Do you remember what road trips were like growing up? We used to do things that would now be considered illegal. I remember the rhythm of my dad’s feet down the steps and thumping against the driveway as he toted me out the front door in my pajamas in the wee hours of the morning. I remember feeling exhilirated as I thought, This is it. We’re going on a trip. Mom and Dad would tuck me into my sleeping bag next to my brothers in the back of our full-sized station wagon (I still remember it’s dirty white paint) and I’d go back to sleep, lulled by the roll of the tires on the road and miles and miles of nothing but trees to look at. In the early morning, we’d stop at a rest stop and Mom would pull out cereal in Tupperware bowls with lids and we’d sit in that back seat still in our pajamas and munch on Rice Krispies with peanut butter. Somewhere along the way, at another rest stop, we’d change into our day clothes in the bathroom. My brothers always brought along a tape recorder and made up exaggerated TV news programs and episodes of “V” as we motored down the interstate. I did odd things like plot out a style of music to listen to on my headphones for each segment of our journey. When I was younger, I’d take along a jumbo activity coloring book, ask my dad how many miles we had to go, and count out that many pages to work on, telling him to remind me to turn the page every time we went another mile (It’s funny to me now that I actually expected him to do that and never really seemed to get it when I would ask and he’d say something like, “Oh yea, you probably can turn about 30 pages or so.”
With all the regulations now about seat belts, it’s crazy to think that Kevin remembers riding perched in the middle of the front seat, right between his mom and dad, with a full view of the road as it opened out beneath them.
As with most things at the Circus, it’s taken us a while to find our “road trip rhythm.” Once, we tried leaving for a trip in the wee hours of the morning. My nostalgia melted the minute we discovered that there is no way to secure a three-year-old in a five-point harness without waking her up completely. What’s more, when we walked in the bathroom at the rest stop to change clothes, Riley got spooked by the automatic hand dryers and screamed the entire time. It’s a wonder no one called the police, because I know how it looked to them. I walked out of that bathroom with a very tall, hysterical three-year old slung over my shoulder, a grocery bag stuffed with her pajamas in one hand, and I was in a hurry.
Things are a little different now that the kids are older and more verbal and I don’t have to go everywhere with a thick diaper bag slung over my shoulder. The kids have found their own unique ways to entertain themselves, as my brothers and I did years ago. At one point during our track out travels, Kevin nudged me and gestured toward the back seats. “Look at them. There’s a blog in this, for sure.”
I had been reading or studying or writing, and fully absorbed, I hadn’t paid great attention to what the kids were doing. I turned my attention to them and chuckled.
From the very back seat, I heard Zoe involved in some elaborate drama with her stuffed elephant, Ella. “But why did you say that to me? (then, in falsetto) Because, we’re on such a LOOOOONNNNGGGGGG trip, and I’m sleepy. (regular voice) Well, you shouldn’t talk to me like that. Now go to sleep. (falsetto) “But can’t we at least stop and find some new shoes for me? I really need some new shoes…”
Adam was looking out his window intently. having discovered the joy of all those license plates with all those numbers and letters passing quickly beside him. He had created his own game out of watching them and carefully called out the last three characters on every plate he saw. “five-nine-six…’y’-‘y’-four…two-one-eight.” Adam could occupy himself for hours with all those delicious combinations. I once heard an adult man with autism say (when asked on an interview about what he thought was the best thing about autism), “Well, I can appreciate really cool sensory information that few people who are not on the spectrum seem to even notice. Like, a fan spinning. That’s the coolest thing, and I can really appreciate that.” Case in point: No one (well, at least no one off the Spectrum) can appreciate license plates like my son.
Then there was Riley. She sat playing with her Cinderella doll, Riley-style. No dramatic dialogues. No cuddling or chiding. Just giggles, and crazy hair. Baby Cinderella has a whole new look.
So, you will understand when I say that in our usual off-beat, outside-of-the-box-kind of way, I see this quotation in a whole new light:
“Remember that happiness is a way of travel—not a destination.”