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.


Life without TV

Once again we are living life without TV.   The last time this happened I was protesting that congress sold off analog TV frequencies to businesses and forced all of its citizenry  to buy converters or new TVs.  This time it was of my own doing, we just had a new metal roof put on our house.  This meant that our little antenna in our attic could no longer receive a signal.

Gone is the nonstop chatter that goes with morning news.   My husband turns on the TV first thing when he rises and watches the early morning national news at 5, followed by an hour of the local morning news show as he gets ready for work.   These newscasts are valuable for about 15 minutes after that they repeat the same news over and over.   News shows should just go back the 15 minute format that they were  originally, or spend a little more time and report either in depth, or find some other headlines to report.

In the evening we were  like so many others; we watch stupid shows because night has settled in and we were out of the habit of doing something that takes a little brain power.   We had done our evening chores,  taken a walk and could  now justify vegging in front of the boob tube.  It is made worse because so much of what is on TV now is reality TV.   Lost is the era of scripted TV, not that it was all good, but at least with a scripted show there was a plot you had to think about or could get lost in.  Even in situation comedies (do they even call it that anymore?) there would be a moment when you laughed not because you thought it was funny, but the moment rang true in your life.

Now, like the last time we were without TV, we are doing different things in the evening.   We have taken to never eating in front of the TV, not that we did it a lot but it is completely gone now. Dinner lasts a little longer when you eat at the table with dinner conversation.     We are getting a few more of our tasks crossed off our “honey do lists.”  We aren’t always rushing through our chores, but enjoying our animals and new trees that require our time. Of course our reading time has gone up.    We  were readers before, but now we are flipping many more pages in a night.  One of the biggest throw backs is we are playing games again.   It tends to not be the same every night, some nights it word games like Boggle, others backgammon, and sometimes cards. It is good because these games unlike vegging out do require us to think, but also enjoy some those qualities of one another that we did when we courted.   Being highly competitive there is also lots of laughing when plans backfire and one of us goes down in flames.   I can tell you that the competition of  game night takes your mind away from the stress of work that you were never going to solve at 8pm at home in the first place.

I am not sure when TV will come back online in our house, last time it was months before we succumbed.   In the mean time we will be visiting Goodwill to see what games the rest of you have sent there because you are no longer having game night at your house.