09 June, 2011

The final countdown

Back in the day, the days leading up to our family vacations to Texas were unbearable. We would pack our little suitcases days ahead and wonder why the hours dragged. Plus, not only did we have to wait and wait and WAIT, there was the thing that once we left we had two and a half very long, dull days driving across the boring interstate across some interminably long states.

First, you cut through a little corner of GA, to get to Tennessee, where inevitably we would sing The Chattanooga Choo-Choo, when we passed, you know, Chattanooga.. Lord, Tennessee is a long state if you have to drive it east to west. There is no end to Tennessee. Until there is and then you are in Arkansas. But first you probably stayed in a motel or campground in TN. The most exciting part about the TN/Arkansas border area is that my father would grandly announce that we were crossing "the mighty Mississippi." Which for a little kid is kind of a big whoop.

Lunch on these trips was usually Cokes and Nabs from a gas station. Dad never wanted to stop when anybody had to pee. I can remember crying I had to go so bad, and then Mom usually made him stop. Sometimes on the side of the highway. Yes indeed, I have dropped my pants and peed on the side of Rte. 40, many a time.

And we read books, and sang songs (O Come to the Church in the wild wood, come to the Church in the grove, no place is so dear to my childhood, as the little brown Church in the Grove). And we had coloring books, and my mother told stories, and inevitably there was a thunderstorm to drive through, which made our parents very cross and tense.

And Sister and I took turns lying down with our heads in each others laps, and then fighting because "she looked at me," and "well, she's touching MY side of the seat."

And Arkansas went on forever and ever Amen, until you hit Oklahoma, and blammo, you were in a country that started looking a lot different from the hilly greenness you were used to. Oklahoma is mostly flat. And brown. Or, for variety, flat and kind of tan. And Rte. 40 goes on and on, and on and on and on. But we usually stayed somewhere in OK overnight, and usually that somewhere in OK included a swimming pool, which was very good. And one tired parent got to go in the room and lie down, while the other tired parent had to supervise two children in the swimming pool. Two kids who had just finished two long days in the car, and who were sort of tired of each other, and tired of the car, and their parents, and just wanted to Be. In. Texas. Two kids who usually fought with each other until the parents got grouchy, and then the two kids were united against the grouches.

We usually stopped in Sayre, OK to at least say hello to some of the OK relatives, while they were still alive. Then back in the car that we were so tired of, and we drove like mad until we hit the border, where we usually sang some songs about Texas...The eyes of Texas are upon us, all the livelong day....and finally to Clarendon, where Viola Graham was sure to have a grand dinner for us, and we got to sit around listening to her tell stories of all her mad Barker sisters and peaceful brothers, and all the crazies on the Graham side. My Grandma Graham wasn't always nice to us, but I did like listening to her stories, and I loved how she'd play her piano or electric organ for us. And they would have everyone's favorite sodas purchased, and much candy and that long drive had been SO worth it.

This trip, we'll be flying to CO to meet up with my family: my parents the traveling retirees, my mad sister and her peaceful husband, and Thing One and Thing Two, who are becoming funnier and more interesting as they grow older. And I'm sure sometimes I will ask myself "how is it that I am related to these people," and I bet they will be thinking the same things. And sometimes I will laugh and have fun with people who remember the old times.

I think I'm going to go downstairs and pack my little suitcase and give my Mom a call and see what her memories of those trips are.

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