Friday, August 26, 2011

The Long and Winding Road

Janet here:

I had meant to write something about cooking for my youngest on the night before he heads back to college, but the reality is I got home late and didn't really make that interesting a meal. Besides, it's not what grabbing me. Instead, I find myself thinking of road trips.

If you read this on Friday, I will be wending my way slowly southward to drop off S for his sophomore year in college. We'll be taking our time on the drive down, making our way first to Pennsylvania and then into West Virginia before eventually, after a few days landing in North Carolina where we will drop him off and begin the loooonnnnggg, definitely not leisurely, drive back to work and our emptying nest.

The trip reminds me a little of the trip S and I took alone the summer he was 14. He was supposed to accompany his father driving his older brother G back to Indiana for college. At the last minute, plans changed, G flew and S, whose family nickname is Rand McNally, was more than a little disappointed. "But now I don't get my road trip!" he complained.

I told him I'd take him on a road trip for a week but I had one criteria: We had to do more than just drive, i.e. we needed some destinations, and we had to make a part of the trip be in Amish country in Pennsylvania. By the time I came home from work that day, S had a 60-page triptik outlining our trip day by day. We would start with lunch in Scranton (We are both The Office fans), spend the night and part of the day in Lancaster, and head to Baltimore where he wanted to see the aquarium. From there, we went to Virginia to Mount Vernon and Monticello and the Blue Ridge Highway, and we ended in Norfolk, VA for a little beach time after an unexpected but fabulous side trip to Antietam because we were both enthralled after visiting a teeny Civil War museum in Baltimore about Maryland's role in the war.

We ate some kind of crab every day and kept a journal where we each wrote something about the day every night. Throughout, I drove and S navigated. I literally did not look at a map once (This was before smart phones and we didn't have a GPS). S just told me where and when to turn.

It was the beginning of the switching of our roles, although I didn't realize it then. I rarely get a chance to tell him where to turn and when I do, he often turns the opposite way. At the time, I just reveled in the fact that this new teenager was willing and indeed interested in spending time with me on the road. He didn't put on his headphones once. It was a trip that absolutely changed our relationship.

This time around, the car will likely be quieter and S will be looking forward to leaving us at the end. The summer was good but now he's eager to get back to his friends and to be the captain of his own destiny and days.

It is the right way to go — we are both more than ready on so many levels — and so I will enjoy this short road trip, knowing that the days of traveling together are coming to a close.

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