Since many of us will be traveling over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house or somewhere this holiday season, I thought we could laugh together.
My sister and I have been beaten on the side of every major interstate in the Midwest. It had something to do with our propensity for acting like small beasts on vacations or any road trip whatsoever. As my weary mother said during one trip to Denver, Colorado, from our home in St. Louis: “Goodness, you have to go through a lot of Kansas to get there!”
Despite the fact that Daddy was of the “Every minute’s a mile” school of travel and tossed us into the back seat at dawn, still pajama-clad, hoping against hope that we’d sleep most of the trip, we started in as soon as he backed out of the drive.
“She touched me.”
“I have to go to the bathroom.”
And the famous saying, “Are we there yet?”
The driveway was only 10 feet long.
On one trip, my mother brought along a roll of masking tape and used the tape to mark a line down the center of the back seat. Finishing, she crawled into the front seat and dusted her hands with premature satisfaction.
“There,” she announced, smiling, “Angie, you stay on your side; Cindy, you stay on yours.”
Approximately 3.8 miles into the trip my sister did the unthinkable. Scooting as close as possible to me without actually violating the line of demarcation, she leaned her head into my space and gulped a huge breath and whispered, “I’m breathing your air!”
Her accompanying grin smacked of superiority. I promptly whacked her on top of the head with my latest Nancy Drew hardback.
She wailed. I sat smugly. My mother sighed. My dad stopped the car. When he finished administering our annual vacation spanking, my sister and I snuggled together, sitting precisely dead center of the taped line. My mother stared at us, incredulous. “Why don’t you girls act like this to begin with?”
Insulted, we whispered about how unfair our parents were and entertained brief fantasies of running away at the next stop.
This saga is going to repeat itself with our children, I can already tell. Four of them and only two of us. At least when my husband and I were little, rest stops were fun places to play instead of a breeding ground for scary people, seat belts weren’t required and we got to take turns sleeping on the “top bunk” aka the back dashboard, snuggled against the windshield.
Welcome to now.
Lap and shoulder belts.
Parents who are too broke and too traditional to spring for one of those DVD players for the car.
Activity books, the license plate game, singing every camp song and children’s chorus known to man and round robin stories were good enough for us, we reason, so undoubtedly our children can live with these too.
Still, no way are we going to have enough windows, drink holders or unbroken Crayons to last through any trip. We are not alone in our secret desire to stop at a roadside park, leave them there and drive away . . . at least for two second.
We know this because some friends of ours told us that on a recent trip to Georgia, they contemplated deserting their whining two-year-old at a truck stop in Birmingham, Alabama. They saw several other toddlers there too, wrecking the place. “We wouldn’t have considered it,” they confided, “but the alternative is not to take any vacations.” We understood.
On one 22-hour road trip to Arizona, my husband began digging frantically for the atlas. I peered over his shoulder to offer assistance and heard him mutter: “Where is that truck stop in Birmingham?”