by Tricia Gillespie
My brother and I eagerly climbed up into the back of our 1977 burgundy Oldsmobile Station Wagon. Because vacations of my childhood always began in the pre-twilight hours when most of the world was tucked into their beds, my parents folded down the back seat, giving us a queen size snooze through New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. We never closed our eyes; surprises awaited us, every mile a new adventure to discover. My mother packed everything we owned. At seven years old, I heard the kitchen sink cursed more than once; however, packing forty-two bags, a grill, an adult size cooler, two children and the kitchen sink was acceptable. Wagons could hold anything a family packed, even my four-foot Raggedy Ann.
My brother and I pumped our little arms, begging every tractor trailer to blow his horn; we wiled away hours sticking out our tongues and contorting our faces at the people traveling behind us. We flipped shutters closed in race to win travel Bingo, and we asked the four words that make every parent want to eat their young - “Are we there yet?”
Today I don’t have a station wagon for my children to lounge in. My youngest gets buckled into a harness that would make Houdini sweat, while my oldest buckles up for safety, his booster seat propping him high in the air. My children don’t play travel Bingo; instead Disney entertains them for hours at a time. After all, portable DVD players are an investment in a mobile child’s future. Even though we bring only the necessities and leave the kitchen sink at home where it belongs, the adventure is the same and surprises never disappoint.
Finding clean bathrooms for a little potty training girl is like finding a good sale on designer shoes. They are far and few between. When my daughter was two, we traveled from Maine to Florida and back. Every time she had to go potty, my husband would pull over; I’d run out and inspect bathrooms, retaining the power to veto a rest-stop.
This day, we were on our third bathroom inspection. I knew I must accept the fact that clean is subjective. So I pulled out baby wipes, paper towels, and anti-bacterial soap, cleaning the toilet for my daughter. I was proud she did so well potty-training on the road.
Now it’s never easy for moms to relieve themselves. By the time you squeeze into a two foot-by-two foot cubicle with a small child, a traveling nursery conveniently named diaper bag, and a purse, there’s no room to unbuckle your belt, much less squat over a toilet. Thankful the bathroom was empty of people, I stood my little baby girl in my line of vision, right next to the sink across from my stall. I held her little hands by her side and warned her not to ‘touch’ anything or else she would surely end up sick. Since I'm a bit of a hypochondriac, translate 'sick', in the ICU with doctor’s scrambling to call the Center for Disease Control.
Never taking my eyes off my daughter, I set about doing my business. After four cups of coffee and a Diet Coke, it was a relief. Mid-stream I watched my daughter turn her little head to the nasty sink, open her mouth, stick out her tongue and lap the side of the public rest-stop bathroom sink from bottom to top.
If a woman could die a thousand deaths while squatting over a toilet, I died every one of them.
My daughter is nine now. She didn’t contract any non-curable diseases from her sink lick, but my breath still catches and my heart gives a little flutter every time my husband suggests a road trip. Like my mom, I wish I could pack the kitchen sink. At least I’d know it was clean when my daughter decided to lick it.
Station wagons have been replaced with SUV’s and Bingo has given way to television, but some things will never change about road trips. I’m still the one asking “Are we there yet?”
Tricia Gillespie, wife and mother, is finding her happy moonlighting as a freelance writer and blogger. She lives on the domestic fringe in denial of her actual age, avidly avoiding scales, and eating too many M&M’s. She desperately hopes another road trip is in her near future!