Last weekend I returned from a 16 day, 6,000+ mile road trip with my Mom and eldest Niece and Nephew. This trip was an idea I conjured up last year and pitched at the holidays. My sister’s passing in July was the trigger, and when my Mom said she wanted to see her sister in California whom she hadn’t seen in over two decades, I knew what I had to do.
It seemed simple enough on paper. Or at least, on a map. I picked up a map of the USA and highlighted the base route that I thought we might take. I placed little flags all over, marking national parks and highlighting features of the various states that I found interesting and hoped they might, too. I sent that off with packing lists and requests for everyone to research the states and think of places they might want to see or things they might want to do. What I got was one request to eat barbecued brisket and one request to not ride horses.
Well, that’s not so complicated, right?
And with that, it would be easy for me to write about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Let’s face it – traveling with family can be stressful. I’m an adult who hasn’t gone on a road trip with anyone but Mr. Muse except for one weekend trip to New York’s Finger Lakes wine district. We’ll sum things up with my Mom saying that she was impressed that I was doing so well traveling with two teenagers for not having kids.
I didn’t lose my temper. I told myself that I was once a teenager, too. I also told myself I loved the kids (and I do… I’m not saying this because they will all read this).
The biggest part of the trip was the numerous hours spent in the car, a lot of it was spent talking.
We had good conversations about Life in the car. We had good conversations about how family dynamics are often “weird and complicated.” We talked about things that happened with my sister when the kids were young and as they got older. We talked about her death, and we talked about her life.
We gave a toast on what would have been her 35th birthday, and I didn’t choke up despite the tears I felt rising. We let my niece and nephew tell their stories about the evening their mom died, what happened, how they felt, what could have been done differently.
I know that I learned a great deal about the kids now that they are teens and not “tots.” I learned more about my Mom or at least refined the view I had.
I also learned that it takes about a week of driving 8+ hours a day for my ass to slip into “trucker’s ass” mode.
I have my hopes of what the kids learned, but I’m trying to keep my expectations low, because I know many of the lessons I found out at their ages, I didn’t realize until I was older. I also learned that after 16 days of not having any alone time (other than what I started to steal in the bathroom), I felt exhausted. Yesterday morning I woke up with the alarm after having a dream about sleeping.
The cross-country adventure was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but it was also a necessity. I felt it was necessary for the kids, and my Mom, to get out and see just how vast this country is. I wanted to show them how enthusiastic I am for travel, for expanding my mind through travel, and for seeing life. I wanted to spend more time with them while I still can before their lives take them onto other things.
I hope, at the very least, I accomplished that.
The Amusing Muse is a writer, beekeeper, and gardener in Southern Wisconsin. She has dipped her toes in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the Caribbean and Adriatic Seas, and the Gulf of Mexico. She also recently bought a Spiralizer and is spiralizing ALL the zucchini… well, at least half of it – after all, some of it needs to be shredded for zucchini bread.
Image in Cover Photo from Pixabay.com