I was born in 1996. I have an older sister (of whom I obviously never fight with), and two parents (of whom I without a doubt argue with). When I was little, my dad went back to school to earn his JD from 2000 to 2003. For those of you who don’t know what that is, it is a degree in law.
We were never wealthy, but we always got by just fine. More often than not I find myself feeling much more relatable with childhood stories of the middle class than with the extravagance found in the society I sometimes feel forcibly submerged in.
I don’t recall having expensive toys or big screens to ogle at for hours. Just sticks, snow, and whatever else I could gather to use as play materials. Most of the winter my life revolved around hockey, while most of the summer the play was rough housing, often followed by my mother or grandmother repeating the same phrase day after day, “I don’t care if you fight, just take it outside because I don’t want blood in the house.”
Summers were the best because Fourth of July was the one time I got to see my entire family… well that and Thanksgiving. But other than that we didn’t travel much. Hockey was too time consuming to find time to leave the nest. But when we did get a chance to travel, it was always a last minute road trip meticulously placed between hockey tournaments.
With these trips we never really had a plan, but we always had a destination. My mother traveled for work, forcing her to miss concerts, my hockey games, and everyone’s birthday except mine (landing just two days after Christmas). Due to her hefty schedule, and after failing to make plans for a winter vacation, every year she would make up for all those missed concerts and sporting events by taking me and my sister on a crazy road trip.
We traveled to Indiana with my aunt and cousins. We also drove to Atlanta to spend Christmas day with another aunt whose children lived far away (I’m talking like Japan… literally), which was the same year we stopped in Gettysburg on our way home where my mom forced us to stand on the battlegrounds in subzero temperatures just to read a stupid plaque. My mom turned to me and my sister and asked, “Can you feel the history?”
“I can’t feel my face,” my sister exclaimed.
My sister, Abbie, is five years older than me. Not a ridiculous gap, but enough to say that I am in high school while she just graduated college and has her own apartment. As much fun sitting in a car for hours could possibly be, it was always enjoyable knowing my sister was forced to spend time with me that she otherwise would have spent ignoring me due to the large gap… which I know realize is the same gap between me and some of the younger students at New Hampton. (If that doesn’t help me feel too old for high school than maybe students telling me I look 30 years old everyday will)
Whether we were driving to Montreal, Boston or visiting relatives 5 states away, my mother never seemed to have a firm plan, but I’d like to think that was her plan. She gave us control of stopping whenever we wanted, taking a highway or rural road that might take us hours or days out of the way. Like on our way to Barrie, Ontario one year we went to a rodeo just because we saw a sign for it. Thank god it was only 4 hours out of the way. It added one day to our trip. It didn’t matter though. As long as we were home for New Year’s Eve, it never mattered.
We went where the road took us, stopping to see the proverbial big balls of yarn, countless museums, and numerous ma and pa shops. There was so much time spent in the car, trying to find the ‘Q’ in the alphabet game, or out of the car, stopping at farms, factories, and an array of other places. But the places we went weren't what mattered. The ability for us to spend time together as a real family for just a mere fraction of the year. Or the stories that I know, so when my kids ask me what my mom was like, my response doesn’t have to just be, “she worked a lot.” My mom helped me to realize that everyone creates their own path, that destinations change, and that as long as you have someone in the car with you, how you get there can be part of any adventure. Whether that lesson was on her agenda or not, this lesson affects me every single day of my life.
Those trips weren’t meant to be photo albums to someday share at a Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws. They were my childhood. It was that trip once a year, just a few days in the car, that allowed my mom to be the role model that she wasn’t able to be the other days of the year.