School’s out and the neighbors begin to trickle away one carload at a time in search of adventure and entertainment. Summer vacations are one of the magical things of childhood, but sometimes they include a road trip.
As children, my brothers, sisters and I amused ourselves during the warm hours of afternoon church with a pencil and the program. Besides connect-the-dots and tic-tac-toe, we sometimes illustrated our family piled into our station wagon “going to grandma’s.” There would be luggage strapped precariously to the top with dangling ropes and trailing an errant suitcase or doll. Windows were filled with faces, friendly hands and bare toes. Items flew from windows and trailed behind like a mine field of shoes, socks, toys, and books. Our early attempts at cartooning, despite the chaos they illustrated, were based on the giddy anticipation and enjoyment we got from going places.
A favorite thing to do was my brothers and sister just younger than I, and I would huddle in the back of the station wagon (pre-seatbelt era) with a blanket over our heads and tell ghost stories. We rehashed “bloody fingers” until we could almost tell it in unison. About then I began making up ghost stories—including the now infamous (among siblings) “Aunt Mae.”
Once, there was a drawback to being part of a large family on the road. We stopped at a rest stop over-looking a river gorge and while everyone lined up for a drink of water. I dashed inside for a more urgent need. When I came out, the station wagon and my family were gone. Unsure what to do, I sat down near the highway and prayed, trying not to cry or become frightened.
Inside the car, several miles up the road, my older sister thought of something she wanted to tell me and called, “Susan, Susan.” Even then, it was a while before they determined I was not in the car. Then they quickly turned around and came back to find me patiently waiting. The good part was, that despite my size, my mother held me on her lap the rest of the way over the mountain passes to grandpa’s.
My children knew their share of road trips. We utilized various options to amuse them—alphabet game, movies, and I read to them. Often we had lunch while we drove and I made sandwiches on a tray on my lap and passed them around. Later, we’d play songs our teens had burned onto a disc–and we encountered the unanswerable question: “Who let the Dogs Out?” But sometimes things were less than ideal.
This last Sunday, during a visit from my daughter, she recalled a time I had forgotten.
She and her brother were “going at it.” When they became too heated and vocal, (in a rare moment of frustration I’m sure) I turned around and told them, “Stop it!” Then I proceeded with rapid fire commands: “Fold your arms. Close your eyes. Bow your heads.” Pause. “Now think of something productive to do while you’re in that position.”
How are your road trips?