It is a rite of passage for every child — the summer road trip.
Back in the 1970s, most of us traveled in the rear of a station wagon with no air conditioning. We lie on the hot, bumpy metal surface produced when the “rumble seat” was folded down flat and played cards or read comic books.
Sometimes, we slept, our necks craned to get comfortable on lumpy pillows our father had thrown in from the guestroom linen closet. Other times we stared out the window at the rolling farm lands unfolding in front of us thinking about how we could not be more bored. We hung our heads out the back window, and prayed for a breeze. Our parents listened to their radio stations. There were no snacks, just meal breaks on our parents’ schedule, not ours.
These days, many kids travel in plush SUVs with comfortable seats, air conditioning, and DVD players. They are armed with Nintendos, iPods, iPads and phones. Mothers usually pack a legion of snacks and drinks easily accessible to the junior passengers. When they ask for a bathroom break or a meal, the requests are usually granted in a timely fashion.
Let’s face it — they don’t know how good they have it.
But even with all the changes over time, there is still something fundamentally magical about that moment when you pull out of the driveway, the car piled high with luggage, toys, groceries, maybe a dog or two, bound for adventure. While the methods of the journey may have changed over the years, the goal remains the same, new experiences shared together as a family.
Sometimes, as parents, we spend so much time planning for the journey that we blink and it’s over. This year, as we travel to New Jersey, the girls are already watching a movie. The mountain of gear towers over them in the back of the car filling every available spot. The dog has made peace with a small space wedged in between the seats. I can smell a bag of popcorn the girls have already opened even though we just pulled out of the driveway 15 minutes ago.
I hope that this year I will savor every moment of the journey. As I look back at their sweet faces encased in headphones being stuffed with popcorn, I realize the road trip days are finite, and I must not miss a moment.
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.