Last Sunday I took a road trip with my family. My dad’s cousin’s wife passed away and we drove to Sheridan, Indiana, for the viewing. Jack and Helen sat in front. We three kids rode in the back, just like the old days (pre-SUV). We are all “big kids”, with David being 6’, Paul 6’4” and myself 6’6”. We also weigh a bit more than we did when we were kids but we managed to squeeze into the back seat of my parent’s Buick LeSabre. It’s about a 45-minute drive to Sheridan. I wouldn’t want to drive any farther like that. I sat in the middle with my knees under my chin in the tuck position.
One of the most memorable family road trips was the Godby Family Vacation of 1977, when we drove to California. Yes, that’s right, we DROVE to California in a 4-door Chevrolet SEDAN. Not even a station wagon! The three of us were crammed in the back seat for three weeks. And to top it off, I had broken my arm and was in a cast. We had no iPod, iPhone, or even a Walkman. We may have had a transistor radio with one of those one-ear pieces. We passed the time by playing “I see something you don’t see,” the alphabet sign game (go through the alphabet by finding signs that begin with certain letters) and the license plate game (spot a license plate from every state). Or we slept. I would pretend to sleep and then let my arm drop on one of my brother’s legs. He would nudge it off. Then I would slump over them and they would nudge me off. I loved driving them crazy!
I also passed the time by looking out the window and just…thinking. Imagine that! A 9-year old child thinking! I would make up stories in my head. I would sometimes pretend that I had switched places with my long-lost twin (a la The Parent Trap and The Prince and The Pauper) and was with a family I knew nothing about. (Maybe I would have been better off with an iPod…)
We would also TALK. Sure, we’d have lots of silent driving, but we would talk about where we were going or what we had seen, instead of having our noses glued to an electronic device.
Nowadays kids have too many things to occupy their time on road trips – DVD players and the aforementioned iPods and iPhones. I fear that they are losing the ability to imagine, to make up stories, just to “be”. Kids get bored too easily these days. I would get bored, then I would think of something to do on my own (road trip or not). Read, play backgammon against myself (yes, I actually did this), practice my recorder (loved the recorder!), or go outside. One of my favorite things to do in the summer was to combine reading and the outdoors and climb one of the huge maple trees in our front yard and read. I felt like a spy in the neighborhood. I could see everything and no one could see me. I would wait for my dad to come home from work and surprise him. I did this for a few years until I realized that bugs lived in trees (agh!!) and that was the end of that.
But I digress. Even though last Sunday’s road trip was under sad circumstances, it was nice to be together as an immediate family again, even for a short time. Hopefully next time someone will have a larger car.