We took off for an 8 hour (each way) drive for a family holiday to see my parents last week and it hit me—my kids have it so much better than I did as a kid. At least when it comes to road trips they do.
See, I was one of ten kids and my parents didn’t get a van until half of us were already out of high school and on our own. Back in my day, we packed every crevice of our four-door car for hours (and what felt like days) at a time. There was room for my mom and dad and one of us in the front bench seat. Then room for 4 kids in the back bench seat. The rest of us just found spots.
That was before seatbelts were the law and it was just fine for me to sit on the floor at my mom’s feet up front. My little sister got the back dash of the car where the glass angled down to meet the trunk. She was the lucky one because she actually got to stretch out.
We were so happy to hit the road, though; we just did what we had to do to get there. We were packed in like sardines and didn’t have the luxury of game boys and portable TV’s. Nope, we had to read or listen to the radio, and my parents controlled what we listened to. We got to hear a lot of old country tunes (ever heard of “A Boy Named Sue”?), not exactly to our delight.
Sometimes it was more than we could stand and we’d end up in arguments with each other. The solution? An invisible brick wall my mom would theoretically build between us. You know what I mean–somehow that invisible wall was as big and sturdy as the Great Wall of China, keeping warring groups separated physically. My mom’s brick wall had the same effect.
In those days, it was ok to sit on Dad’s lap while he drove, and that was always fun—especially at night when everyone else in the car slept. I can still remember controlling the steering wheel on the less-than winding roads of Florida.
We didn’t really have the money for hotels along the way, but sometimes we’d have to stop so my dad could rest (he typically did all the driving, mostly because he couldn’t tolerate my mother’s driving abilities). In those days, you paid a different rate for the room if you had more than 2 people, and because we were so poor, my mom would have us all duck down in the car just in case the hotel staff looked outside to see if my dad was being honest. Can you even imagine the rate for 12 in one room? We didn’t see the hiding as a lie so much—it was a matter of necessity.
Somehow, we’d eventually make it to our destination, so glad we were there.
It probably explains my desire even today to not waste an extra minute in the car. My kids get their spot and there they sit, all belted in, happy for a few minutes. Few being the key word. If I’m lucky, it’s more than a few. Their movies or video games will go on almost as soon as we pull out of the driveway. They’ll do their own thing for a while and maybe even talk to each other. But sometimes, they’ll talk too much, or say the wrong thing to each other, and we’ll end up building our own invisible brick walls between them. Even though they have leg room and fun diversions, I guess some things never change.