Memories of Vacation Travel

As a kid I traveled with my grandparents for vacation.    My family did not vacation, maybe a family picnic, but destination vacations were NOT in our family’s schedule.   On the other hand my grandparents were always on the move and included me in their travels.   Granny kept track of it and by the first grade I had visited all of the lower 48 but Florida.

I am not exactly sure why my grandparents thought traveling with a small child was a good idea, but the did and made lots of memories for me.   My grandmother would put together a travel kit for each vacation.   I can still see the tartan plaid tote all the goodies went into.   It was all planned to keep me engaged, entertained and maybe learn something along the way.   Things that went into this magical bag were only used on vacations so it was that excitement of see special things and new things each trip.

My bag looked something like this minus the picnic fixens.

Each year there was a game card for license plates.  Like almost all the games it was on the cards that hose were wrapped around in the box they were sold in.   Some years it was a list of all the states and Canadian provinces, that could be in alphabetical order, or admission to the union order.   Once in awhile it was even a map with no state names. It was before photocopy so it would mean Granny would draw the US with all the states on the card.

I had a magic whiteboard about the size of a piece of legal paper.   It was drawn on with special crayons, that I would be able to rub off.   There are two memories that stick out in my mind about that whiteboard because I used it to communicate with other drivers.   I would often write honk your horn and hold it up in the window to other drivers.   We must have been tooted at more than any other car.   Once a group of nuns were following us.   The nuns and I carried on a conversation for miles using my magic whiteboard and paper they had in their car.   Don’t think about safe driving distance or the fact there were no seat belts in the car as I was doing all of this.

My bag was full of maps.   My Gomper (Grandpa to the rest of you) had studied them before he left and Granny was the designated navigator.   Yet I too was expected to follow us along on the map.   Gomper would ask me what’s the the next town?   How many towns till we get there?   We turn of on route 78, what is the town just before our next turn?   It is still the way I navigate, by towns.

There was a little notebook that I was to write in each day.   I would give a small mint to read about the world from the perspective of a child and what I recorded in those books.  When I was very small I would dictate my daily notes to Granny, who I assumed was faithfully writing it all down and not actually jotting grocery lists.

There was a collection of hose cards with the alphabet faithfully printed on them.   These were for all sorts of games involving the the alphabet, some of them competitive between my Granny, Gomper  and me.    It was the days before Lady Bird Johnson cleaned up  the highways from signs and we would see who could first find all the letters of the alphabet in roadside signs, motor court motel names, or anything else she came up with as possible.

There were travel bingo cars.   They were a collection of commercially made cards with themes of what you were looking for.   I think we had three of  the sets.   One with signs, one with numbers that you found on license plate, one with vehicles of all sorts , and one with objects like windmills, pigs, barbershops and the like.   This last card would likely be pointless on today’s modern interstate system. Each of us had a card and Granny ran Gomper’s card as he was the driver.

There was a card likes this roadside objects. We also had one with license plate numbers, and one with vehicles (convertible, dump truck, cement truck, tractor)

Then there were the memory games that we played and went on forever.   They were of the nature of my father owned a grocery store and in it he owned…..   You worked your way through the alphabet and each person had to repeat all the previous items.    We would do all sorts of things hardware store, farm, church and we did not let you have bananas in church so you needed to be listening and thinking about what you might have for that letter.  I wonder if that is where I get my good memory from.

All of you know that I could not carry a tune to save my soul if you had a gun to my head.    My grandparents on the other hand could sing wonderfully.    We would sign songs in the car; the only time in my life that I have ever been encouraged to sing out loud.   I think most of our songs were somewhat religious in nature (I suppose that was the minister who was driving that made that happen).   I remember this little light of mine, found a peanut, and of course Jesus loves me.    We would also sing in round which I only remember a few of those row row row your boat,  three blind mice, allouette,  and Frère Jacques.   That was the only French I ever spoke or sang.

Lastly there was a new collection of activity books.   They were full of dot to dot, mazes, find differences and color pages.   Most of this went unused as I was a car sick girl who never got better with time.   There were hundreds of “Gomper Stop the Car!” moments in my life.   I have barfed along more roads than any little girl should have.    I traveled most of the time hanging over the seat between Gomper and Granny looking forward.   If this did not do the trick I stood in the on the floor in the front with my face in the AC vent right where the front window met the side window with Granny gently stroking my hair, looking forward breathing slow and deep.   (Another of those OMG moments when I think about what if he had had to stop suddenly).

