I am almost afraid to give this voice after spending yet another two weeks on the road, but I believe in the unifying power of the family road trip. I know what you are thinking, road trip? To many, these words convey the horror of children screaming, frantic restroom stops, a series of misadventures, catastrophes and endless wasted hours neither here nor there. But to me, the family road trip is the thread woven throughout our family’s tapestry, giving it color, motifs and unity.
My belief in the family road trip was not the product of a conscious decision but was a result born of our situation. Fairly poor college students and later a destitute newly married couple, my husband and I persisted in the belief that we must spend quality time with both sides of our families, despite the inconvenient fact that his immediate and extended family were from Illinois, mine were in New Orleans and we lived in Missouri. Thus, many long hours on the road several times a year were commonplace. The road trip was actually a staple of our courtship and is where we began to share our family stories, our vastly different upbringings, our memories and our visions of the future. Being inside a car for12-15 hours without money for hotel stops and restaurants encourages creativity and patience.
As our family expanded, it became evident to us that our children would have to travel long distances several times a year or risk never knowing their roots, never having a sense of who and what they came from and never experiencing that claustrophobic but comforting feeling of being part of an extended family. At some point, we could have made the important critical shift to traveling by plane, but we somehow missed that transition and now anticipate our travel time by car or RV.
Believe me, some of these experiences have been hard won. For a brief time, we had to fight the “zombie children” syndrome – a result of the mistake of thinking that hours of travel time with eyes pasted to a small game boy was easier than us dealing with bored children. We made an executive decision that game boys for road trips were no longer essential and were amazed to discover that our children could think, communicate and were interesting individuals. My secret hope is that this yarn of shared culture will not break during the stress of adolescence and that it will knot our children together even after they have moved on to form families of their own.
So at the end of this two week road trip, when I was rewarded with the sound of the shared laughter of my 3 children as the older boys delighted in teaching the toddler how to blow dripping wet raspberries and guaranteed us another 30 minutes of happy travel time, I committed again to my belief in the unifying power of the family road trip: the sharing of beliefs, interests, dreams and history – our family tapestry.
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