East coast to west, northern lakes to southern shores, our family has enjoyed a number of memorable vacation road trips. You would think extensive trips with nine children would result in flared tempers, chaotic messes, unexpected stops and sleepless nights. They do. They also result in a renewed respect for God’s creation, new insights into your children’s personalities and a priceless wealth of family stories. Surprisingly we discovered better behavior from the children on long trips compared to the shorter ones around town. Being better prepared, armed with distractions for the miles of course made the biggest difference. But expectations differed from the start. Anticipation of the trip also helped. “Hurray, hurray, today’s the day,” declared the final countdown card posted in the kitchen. Excitement equal to Christmas pervaded the house the morning we removed it. By 5 a.m. we were on the road from Hales Corners WI to Northport FL. (If you’re counting the children in the picture, yes we are one short of nine. This was Easter, the last arrived in time for Christmas.)
Parental preservation dictated travel ground rules.
Eating occurs only in the vehicle. Exercise when we stop.
Potty stops every 3 hours. Everyone goes.
Dad takes the boys to the men’s room, Mom gets the girls. With a child ratio of 7 boys to 2 girls, Mom tended to gloat.
Seating arrangements shift with every 3 hour stop. This was subject to overrule if the children were content as they were.
Regulation check under and around the van by each passenger after getting out and before getting in.
Mandatory answer to roll call. We never left a child behind.
Wow, that is a lengthy list. The children will undoubtedly point out a few which got missed. We also developed some interesting travel traditions. One was the candy bag. A variety Tootsie Roll bag was standard equipment. Every toll booth sent pieces of candy flying to the back seats. The children expected them. When tolls were not demanded, pieces of candy flew at random. A mad scramble ensued and trading occurred.
For those not prone to car sickness, reading occupied the miles. Later books on tape held everyone’s attention. Occasionally some one would read aloud. We passed the uninspiring landscape of Nevada to Matthew’s well read Harry Potter. The electronic Walkman enabled individuals to listen to their own kind of music. It exempted them from the series of Wee Sing Bible Songs and ILC Tour Choir tapes from the front.
Our family’s full size vans gave way to a mini-van. Just this spring we replaced it with a sub-compact. A Honda “Fit” for two. We feel rather light and carefree driving it. While it is large enough for camping gear for two, we have let it be known we will no longer carry extra items. We will plan and pack with unaccustomed ease, even gloat slightly because we can. But no matter how small the car, what little is placed inside, every road trip will be crammed with those priceless memories of those taken in the family van. (Yeah, the last sentence is a little lame. It’s rather difficult to exit gracefully through a veil of memory-sick tears.)
“And sometimes I think about a one-and-a-half-year old child with its baby teeth still coming in, whose days on this earth were so very, very few.” (National Geographic, July 1988, page 53) The author of the article, haunted by that scene as he unearthed the remains of a 4th century town on the Island of..Read More ›
We spent a half week with all nine of the children and the twelve grandchildren. The occasion was our son’s wedding. Tears threatened when the boys, now men, stood as groomsmen for their brother. The struggle of our grandson to stay awake and the relaxed attitude in one of the boy’s suits served to prevent..Read More ›