When we traveled recently for vacation these memories all flooded back.     It took Granny lots of time to plan to to not have a bored child in a car for often over ten hours a day.   That planning gave us all time together in ways the regular life did not allow.   It made for special bonds and special memories of places and people.   I was one lucky little girl growing up.   Today when folks travel with children it is with portable video, iPods, iPads  and when kid travel with their heads down.    They have no idea where they have been or the changes that have passed them by.     To me, who has no children, it seems sad that they have done exactly the same kind of thing they could have done for the travel time as though they had never left home.   In fact at home you would not have likely let them watch videos nonstop for eight hours.   Maybe Granny and Gomper’s travel method would not work for hours on end with today’s children, but a few hours of it might be nice on your next vacation.  You might be making memories you will never know about until years later.

 

Kids Make You Old

stick-familyOr maybe it is not having them keeps you young.  So much of life is measured by milestones but you don’t much think about them.  Unless that is, you skipped a bunch of aging milestones because you had no children.

Mr. Ranger Sir and I had no children.  We have missed all those milestones that parents measure life against, graduations, marriages, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  All those moments when you reflected and said “Holy Cow, where did the time go?”  or  “Our kids can’t be that old already.”  We never had a full nest to experience an empty nest.

We have had  different milestones.   We think about where did we live  or what job did one of us have when that happened.   But none of those are related to our age.  My brothers regardless of their age or birth order are all older than me.   They have had so many of life’s milestones I haven’t.   Their children have made them old in more ways than one.

Now we are starting to look at external aging milestones.   We have been planning for retirement for years, but it now on the horizon.   It is a milestone we can’t avoid and it will say yes we are getting older – kids or not.

And It Starts All Over Again

Congress is back with some new people  and lots of the same old folks.   It appears that we can expect more of the same from them.   They are worse than children on a playground.  They have decided before they ever started they are not going to work together.    Unfortunately there is  no mother who will come out and tell them all to play together and expect it to happen.  Children will begrudging play together and maybe enjoy it a little as well.    No,  these folks in Congress seem to be driven by the big money that financed their campaigns not the people who elected them.

People don’t always agree with their friends, family, co-workers or neighbors.   Heck it may be even more than disagree, we may just plain not like some folks.   Yet somehow we all manage to work together at our employer, get together for family gatherings, and co-exist in our neighborhoods.   It frustrates me that our leaders may not have even come from the same society as the public who elected them.    To me, it appears they don’t understand that on the ground we all manage to work and live together.   In our workplace, neighborhoods and families we all know that there will be give and take; some of it just what we wished for and some painful.  Wouldn’t it be nice if our leaders would remember what it is like in the real world for the folks back home?   That was my Pollyanna moment.

 

Kiddie Table

My Montana family that we spend the holidays with is all grown up.   What that means is there is no longer a kiddie table at Thanksgiving.  That is a huge milestone for  the kids.   It is a bigger deal than getting your driver’s license because that does not automatically move you to the adult table.  There is some secret magical criteria that only moms get to see that tells them when their youngsters are ready to graduate from that table reserved for all the kids.

When I was a kid growing up the kiddie table was made up of my cousins, my brothers and me.   My grandma’s house was a tight fit and I can remember years where if  it was not too cold out that the kids would relegated to the picnic table in the back yard.   If it was too cold for that we would be sent to the front room as not to disturb the men watching football on TV. I did not get to move from the kiddie table until I had moved away from home.  I wonder what that says about me?

The kiddie table was a great bonding time for the cousins.   We did not all live close to one another so we only saw each other at major holidays.   We quickly found old bonds and made new ones.   We did things that you could only do at the kids table, tell jokes, burb, laugh until Kool-Aid came out your nose, and try and one up your cousin.  You could be loud, not worry about proper manners, play with your food and con someone in to eating that stuff that your mom put on your plate you hated.   There were lots of things that you only  could experience at the kiddie table.

I on the other hand have never had children.  Not being a Mom I did not understand how you decided who was sent to the kiddie table and who went to the regular table.   When it came time for me to start hosting Thanksgiving I took the easy way out, one table.   I put the kids and adults all at the same table.  They were all mixed up, no kids end or segregation.   In retrospect I never gave a thought about a second table and if it would have it more comfortable for my guests.   Did the kids find the conversation boring?   Did adults not get to relax because they were worried about if their child would behave?   I wonder if I was doing a disservice to the kids who joined us as they did not get to chat up a storm and be goofy as my cousins and I once were.  Or was I giving them a boost by including them in the adult world?  Someday I will ask my nieces, nephews and the friends they brought with them to our house for Thanksgiving dinner, was the lack of kiddie table good or bad move on my part?    Maybe the fact they brought their friends with them Thanksgiving at our home says it all.   Maybe it wasn’t normal, but was worth sharing with your friends; good eats and good times.