You’ve planned for months, and anticipated this as you got your work-life in order for two weeks off. The excitement’s been building until you’re all loaded in the car and leaving the city limits. Somewhere between noticing the cows in passing farms, and investigating all of the candy in the rest-stop vending machines, comes the dreaded cry from the back seat. Are we there yet?
We were headed to South Carolina, joining a family gathering at the beach – a rare opportunity for our kids to see their cousins. We prepared for the trip as if we were flying to the moon, our van filled with food and a variety of entertainments for the kids. Juice boxes, coloring books, sandwiches, story books, Raffi on cassette tape. This was before the days of portable electronics, so no movies to induce hours of quiet travel. Instead, we discovered that our kids weren’t to be placated. One of the adults had to climb into the back seat with them to ensure they remained engaged. Special toys dropped between the car seats had to be retrieved; even finding things of interest in the scenery required annotation: “Look! Horses…way over there…that you can barely see…oh we just passed them!” Sometimes, mercifully, the kids fell asleep, but it was short-lived, usually interrupted because we needed gas, or just a few minutes out of the van.
At around 4pm on the first day, we pulled into the parking lot of the motel where we were staying. A small, serviceable place with a playground and a pool. Time for the kids to expend some of that pent-up energy. For the next few hours, they ran around, splashed, squealed, and dunked. Even dinner was an adventure, ordering off a menu with ice cream for dessert. Before bed, our daughter was testing the trampoline qualities of the bed while watching TV, and our son was finishing his bath. As I was drying him off, he summed it all up: “This place is great! Next year, let’s just come here for vacation!” My husband and I smiled all through the next day of driving.
Years later, delayed in a city far from home, I try to remind myself that it’s not all bad. Finding a paper outside my room, a friendly face at the complimentary breakfast buffet, a clean rental car. Maybe next year, I’ll come back here on purpose.