Beach musts include reading-sunglasses, a classic, a book about the power of books, a map, and sunscreen. Alas, they remain on the dining room table.
For the past 15 years, we’ve embarked on family road trips each summer, most of them two weeks long. To anyone who asked What on earth are you thinking? as we packed three young children for a cross-country ride in the closed quarters of a minivan, I would answer that we wouldn’t have it any other way.
I always say that the trips are akin to childbirth. Messy and loud and sometimes painful, but our memories are filled (mostly) with the good parts. Otherwise, we would have gone only the first time.
My husband and I both like to travel and explore, and we are always looking for a change of scenery. We wanted our boys to catch the same adventure bug. We believed that by exposing them to history and culture, to new places and experiences, we would open their minds and instill in them a sense of curiosity. Plus, we knew this would give them plenty of fun, crazy, and meaningful childhood memories, even if they kvetched at (many) points along the highway.
We were also aware from the outset that this wouldn’t be a forever thing, that the boys would one day outgrow road trips with their parents, or they’d simply be too busy doing something else. We did a headcount before pulling out of the driveway each summer, astounded and grateful that everyone was still in the car. In fact, we kept going even after our first minivan gave out.
Last year, one son was already in college and another was working at a sleepaway camp. To our delight, we managed an abridged road trip anyway, carving out a block of time when everyone could participate despite their not-so-overlapping schedules. But this year, planning things got tricky. While we usually have our destination chosen by winter, the Triptik from AAA in hand months in advance, and the hotels booked not long after, we had nothing set until a few weeks ago.
The participants were all moving parts even then. We were now up to a college student and another on his way to a gap year in Israel. The odds weren’t in our favor. It was likely that at least one of the boys wouldn’t be able to join us. We were sad, but prepared, figuring we’d best get used to it. Yet, to our shock, we still found a few days when we could all head up north to the beaches in New England.
Days before our planned departure, the older two – the ones I thought were most likely to bail – were signed on. My husband had booked rooms, mapped our route, and found interesting stops along the way. Meanwhile, I’d begun to think about what to pack for our meals when I realized there was no way I’d be able to sit for that long of a ride in the car. Unfortunately, that recovered I’m not.
My husband and I were back and forth about whether they should go without me, but I insisted. I didn’t want to break tradition. They all needed the R & R, the worry-free hours of lazing on the beach with the ocean in front of them. Besides, if they stayed home, they’d just spend the week of vacation on their phones. Better they get some non-digital fresh air.
Once I announced I wouldn’t be going, my youngest asked if he could stay home, too. It was, in part, a statement of solidarity with me. But he’s also got a lot of summer work to do and the clock is ticking. We agreed. The two of us have been toiling away at our various projects, including some adventures in the kitchen. I wouldn’t call it a vacation, but we’re enjoying one another’s company.
Am I disappointed we’re not altogether on the open road? I’d be lying if I said no. And while it would be incorrect to say there was no Ukraincik road trip this summer, it wouldn’t be completely accurate either. It hasn’t been the same for any of us. Then again, life is all about making plans and watching them change, then letting go. G-d willing, we’ll make plans again next summer. Who knows? Perhaps the stars will align and we’ll all be able to go.