Thankfully the car’s air-conditioning was fixed at the beginning of the summer because tomorrow—road trip!
My sister, Karen, and I are taking our mum to visit her friend Kath. They’ve known each other for over fifty years, since before we emigrated from England. Besides the fact that Karen and I also want to visit her, our mum can’t drive herself anymore. She needs some assistance when travelling.
So, it’s a road trip!
Just those two words conjure up feelings of anticipation and excitement. My mind goes into full-gear.
What shall I wear?
Hmm, the weather man says “clouds, with some sun and chance of rain”.
I’ll need maps.
We’ll pack a lunch to eat on the road.
Where should we stop for supper?
When we were kids we went to Aunty Kath’s for many holidays—Christmas, Easter, summer. Her husband, Uncle Jim, was a minister and so church holidays were busy times for him, not so easy for them to come to visit us.
Preparations for our trips started days, if not weeks before. Mum would bake so we could contribute to the meals—cakes, pies, squares. I would have to go to the library and get some books to read—in the car and while we were there. It was a chance for me to indulge in my favourite past-time and I must be prepared! Then there were all the decisions about clothes and toys and if the car would make the journey there—and back!
Excitement would be at a fever pitch on our travel day. Dad and Mum would get up while it was still dark and pack the car. Dad would start up the car so it would be nice and warm for us. Mum would set up the back seat as a bed. Yes, it was before seatbelts! Dad would carry us, ever so gently, and place us in the back seat and pulling the blankets over us. It wasn’t long before the back seat was a mess of pyjamas, blankets, pillows and feet. Half an hour later the questions would begin. “How long before we get there?” “Are we there yet”?
Aunty Kath, Uncle Jim and their two kids, Nicki and Peter would give us a grand welcome when we arrived. Hugs, kisses. “We’re so glad you’re here!”
Doing dishes with Aunty Kath was something I looked forward to—we had such great conversations. She always treated me as an “equal” and never “just a child”.
Uncle Jim was in and out with the irregularity of his position as minister to his flock and counsellor to every one else. He conducted the high school band. He could “hum” like a trumpet. And his eyes nearly always danced.
Happy memories include bats in the belfry—yes, really! Smoke and fire in the chimney…on Christmas Day! I kid you not! Cheesecake on the floor, the best raspberry pie ever and lumpy gravy. Daily walks to the grocery store. And wonderful times at the rented summer cottage—puzzles and boat rides, sticky Chelsea buns and water skiing, new friends and old, sun and rain, singing, laughing and playing, walks on the beach and rides in the car.
I loved spending time with them. It felt like home. They felt like family. We were loved well.
I’ll think of all these things tomorrow as I pack my overnight bag and drive to pick up my sister and our mum. I’ll wipe away tears as I do now. I’ll remember what was as I help my mum down the stairs and answer her question “what day is it?” at least three times on the way to the car.
We’ll try to be patient when the questions begin. “How long will it take to get there?” “How long are we staying?” “When are we going home?” again and again and…
Karen and I will smile at each other when she asks “are we there yet?”
You see, we are sisters. We share these same memories—good memories, happy memories. The kind that stay with you. Even when the people in the memories begin to fade. Even when old age grasps them tight. Even when dementia infiltrates into the family…
And you know what? I think I’ll put a pillow and blankets in the back seat – just for old time’s sake.
Let’s journey together…