Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Road Trip

The Roadtrip

Recently I took my kids on a 7 hour road trip back to my home town in NY. It made me realize how different this excursion was compared to the roadtrips my family took when I was a kid. I got each of my kids buckled in their seats, handed them their electronic devices, snacks and ear-buds and no one spoke for about 3 hours until a rest stop was needed. It was a very relaxing trip. Everyone arrived at our destination calm, refreshed and ready for our adventures.

This was different than the road trip I took in 1977. My parents had just bought a brand new car. Boy was it a beauty. It was an 8 passenger Pontiac LeMans Station wagon. Wowwie. She was two toned with light cream and that ever popular woodgrain. I remember taking the test drive with them. They let me sit in the back back for the road test. The seat in the wagon portion actually faced BACKWARDS. It was like I was on space mountain! Shortly after my parents took ownership of the family hotrod we had plans to go to Philadelphia. All of us. My mother, father, sister, my 2 grandmothers, my grandmothers beagle and myself. It would be a true test of strength for the new family truckster. Back then there were no electronics and no earbuds. There was mydads 1950’s rock and roll cassette tapes or whatever channel my dad chose on am/fm radio. My sister can still sing every 50’s song that we hear word for word!!

On family trips, my dad was ALWAYS the driver. I think I saw my mom drive with my dad in the car 3 times in my entire life. He liked to drive and use his CB radio. His handle was BIG MAC (our name was McIntyre). We all had CB handles… back then it was open mic night all the time. You could talk to the truckers and to other families. You could complain about the road conditions or warn each other of upcoming traffic… or you could just talk about nothing and pretend to have your own version of cannon ball run. My mom’s handle was Aquarius. Wasn’t that cool? My sister was a teenager and her handle was Magic Girl. Awesome. But I was 6. My handle was NOT very cool. My dad told me to pick something that I liked most. So Breaker, Breaker, Mint Chocoloate Chip Ice Cream hit the airwaves!! Oh, I wish I was kidding.

The seating configuration for our road trip was interesting. See my 2 grandmothers did not get along….at all…..ever. Grandma McIntyre was old, and never really walked well. She had various illnesses and was a very bitter, mean woman. She was extremely conservative and did not like conversation. We know she loves us because she had to, but she REALLY loved her beagle Cindy-Sue. Grandma Fiducia was the opposite. A very sweet, gentle grandma. She spoke very little English having been off the boat from Sicily years prior. She prayed a lot and LOVED her grandchildren more than life itself. We had to keep them separated because without fail Grandma Fiducia would do or say something to make Grandma McIntyre upset. SO. Grandma M. sat in the front passenger seat. Because I was the smallest and youngest the coveted middle seat position in the back was usually mine. I usually had to either sit with my feet up on the hump or straddle it for the duration of the trip. But with a packed car, My mom, my sister, and Grandma Fiducia sat in the back seat this time. Then came the question… What do we do with Ann Marie? I could either sit between my dad and the mean grandma in the front OR I could sit in the back, back. Unfortunately though, the back, back seat could not be up because of all the luggage. If I chose the back back, I would have to sit freely on the platform where all the luggage was stowed… with the beagle. It was fun back there. With no seatbelt laws, I just flaled and whipped around with every bump in the road. On extra-large potholes, I even hit my head on the ceiling. So we set out on our trip. My dad made sure that our windows were all sealed up tight because he didn’t want the air conditioning to escape… that made the smoke from his cigarettes stay tightly in the car. Ahhhh the smell of second hand smoke. There were no GPS systems, so my mom had to use a paper map sprawled out over the entire back seat area. The Map was always a conversation that leads to fighting. My dad didn’t believe my mom knew how to read a map; my mom would get frustrated with my dad’s questions. It was a joyous time.

Back then children did not need to be constantly entertained. I had no toys for the trip, no games, no electronics. All I could do for fun was pull at my sister’s hair from behind her, ask “are we there yet” about 1 million times and when that didn’t work pretend that I had to go to the bathroom, just so we could stop for a few minutes. After 7 hours of travel we successfully managed to keep the grandmas from fighting, the sisters from killing each other, the parents from getting lost and all of us somehow escape lung cancer from 2nd hand smoke. We arrived!!!!! But before we could head out for a fun time on vacation, we needed a nap to recuperate.

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