“Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway
We’re the best of friends
Insisting that the world keep turning our way
And our way
is on the road again.
Just can’t wait to get on the road again.”
–Willie Nelson, “On the Road Again”
From what I understand, despite prevailing stereotypes, travel in the old gypsy tradition had a sense of pride and nobility about it. So as I mentioned in my last post, it seems clear that Willie Nelson did not have traveling with children in mind when he wrote his song.
In fact, quite the last thing I felt after our 13-hour trip from Illinois to Niagara, NY was noble. As Sid the Sloth says to Diego the Saber Tooth Tiger at the end of the classic film, Ice Age 1: “You’re traveling with us now, buddy! Dignity’s got nothing to do with it!”
It was, as Gabe said, “a long, long way.” Made a tad longer by the fact that about 3 hours into the trip Jacob announced from the back seat that he had NO SHOES with him. He was completely barefoot. Here’s how that conversation played out:
Martin and I were in the front seat of the van, Gabe (4) and Noah (13) in the middle row, and Jacob (11) in the far back.
Far back: “I don’t have any shoes with me.” Displays bare foot.
Front seat: Silence.
Middle row: “HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!!!!!! You’re gonna have a long vacation stuck in the CAR!! HAHAHAHHAHAH!! I hope you don’t have to go to the BATHROOM between now and when we get home!!!!!!!!”
Front seat: Silence.
Back seat: “Papa, are you going to buy me some new shoes?”
Middle row: “We can make you some shoes out of leaves and sticks and say we found you on the side of the road! ‘Can we keep him? Pleeeeeassse?????’ HAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!”
Front seat: Silence.
Back Seat: Long silence. Then, “Papa, what will I wear into the store to buy new shoes?”
Middle row: “Hey Jacob! Maybe you’ll find some Dora the Explorer shoes! Or Thomas the Tank Engine! Or some pink Crocs! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!”
So a little side trip to the Grand Rapids Wal-Mart took up an extra 30 minutes on the first day of traveling. Martin came out with Jacob, a new pair of sneakers, and a bottle of antacid. We were all a little subdued after that, the boys even more so when we told them that we would stop for McDonalds, and then Martin exited the highway, saw that the McDonalds was 2.3 miles from the highway, and refused to drive the extra 5 miles to get there and back.
Noah, whose 13-hour narrative of misery was interrupted only by his making jokes at the expense of the other passengers, said, “PAPA! It’s not like we’re driving a Flintstones car! We don’t have to RUN five miles with our FEET to get there!” But to no avail. Martin did a dramatic U-turn, got back on the highway, and his popularity dipped way down after that. I think I heard someone mutter “dictator” under his breath.
Things picked up on the second day when we crossed the border into Canada, which was exciting—the whole passport/being in another country thing. Then Noah said, “Jacob, just so you know, I saw a sign that said ‘Unsupervised children will be sold to the circus.’ Be careful.” And when, with much fanfare, we drove across the border, Jacob said, “The excitement of being in another country is slightly lessened when everything looks exactly the same.” As we drove past a Home Depot and a Wal-Mart right after he said that, I could only agree, though we did remark that the Wal-Mart was a Super Centre, not a Super Center.
We also passed a lovely billboard for a Senior Citizens Center with a picture of a smiling nurse and an elderly woman in a wheelchair. The billboard said, “Celebrate Life!” and Noah said, “Or what’s left of it” as we whizzed on by.
The drive seemed like it lasted forever and was a blur at the same time, like most of family life. But we’re here! And it’s almost miraculous. But that’s a story for tomorrow.
Today’s poem is “Trust,” by Thomas R. Smith. A quality necessary to family vacation, if I ever heard one.
It’s like so many other things in life
to which you must say no or yes.
So you take your car to the new mechanic.
Sometimes the best thing to do is trust.
The package left with the disreputable-looking
clerk, the check gulped by the night deposit,
the envelope passed by dozens of strangers—
all show up at their intended destinations.
The theft that could have happened doesn’t.
Wind finally gets where it was going
through the snowy trees, and the river, even
when frozen, arrives at the right place.
And sometimes you sense how faithfully your life
is delivered, even though you can’t read the address.