UNLIKE MY FRIENDS who went to dude ranches or cottages every summer, my family cut through large swaths of the United States in our big blue beast of a Dodge conversion van. The mission of our summer vacations was not to relax.
The mission was to see all. the. things.
We’d squeal up to all points of interest with the kind of urgency you’d expect from a game show contestant frantically grabbing $100 bills blowing in the air.
My parents would drive day and night to get to whatever part of the country we were exploring. We’d find a hotel. My parents would sleep while my brother and I ran around the hotel like feral children, pumping quarters into arcade games, swimming without supervision, and breaking into ballrooms. Later, we’d climb back in the van, and drive someplace with a view, like, say, the Grand Canyon. We’d stand in awed silence at its edge, contemplating its impossible vastness and beauty for about ten seconds before my dad barked, “OK everybody. Back in the van.”
This went on for weeks.
Health and safety were important to my parents so upon the purchase of any car, they immediately tucked those bulky and dangerous seatbelts in between the seats so we didn’t get burned by the scorching-hot metal clips. Without those pesky seatbelts, we could recline fully on the van’s bench seats. I slept through 85 percent of our family vacations, only lifting my head when my parents shouted, “Look! There’s the Rocky Mountains!” or “Wake up! We’re at the L.L. Bean outlet!”
I saw most of the United States from the back of the big blue beastly van barring Washington D.C. (“too many crooks,” my dad said) and Florida (“too many tourists”).
During the Carter administration, my parents had a second gas tank installed on the big blue beast so we could drive a zillion miles without stopping for gas. This meant one bathroom break every zillion miles. No chance my dad was about to stop for a bathroom break after he just overtook all those trucks on the highway. Instead, I was encouraged to use my very own empty glass peanut butter jar. I am not making this up. I bet today if I was in the backseat of a car flying 80 mph down a dusty highway, with a Willie Nelson 8-track tape playing at full volume, I could still maintain 100 percent accuracy using a peanut butter jar. Add this to the long list of skills I have that do not produce income.
I’ve heard it said that flying is the second greatest thrill known to man; landing is the first. Family vacations are similar. Vacations are wonderful, but coming home is like a religious experience. Our sunrises are breathtaking. Our trees are leafy. Our own beds are the best.
In the daily chaos of life, we forget how the ordinary act of coming home imprints on our souls and our kids’ souls. With each vacation that comes to an end, with each unloaded car, with each fridge that needs re-filling, and with every mega load of laundry that must be tackled, we reinforce just how safe it feels to come home.
This “coming home” feeling is born of blessings and full hearts.
Time marches on. In a blink, our kids go off to college and find jobs in other states. Those same kids will have their own families. Our days of exhausting, active parenting will fade. We will have done our job. And, with any luck, our kids will know wherever they are, wherever they go, they can always come back home.
T-Ann Pierce is a regular F&B contributor and confidence coach. She loves hearing from you. Be in touch! Drop her a line at [email protected] She’d love to hear your memories of coming home.