Growing up with teacher parents definitely had its challenges. We couldn’t get away with much, because our mom and dad were too familiar with the manipulative minds of children and adolescents. Our grammar was always expected to be correct, we had to bring home report cards with all A’s, and may we die a thousand deaths if we dared to disrespect one of our teachers.
That said, having teacher parents had its kicks. Our parents were always home in time to cook and eat dinner with us. They were ever ready and willing to help with homework. Most importantly, they got summers off, which meant we had the freedom of three months of adventuring together.
I recognize that family trips with one’s parents could be an event of nightmarish proportions. Yet, traveling with Mom and Dad and my sister over summer break is one of the best memories I have of my youth. Even when we got to be intensely grouchy teenagers, we still had fun.
We would head to the nearest AAA office and load up on Triptiks, which Mom would study intensely for weeks. Even when we were little, she would consult with us over the dinner table, and make notes in the margins of the book, so we were all in consensus about where we wanted to go and what we wanted to do. It was all rather democratic. Except when we wanted to play at a water park and she wanted to visit historical sites. Then her vote carried slightly more weight.
Mom would start packing the week before, folding clothes neatly into zip up garment bags to keep her suitcase neat and tidy. She would lay out all of her toiletries and arrange them in separate ziplock bags by category: hair products, dental care, makeup. Dad typically threw a handful of shirts and shorts in a pile in his suitcase the morning of our trip. If Mom wasn’t looking, he would pack about two changes of clothes for a month long trip and just wear the same thing every other day. Mom got so irritated she started packing his suitcase as well.
When the big day of departure arrived, we would load up the 1987 Plymouth Voyager, slug the sliding door closed with a satisfying bang, and back up out of the driveway to see the world. Back in the dark ages, before minivans had built in DVDs and every kid had their own iPad, my sister and I actually played games together. We talked, made up stories, and read books. When we got bored, we tormented my father as he drove by messing with his hair until he “Jeeeezus Chrrrrist”ed enough that my mom would tell us to knock it off.
The most memorable summer road trip took us all the way to the West Coast and back. We spent six weeks traveling across the U.S., stopping in the most random and wonderful places along the way, from the majesty of Mt. Rushmore, the Grand Tetons, and the Redwoods to the bizarre kitschiness of Dollywood, Wall Drug and the Corn Palace. We saw aging hippies and heroin addicts in San Francisco, cowboys and Indians in Wyoming, adrenaline junkie rock climbers at Devil’s Tower, and Mormon choir singers in Salt Lake City. We witnessed the most amazing diversity of faces and voices from across the country. We visited family members, friends, and even former students. They welcomed us into their homes with open arms, warm smiles, and tables full of food.
It’s amazing to look back and consider why these trips were so incredible. We weren’t going to some fancy all-inclusive resorts. We were all trapped together in a car for 8-10 hours a day, sleeping in whatever motels had vacancy in whatever town we landed. We never had alone time, doing everything together as a family unit. Yet we never got bored, we didn’t get into any (major) fights, and we kept agreeing to all go on road trips the next summer. Those adventures were one of the highlights of our family existence.