The car rides of life

Over the Fourth of July weekend I drove from Avoca to Forest Lake and back with my sons Nick and Matt and Nick’s girlfriend Jess in the car. Other than a few heated discussions regarding the merits of one band over another, everyone got along quite nicely on the long drive there and back.

I had to listen to some weird music, and I think for awhile we were that annoying thumpy car that drives by causing shockwaves in the air, but other than that, things were great.

Quite a change from some of our car trips of the past.

My daughter Maggie called me a few weeks ago after getting in an argument with her brother (keep in mind, we’re talking about people who are 20 and 25 years old) and was relating in great detail why she was mad at him. Finally, I told her, “I feel like I’m on a never-ending car trip and you two are still in the back yelling, ‘He’s touching me!’”

We’ve taken some very memorable car trips over the years with kids in the back. Maggie was a seasoned traveler, and handled trips from one naval base to another with little fuss. Of course, we’ll always have the memorable experience of driving through Chicago traffic at 2 a.m. while my husband sang along with a Barney the Dinosaur cassette to keep the 2-year-old happy.

“Down on Grandpa’s farm there is a great big pig!”

There was also a trip from Pensacola, Fla. to the Twin Cities that involved a flat tire in Paducah, Ken. at about 10 p.m. on a Friday night. We had a 5-year-old and a 9-month old. Poor baby Nick liked to sleep on his belly, so when he started getting sleepy he tried to roll over and would get stopped by the straps of his car seat. Isn’t amazing how someone that small can make such a loud noise? He would bellow, and Maggie would try to sooth him. Then the tire blew, and while Eric was taking everything out of the trunk to change the tire, I took the baby out of his car seat and laid him on my chest. He fell asleep in an instant and was later transferred successfully back to his seat.

On a trip from Forest Lake to North Chicago, Ill., Maggie and Nick were 6 and about a year, respectively, and sitting sideways in jump seats of a small pickup. Nick had crackers to munch, and Maggie stuck her tongue out at him. He retaliated by going “Pppthth” back at her, sticking his tongue out and blowing gooey crumbs all over. They spit back and forth for about half an hour. Upon our arrival, the back of the truck was pretty disgusting. But at least it had kept them occupied.

When both boys were in car seats, Maggie had to sit between them in about 10 inches of space and was often given the chore of returning all the toys they flung at each other, handing out crackers or pretzels, and generally trying to keep the little beasts amused. She was very happy when we bought our first minivan.

Then everyone got older, and the war of the headphones began. Everyone had an MP3 player, but if it was turned up to loud we could hear the tinny noise coming from the headphones. We’d tell one kid to turn it down, but then another kid would turn theirs up to drown out other noises. Pretty soon, all we could hear was weird sounds as three different kinds of tinny music noises blended together.

My husband and I had to make a trip to the cities recently and we were both amazed how quiet and peaceful the drive was. We listened to whatever music we wanted, chatted about nothing and didn’t need a cooler full of snacks and drinks for a four hour trip.

Just another advantage to getting older, I guess.