Friday, September 26, 2008

road trips + siblings = the best of times/the worst of times

the ruff family went on lots of road trips growing up...from pennsylvania to maine, from california to pennsylvania; we criss crossed the country going north and south, east and west. today i was reminded of all of the glories and headaches of driving long distances with siblings, when matt and i drove with our friends and their 4 year old twins up the california coast. we were in the car probably only 4 hours total, but suddenly i remembered...
  • sitting on the vinyl bench seat in the back of our ford fairmont, sans air conditioning and driving over thousands of miles of freeway. since we mostly drove in the summer, my legs stuck to the sticky seats countless times, embossing the seat's braid pattern onto the backs of my thighs. i can still remember that yellow ochre vinyl as if i just drove in that car this afternoon.
  • staying up late, talking to my dad while the rest of the car, all of my siblings, plus my mom, slept. once, in ohio, as everyone slept, my mom sat to my right, her jaw dropped open and sound asleep, and my dad sat to my left, driving the car. the two of us had an extremely serious conversation about what i wanted for my twelfth birthday. (some things never change: i think i probably detailed my entire vision for bday # 12 for hours. my dad must have been very patient) one of my wishes was 12 horses, naturally. because why not ask for 12 when you don't even have one. or know how to ride a horse, for that matter. anyway, my dad asked me what qualities i wanted these horses to possess, and apparently i had high hopes for them, as my dad made up a little song just for me and one of my horses. he named one of the horses "oh my" and as we drove past miles of cornfields he sang, "oh my, oh my, oh my, oh my, the singing, swimming horse." sadly, my dream of twelve horses never came true, but it lives on in the oh my melody.
  • driving late at night, and arriving at a hotel when it had been dark for hours, only for my dad to get back in the car and say, "sorry kids, we've got to keep driving" so that we'd end up at a hotel with a pool. (we kids required a pool at whatever hotel/motel we stayed at- nothing more, nothing less.) then in the morning we would get a late start- i always thought that it was a completely selfless act on the part of my parents to let us swim all morning, but now that i am an adult and i recognize my dad's love of sleeping in and his tendency to take a while to get ready...i realize that maybe it wasn't 100% altruistic. who cares - we swam, he snoozed; everyone was happy.
  • sitting in the middle seat of the fairmont, with jonathan falling asleep on one of my shoulders and rebecca falling asleep on the other. (hmm. it seems a theme is that everyone else slept and i was somehow awake all the time.)
  • making up silly car songs with my siblings... um, "north american van lines, we do chicken right?" that's one line of a favorite ditty we invented- i have no idea what that song was about. uh, johnny? bec? any clue?
  • racing through parking lots to touch the car first and win shotgun. (so safe to dart about parking lots, i know.)
  • fighting over who sat where. and for how long. and making invisible boundary lines in the back seat, and then crossing them. and getting tired, and bored, and cranky. breaking up into sibling cliques for the day (you can do that with 4 kids, you know) and then switching to another favorite sibling the next morning.
  • listening to the only music we had in the car over and over: one summer it was the beach boys greatest hits- we listened to that tape on repeat all the way across the southern route of the u.s. i swear, still every time i think of the massively huge state of texas i start humming the tune to "california girls." one trip the soundtrack was mc hammer (awful, right?), and then there was the michael w. smith "go west young man" era. yikes. many more memories: all getting the flu in the middle of the midwest, then downing alka selzer in a random supermarket parking lot, the umpteen museums and national parks we went to, panning for gold, picking peas in ohio, dune buggies in michigan, stopping at dairy queen, going to theme restaurants, pulling over at hundreds of rest stops, staying at random people's houses, with cousins, aunts, uncles, and family friends... 

i'm sure i've forgotten most of the specifics, but i know that my parents loved to take us cool places, even if things didn't always go as planned. i also got to see most of this country by the time i was 12 years old, from big cities to little towns and from crappy amusement parks to cultural landmarks. that's a pretty amazing gift to give a child, even if i've forgotten most of the details.

thanks mom and dad. i'm glad you put up with all of our drama to take us on vacation. and thanks for having johnny, bec, and b. i would've been really bored in that back seat all by myself. 

long live the ford fairmont!


  1. I remember those 3 songs too! I think we listened to MWS in southern ca...I remember that for some reason. I loved beach boys for so long. Maybe that explains my tendency to listen to songs until I kill them to death with repetition. And the North american van lines song was after the moving company we used for our stuff. We'd count the N. A. Van line trucks we passed on the road, speculating if it was ours. i think the chiken part came from the fact that it was the KFC ditty, but I don't could have been dad's silliness too.

  2. Ha! We totally had the same Ford Fairmont wagon too! Too funny.



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