Memories of a Road Trip

Memories of a Road Trip

I’ve been extremely fortunate to have experienced quite a few memorable road trips in my lifetime. I’ve driven from Massachusetts to Virginia, Washington, DC, Michigan, Pennsylvania, all over New England, and as far as Tampa, Florida. And with the exception of numerous trips between Massachusetts and Pennysylvania, I always had travel mates.

I traveled alone with the ex and we had a lot of good times, but far too many negative ones to offset the happy memories. I also found that traveling with him and my kids was never a guarantee of warm and fuzzy family moments. When the ex was around, we might have played a game, like listing all the different state license plates we’d see on the road, But the underlying dread of him flying off the handle with my kids in the car was always lurking.

I traveled a lot with my daughter, just the two of us. We went to the Junior Olympics in Detroit and Virginia Beach, among other places. Those were SUCH FUN times because we laughed and sang and talked about everything under the sun, including her future, a place where I expected to be. I miss those days so much.

But I heard a song the other day that triggered a memory of my favorite road trip. My extended family, about 23 of us, went on a family vacation to Tampa, FL, specifically St. Pete Beach. At the time, I was so terrified of flying that I refused to get on a plane. My ex, not wanting to spend the money on flights, agreed to drive with me and our kids from Massachusetts to Florida and meet everyone at the beach.

But you’re probably thinking, “Wait a second, didn’t you just say you never really liked to travel with your ex?”. YES, I did. As much as I was looking forward to leaving mid-February Massachusetts to have good times on a sunny beach in Florida with my family, I was definitely not excited about the prospect of spending days in a car with my volatile ex-husband and two kids who might set him off.

But I had a quick attitude adjustment when my sister told me she too wanted to drive to Florida, with her daughter, while her husband and boys flew. We made plans to meet somewhere off Route 495 and drive in two cars, rotating between three drivers and with three kids in toe.

During our two-day road trip, it seemed that my sister and I couldn’t help arranging things so we spent most of our time in one car, usually with all three kids, and left my ex-husband to drive alone in the other car. I remember my sister teaching us how to use sign language to indicate to the other driver when we needed to make a bathroom stop (pre-texting days), telling us to hold our feet up from the car floor when we went over a bridge so we wouldn’t be cursed (an impossible feat while crossing the Tappan Zee) and sharing the fun music that she was into. And I remember laughing.

One of the most treasured moments of my life was playing the soundtrack of Les Miserable at full volume as we drove down Route 95. While my ex raced past us with an angry glare on his face, we were singing One Day More, my sister, the three kids, and myself all on different parts (I was Eponine). We were singing with such glee and laughing and simply enjoying that moment in time that our eyes all sparkled as the joy radiated around our little metal capsule.

And then there was the moment when, after passing the umpteenth dead dog on the side of a Florida highway, we burst into song about it. “Dead dog lying in the middle of the road…Squished real flat like a big ole toad.”

Okay, maybe you had to be there, but I was, my sister was and our kids were. We laughed so hard and made up so many verses, yet I still remember every word. On the way home, we sang the Dead Dog song with the appropriate accent for the state we were driving through. New York…I am still laughing. I don’t know if my sister remembers that much detail, but it’s forever etched in my memory.

We had a great time on the beach that week. I wish my dad was still here, I wish my brother-in-law was still here, I wish I could have the innocence of those times with my parents and siblings and kids back again. Some memories are worth cherishing. And unlike a photo album, baby book, antique piece of furniture or souvenir, no one can take them from me.

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