Also, might I mention, Cayden was about to experience Road Rage Whitney. I'm not a patient person. I can't do breathing exercises or mediation techniques in the car to stay calm or to make time pass more smoothly. With every car that cut me off or rode my ass or honked for no fucking reason, I got more and more pissed off.
On top of that, I suddenly realized I was starving. No, not hungry. Starving. I'd started birth control a month earlier (about damn time, right?), and one of the very prominent side effects was increased hunger. By increased, I mean it sky rocketed. I was hungry all the time. I could eat a huge breakfast and then 30 minutes later my stomach would growl because it wanted food.
Oh, and if I didn't have food right then and right there, I'd turn into Food Rage Whitney. She's not cute. She tears apart her desk rummages through the office fridge in search of treats. She panics if she can't find any, starts hyperventilating and breaks out in hives. I bought a giant bag of trail mix to keep at my desk to hold me over between meals at work. I was sure I'd put on at least 5 pounds, but luckily for me (and Cayden) most of it went to my boobs.
But right then, at that moment, sitting there in stand-still traffic, an hour and a half away from a Cuban feast, I didn't have my trail mix. I didn't have Smarties candies, a peach, Jolly Ranchers. I dug through my cupholder to see if I could find a lone leftover Smartie roll. Nothing.
"What are you looking for?" Cayden asked, sensing my urgency.
"Food. I need food right now. I'm starving."
He looked around, somewhat helplessly.
"Too bad we put the Leffe in the trunk. We could have had a few while we sat here!"
For about 13 seconds I actually considered getting out of my car and grabbing the six pack. Sure, it was illegal to drink and drive, but it should also be illegal to put Road Rage Whitney and Food Rage Whitney in the same car with a charming British boy.
"Wait. The Percy Pigs!!" I said as I flung my arm into the backseat and swung around in search of the plastic bag. Cayden had brought four bags of Percy Pigs, my favorite UK sweet behind Ben's Cookies.
Cayden told me to watch the road, then retrieved the bag from behind my seat. He opened the package and handed it to me. That fluffy, gummy, pastel purple pig never tasted so good. It was like chewy cotton candy.
Thirty minutes, five miles, and half a bag of Percy Pigs later, we passed two accidents on both sides of the highway. One probably happened while the driver was gawking at the other. I didn't care to gawk at either of them because I had only Cuban food on the mind.
Forty-five minutes and nearly an entire back of Pigs later, another standstill. I thought about the Leffe in the trunk again. I wanted the sweet, honey, caramel, flavor rolling around on my tongue. My mouth was actually watering. This time it was a stalled vehicle in one of two lanes on 114. We couldn't catch a break.
Flying down Southlake Boulevard going nearly 60 mph (in a 45 mph speed limit), my phone rang.
"Are you close yet?" Mom asked. I could hear my sisters, brother, and dad scheming in the background. They were trying to come up with a way to embarrass Cayden (or both of us) when we got there. I could just picture them greeting us with a giant WELCOME TO AMERICA banner, complete with bazookas and party hats.
"OK, everyone's here. Hurry!"
I looked over at Cayden and watched him watch the city of Southlake fly by.
"This is Southlake, where kids get a Mercedes for their 15th birthday. Oh, and see that right there? That's the Sonic I worked at for five years."
"Oh, when you were on rollerskates?"
"Yeah, with light-up wheels."
At 7:30 on the dot we pulled into the circular driveway in front of my parents' house.
"Are you nervous?" I asked.
"No. I'm surprisingly not. I'm just so ready to meet everyone. Are you nervous?"
I thought about it for a second. I think there would have been butterflies in my stomach, but the Percy Pigs ate them. I was so ready for this moment. I'd been thinking about him at my dinner table with my family for so long.
"Nope. Just excited! And starving!"
We stepped out of the car and pulled our overnight bags out of the backseat. I predicted heavy drinking would be involved, hence the overnight bags. Then Cayden grabbed the Leffe and vodka out of the trunk.
I heard all six dogs start barking from inside my house.
"Well, here goes nothing." I said, and led Cayden to the front door.