I am writing this just 100 miles from home, on the last limping leg of our whirlwind weekend getaway to Southern California. I sit between a finally-sleeping Natalie and a softly snoring Ethan. And this is what the last 7 hours have been like…
Just before we left for our trip, the radio was pulled by the dealer to be repaired. It has left us without tuneage, which left me with no choice but to discover how many 80’s songs I could consecutively butcher the lyrics to. I did learn, however, that I know all of the lyrics to Bohemian Rhapsody, including guitar solos, and can do a stirring one-woman rendition of the opera segment wherein I sang every part. Sadly, I am the lone witness to this feat, as everyone else was asleep at the time. Galileo! Galileo! Galileo Figaro! (you’re singing it now, too, aren't you? I can hear you… “Magnifico-o-o!”).
Sans radio, Jonah’s voice has been the back ground music for this trip. A while ago he told me, “Uh-oh mama, I foh-got my cwoze” (clothes). It’s a pleasant change from announcing his farts and burps every few miles, and his asking “we doh-ing home? No!!! I wan’go Andwoo’s house!” fifty or so times. My particular favorite was the scream about 10 minutes ago, blood curdling and painful sounding, all because Tessa LOOKED at him. I know her eyes are a penetrating blue, but really?
This is our first family trip in our new-to-us van. We have learned that it is the vortex of all sound, and though all 8 of us are contained in what seems like a duffle-bag-sized space, for some reason no one can actually understand each other. None the less, cries of “Be quiet!” have blasted through the van like air horns at a football game. I find myself in the middle row, middle seat, leg elevated, because dear Natalie was screaming for about 50 miles. I climbed back and tried the car-seat nursing that I have done successfully with many a weepy babe, but she would have none of it. As droopy as “the girls” have gotten over the years, they just weren't long enough to reach her. She finally fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.
We now carry air freshener with us on road trips, because we have teenage boys. They smell like mummy breath. And that is before anything is emitted from their bodies that could be measured on a Richter scale. If you have ever driven I-5, you will also know that the milk commercials claiming California cows live in lovely, grassy fields are absolute bovine pucky. The kids are sure to announce these aromas and their respective feelings about each nuance of scent as we pass cattle yards with “happy cows” by the thousands. Though I detest the cow smell, at least the cows don’t laugh after they blow methane.
Then there is the food thing. We are, at best, inconsistent with how we handle food and travel. I succumb to the hunger cries of my offspring sometimes like a mother bird, and at others like a prison warden in an old movie. It does not seem to matter how often you feed the children however, they are always like a nest-full of baby birds. “I’m staaaaarving!” Tessa exclaims 30 minutes after our dinner stop. Finally, I go from mama-bird to warden to bar-keep, and I cut them off. The poor, sad babes whimper of their sure starvation until they fall asleep.
I doubt any of us will remember this particular trip. Though we might recall that we stopped 4 times in the first 5 hours, but the rest will fade like trips and childhoods do. And while most are not noteworthy, I wouldn't mind remembering the moment I am having right now. The girls are awake and listening to their Mp3 player- a mix of pop music and ballads sung by their mama. “Ellie, “ Tessa says, “imagine what if mom was up on stage singing a rock song like on the Fourth of July but not on the Fourth of July. That would be weird.” They giggle, and as I try to envision what they are seeing, I giggle a little too. Adam rides shotgun, and as any good co-pilot would, he occasionally points out something interesting in the road signs and billboards we pass, to Guy, who has driven the whole way. And last of all, to my left, my youngest child sleeps under a well tucked blanket, looking for all the world like Ethan did as a baby, while to my right, that very boy -now so grown-up -, sleeps with his head tucked against my shoulder. I can feel his warm breath on my arm, and I can’t remember a time since he was small that he has slept on my shoulder.
I love road trips.