After a three day road trip, we have made it to Santa Fe. And I have to say, it was rather nice- long, but nice. Even the children enjoyed it. As we pulled onto Highway 285, one hour from my mother’s house, after three days of driving, Ray said “That seemed like 10 minutes, Mommy!” While I can’t say that 1700 miles, 28 hours of driving, 3 days, and two motel’s worth of driving seemed like 10 minutes, it also was a nice way to get into a bubble and just drive.
James and I have taken our children on numerous cross-country trips. Almost every summer, we have driven to Santa Fe from the East Coast. When James was doing consulting in California, he drove the children to the West Coast when he went to settle in. We’ve driven up and down the East Coast. We put over 100,000 miles on one car in 3 years. And we pride ourselves that the children do not use a DVD player or any electronic games to entertain themselves.
When James is driving, I read to the children. We recently read “Harriet the Spy” and “Percy Jackson” on our treks this past year. Because I was doing the driving this time, I brought them books, and coloring books and crafts. As a result of this trip, Elizabeth made seven potholders and Ray read “The Cay”. We play a game where we each take turns picking a song from my Iphone and we all sing it loudly. This trip will be indelibly connected to “Say Hey, I Love You” by Michael Franti for all of us. We talk. We make up stories. We learn about time zones. We practice multiplication tables. We swim in motel pools. We eat bad food and we laugh. There are no deadlines, no work, no pressures, no autism, no Tourette’s, and no one else. There’s just Mama and Elizabeth and Ray- and Bailey Dog- barrelling on down the road.
Even our pets are good travelers. Dog Bailey found her spot on the passenger seat floorboard, and other than a pained look when we hit the bad roads of Oklahoma and when the “Bam” from “Smooth Criminal” would be too loud, she was a trooper. She pottied when we stopped, she settled down in the motels. The children laughed and laughed when she got unhappy at the bouncy roads and we were off with a story about the “report” that Bailey would like to make.
We watched the coastal plains of GA give way to the rolling hills of the Ozarks to the flatness of the Great Plains to the mesas of New Mexico. We saw the transitions, the road bumps and the accents shift. We learned that while most people may live in cities, there is an awful lot of vast space in this country of ours.
And this enjoyment- this relaxation- this not-having-anywhere-to-be feeling meant that although we were tired when we arrived, it didn’t feel like the stress when we fly. We were rested, adjusted and we had the context of the place by the time we got here.
Driving is a bit like understanding a situation, a person, a place. Driving is comprehension. Flying- flying is like living with labels. JAX to LAX. DAL to SDF. ADHD to LD. Autism and Tourettes. The labels tell you where you are, but not how you got there.
We had the treat of getting there, of knowing. And the children’s understanding of Alabama, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico is so much richer as a result. I wish that professionals- doctors and teachers and therapists could also understand the importance of the context, the way. Sometimes, it’s not the destination; sometimes it’s the road you travel.
And I hope that I can always remember the value of the trip together.