A mother of eight

The toll of many long days and long nights and early mornings.
The students of ESS are all fast asleep in the van during one of our many early morning car trips.

I open my eyes; it is 5:10 in the morning and it is time to start the day of travel. I think to myself, I hope everyone didn’t stay up too late last night because today is going to be a tough day. As I slumber out of my top bunk in the hostel in Halifax, my mind begins to race. I want to make sure to get started early so we can efficiently move out of Halifax to our next destination.

As I stagger down the stairs, I fully expect to see Johan Erikson any minute. I am sure he isn’t sleeping much at this time because of the long trip ahead of us. As I round the corner away from the stairs, I walk into Courtney. She is struggling up the stairs with her enormous dry bag, one of the foundations for the roof rack. One down, seven to go. I grab her bag and shuffle it to the van, which is parked less than two meters from the hostel’s entrance. There it stands, tall, blue, and with the faces that so many people gawk at when we drive.   This reminds me of the hundreds of questions we get when we drive: “Where is Saint Joseph’s College?” “What are you guys doing in Canada?” “Whose faces are on the van?” “Do you know the people on the van?” “How come your face isn’t on the van?” The list can go on and on.

As I am unpacking the mountain of bags that had collected inside the van from the night before, I am remind how much stuff is crammed into this tiny space. I begin to have quite the collection of bags outside the van when Dr. Erikson makes his way outside. It is 5:30; we need to leave in 30 minutes and there are still seven unaccounted for students! I continue to work with Dr. Erikson for another 15 minutes and I still have not seen any more students. It is time to see the progress being made by my lovely children.

I make it back inside and to the lower floor of the hostel to check on the ladies. One part of me thinks they will be up and glowing and excited to see me as they walk right past me to the van. The other part of my brain, the left and rational part of my brain, cackles at this thought, knowing full well that when the door opens, I will see three wonderful faces crushed into soft pillows. I grasp the door handle and turn it, the anticipation KILLING ME! The door opens and… everyone is sleeping. Bummer, that would have been nice. I wake everyone and tell them they need to be out by the van in five minutes. The faces of panic erupt.

Back at the van after waking the crew, faces of sad, tired students grumble their way through the door.

“Hi mom,” groaned Alana

“Morning mom,” said Erin in a rough voice.

Being called mother as a male 23 year-old recent Saint Joseph’s College graduate is an interesting experience, but one that I feel happy to hold. As everyone makes their way to the sidewalk, I can sense the rushing feeling begin to flow in as I realize 6:00 is approaching quickly and we still need the big bags on the roof. Finally I see them… It’s a car! It’s a plane! It’s the big bags coming! Dr. Erikson is up and on the roof before I can get the courage and focus to lift the bags. I heave and strain and lift the first dry bag to the roof and Mike helps me lift it and hold it until Dr. Erikson can pull the monstrosity up. We continue to lift the bags up until all of the bags are on the roof and safely tied down and secured for the long trip.

Now in the drivers seat, I look back and see everyone piled into the van in a conglomeration of bags and sleepy faces. With my navigator to my right and the snoring beginning to echo through the van we pull away from the hostel and off to the many adventures ahead of us. Another successful packing, only eighteen minutes late, not a bad start.

The trials and tribulations of caring for eight full grown college students is not an easy task, but when you see them come together and accomplish simple tasks like packing a van, you are reminded that the learning process and growth is great, is necessary. I was in their shoes only a few years ago and that process is hard, but the reward is rich.

– Robert Michaud