When I was a kid, my parents loaded us into the van, not bothering to strap us in, and motored from Columbus, Ohio west to Los Angeles. Our trips generally lasted 6 weeks and were punctuated with our westward visits to natural parks and kitschy destinations like Graceland and our northeastward stops in Yosemite. Other than a summer of swimming in my aunt’s pool in Simi Valley, those trips marked hours of boring stretches through flat countryside with my brother and I entertaining ourselves with fart jokes and coloring.
I hadn’t noticed the parallels between our journey and those I took each year until we were loaded in our Jucy campervan, overstuffed with food and clothing (I know I don’t need knee-high boots for camping, but I might want to wear them once, right?) and games to entertain my kiddos. The bright green and purple vehicle measures a tiny 7ft x 17ft, with a pop-up “Penthouse” with a double bed, and a folding couch that morphs into a bed. There’s a makeshift kitchen in the truck with a drawer fridge, a sink and two burners.
As my kids looked to me for ways to entertain them as we pulled out of the East Bay, I gazed outside. The bay had disappeared and the Sierra Foothills projected from the earth. This was always a spectacular sight, one my parents noted to me on our drives, and one that as a child I marveled at, then rolled my eyes, wanting to have someone ease the epic boredom.
My kids seemed to feel the same way. Big deal, their shrugs announced. And then they did say, “Can we finally watch a movie?” I measured the time of arrival against how soon they’d need to eat and relented, hoping to gather the beauty for myself instead of having to play host to their boredom.
They gave me about 15 miles before wanting me to sit in back and watch A Bug’s Life. Eddie was lost in a driving reverie, so I climbed back to cozy up with the boys, each leaning in close, Nikko twirling my hair, Kai holding my hand. My boys still want me close at all times. Something I know will end so much sooner than I want it to, though on those days of Mommymommymommymommymommymommymommy!!!!! I cannot wait until I can pee without needing to care for another human.
This trip is far from our last journey when our kids like us, but I am trying to nurture their desire for closeness, especially during this weird time or not having a place or city to call home.