One Halloween, many many years ago, my mom got lost in our driveway. We’d been walking all over hell and back through the sea of lookalike townhouses that passes for a neighborhood in San Jose. I was dressed as a Zombie carhop, poodle skirt, roller skates, and a severed hand on a serving tray. She was dressed as an exhausted single mom who had to get up and go to work the next morning. Suddenly she stopped me and, with an exaggerated sigh, announced with authority, “This is the absolute last house, and then we have to go home. It’s really late and I don’t even know where we are anymore!”
I pointed to the house, the last house, by her account.
“See that house,” I said, with a charming preteen smirk.
She nodded. “Yes?”
“That one’s ours.”
I share that story so you’ll know this is not an age thing. At her most competent, internationally travelling seller of computer bits life stage, she could get lost in her own driveway. If you are ever in any doubt as to which direction you should take, and my mother suggests one (which she will do, with remarkable confidence) go in the opposite direction.
When we were in Victoria, B.C. a few years back (a trip deserving of its own post), my mom drove us to the world famous Butchart Gardens. On the way, we stopped at a butterfly house. It was a long day of exhausting beauty, so I offered to drive back. Not long into the drive, she insisted that I take a right turn. I did not. She insisted that I turn around immediately because that had been our turn and now we were going to get hopelessly lost in Canada. Canada! We’ll never find our hotel!
I assured her I knew exactly where we were and yet, still, she argued. No, not just argued…
She started to sing. “We’re going the wrong way noooow! I said right but you went left and I was right and you were wrong and we’re going the wrong way nooooow!” Seriously, I wish I could sing it for you so you could get the full effect. Then we came to the actual right turn, where the big “This way to Victoria” sign awaited us, complete with arrows.
“Oh,” she said, already sulking, “I suppose you’re going to rub this in now.”
I almost choked. “You made up a SONG! Hell yes I’m going to rub this in!”
Then, last year, my mom got lost coming to pick me up from work. She only had to make one turn. Maybe two if you count the parking lot at my work. Seriously, here is a map.
She called in a panic, no idea where she was. She could tell me the name of the street, at least, and it was one not far.
“Okay, are you driving East or West?”
I could feel her incredulity through the cell. “Why would you even ask me that!?”
Mom doesn’t believe in the poles.
My boss was so impressed that someone could get lost on this path, that he actually had to come downstairs with me to shake her hand. Wow, he said later, she looks so normal.
So you can imagine my concern when she decided to do the big corn maze at the harvest festival. At night. I wasn’t going anywhere near that mess, but she and her husband were going in with the Engineer and the Madness, so I couldn’t get too worried. The Engineer is great at mazes.
They are gone a long time. Too long. Like, “I should have made the kid pee before she went in there long.” The little one and I paint some pumpkins, drink some hot cider, watch the parade of costumes. The barn more or less clears out over the next hour. No sign of my family.
I drag the toddler out in the rain to pace the perimeter of the maze, then the rest of the pumpkin field, sure they must have come out. They’re nowhere to be found, but it’s so dark I can’t see more than a few yards away, reliably. I’m just looking for a flash of pink cape and the Engineer’s height. I keep telling myself they’re fine – they’re all together at least. Finally, I spot Madness, illuminated by her pink, dollar store flashlight, darting across the dark field of Halloween decorations. I head their way, filled with relief. Madz bolts past me like I don’t exist. The engineer appears to be short two people.
“Please tell me you did not leave my mom in the corn maze,” I joke, because of course he would never do that, that would be crazy.
His face sort of seizes up. “You mean she’s not out here with you?” he asks.
He is not joking. I reach for my phone, hissing swear words.
“I don’t think they have their phones,” he says, cringing. “I’ve been trying to call them.”
“Why!? Why would you leave them behind!? You know my mother!” I’m beginning to panic. My mother is unsupervised in a corn maze at night. Even normal things go weird around her. The ticket taker tells us they clear the maze at 9:30. It’s almost 8pm. Anything could happen in an hour and a half. I’m here with my kid’s entire school – so we’re bound to become legends when word goes out that we lost Grandma in a corn maze. I’m picturing a search party I really don’t want to have to organize.
There’s a sign by the entrance that says “Do Not Touch the Corn, It Will Cut You.” My mother is lost in an evil maze with stabby corn. Now I’m picturing her bleeding and muddy (because of course she’s fallen), lurching through the dark without her flashlight because she threw it at the coyote stalking her.
I look up at the Engineer. “You have to go get her.” Even as I say the words, I know it’s impossible, but I don’t care.
To his credit, he doesn’t even argue with me. I’ve got crazy eyes and he’s not stupid. He sighs and heads back toward the maze. Just seconds later, my mom and step-dad come limping out the entrance. The left side of her body is caked in mud that smells strongly of whatever animal fertilizer they use to grow the corn. She juts out her bottom lip in a classic pout. “I fell.”
“You’re alive!” I gasp, jubilant out of all proportion to the actual threat posed by corn…Monsanto notwithstanding.
By the time we get back to the cars, everyone is in hysterics about it, but it’s clear there was no laughter in the maze. I imagine a grim trudge through miles of slicker than snot mud, no hope of catching up with the child (the very reason they were in the damn maze to begin with) who had bolted with her friends as soon as they got past the first turn. I’m just glad we didn’t have to medevac her out.
Later, she texts from the road, “had to put my pants in the trunk – I hope we don’t get pulled over.”