Last week my dear Aunt Bun passed away after 83 wonderful, full years on this earth. She was my dad's last surviving sibling, a woman he often said reminded him of me (so naturally she was an awesome lady...total bad-ass). So when he asked me to come to her funeral, of course I said yes.
In preparation for the trip, my dad purchased a new car, as he was unsure if his 1993 powder blue Grand Marquis would make it all the way from Florida to Kentucky. And while I can't imagine being on a road trip with my parents without the undercurrent of fear that we are going to break down on the side of some back-road, possibly during a rain storm, a trail of sopping wet clothes in our wake because one of the clothing-filled garbage bags affixed to the roof-rack blew off somewhere between Philly and Dover, I definitely appreciated that that fear was not going to be a factor this trip.
My parents pulled up in a 2003 white Grand Marquis (side note: instead of people avoiding my father because of the Old-Man-Behind-The-Wheel factor, they would be avoiding my father because of the Is-It-Or-Isn't-It-A-Cop-Car factor). We loaded up the nine-thousand pieces of luggage and accessories necessary of any trip with two young children in tow, and we were off.
There I was, crammed in the back seat of my dad's behemoth of a car, trying to ignore the whining and bickering going on around me as my dad abandoned the familiar and predictable interstate system for a series of back roads through one-stoplight towns with names like Huzlehurst and Jesup, and suddenly I was fourteen again.
It wasn't a bad feeling, really. I remembered a simpler time when I could just look out the window, stick on a pair of headphones, and escape to the eclectic soundtrack of Enya, Zeppelin, and Simon and Garfunkle. I remembered often being forced to sit in the middle, over the 'hump' because my legs were the shortest, or being exiled to the waaaay back seat of the old station wagons (when they faced backwards and you had to stare at the cars behind you and make faces at the people inside until they got so annoyed they gunned their engines and blew past you, sometimes offering a one-fingered salute in retaliation). I remembered being young and free, with hours and hours....and hours...to devout to thinking deep, adolescent thoughts, the majority of which revolved around whether or not Michael Haren from my 8th period PE class liked me (side note: he didn't).
Instead I spent the majority of the trip trying to keep both children from having a total nuclear meltdown. How did I do it, you ask? Dum Dums. Lots and lots of Dum Dums. God bless the Spangler Candy Company. I cannot tell you how many times I was certain one or both of my children was This Close to just compleeetly losing their minds, and I reached into my purse and produced a hard little nugget of deliciousness on a stick, and all was right with the world.
Milkshakes also helped. A few times there, Rollie's sanity was hanging by the thread of hope that somewhere on the horizon was a McDonald's, the beautiful golden arches rising in the distance like a beautiful, butt-shaped beacon. The small, strawberry milkshakes had happiness and harmony reining supreme for hours in the car. Sure the kids were sticky, disgusting messes by the time we actually got to Atlanta (our overnight waypoint), sure Elsa's pants were ruined, Rollie was constipated for a few days, and the sickening smell of over-sweet strawberries permeated everything within a ten-foot radius of the car.....neither kid shed a tear while sucking down Ronald's creamy delights.
Oh yeah, and that picture is of my dad getting a kick out of some creative vandals at a Georgia gas station. Yes, Dad...you are Pimp #1!