I was born into a family that utterly lacks the map gene. There isn't one of us with an innate
sense of north versus south or even a passable facility with an atlas. Instead we ask for
directions constantly, arrive late as a way of life, and discuss purchasing car GPS systems
that tell you exactly where to go (I want one!).
In my own case, I conveniently married a man who, as far as
I can tell, has the world's greatest navigational skills.
Not only that: ever since I accidentally steered his
secondhand Honda over a curb on our third date, Ted has
generally been willing to do all the driving. In return,
it's my job to keep the beasts in the backseat happy and to
provide food and games for all.
Back in the days of leaky sippy cups and stops for diaper
changes, I can't say our car time ever qualified as a
vacation. But now that our children, Asa and Nell, are 11
and 9, I actually welcome a long stretch on the road with
them. When else do we all sit together for hours and hours,
playing the same silly games we always have, devouring
snacks out of Baggies, fiddling with Ted's iPod, and
nodding off whenever we like?
In my decade as rolling entertainment director, I've
discovered that our kids feel little need for me to vary
the routine. And so our oddball traditions rule: We nibble
continually, alternating between the surpassingly sweet and
the somewhat nutritious. For the latter category, I
recommend a visit to the supermarket sushi counter for
edamame in the pod, California rolls, and, if your grocery
happens to have an Asian bent, teriyaki-flavored nori
(roasted seaweed strips, which my kids munch like chips).
As we go, the gravelly voice coming out of our car speakers is almost certainly E. B. White's,
reading Charlotte's Web. Our driver, you see, finds audiobooks headache-inducing,
with this one flawless exception. While White reads, we mouth the sentences with him. (Download
the book at Audible.com, and you may
never need another.)
At least once every road trip, I attempt my own School of
Rock session, blasting the Rolling Stones, Jonathan
Richman, the B-52's, and Johnny Cash until both kids scream
for silence. Inevitably, the Game Boys get pulled out, as
do other travel toys. We also play the alphabet game, a race to spot
all the letters in order from A to Z outside the car
windows. It's dizzyingly fast, until you hit J, Q, and X.
Then we move on to Name That Tune, which, we long ago
discovered, even pre-verbal people love.
We have yet to succumb to a car DVD player or even
headphones. I'm sure that's all around the next bend. Don't
ask me exactly where we're going; I'm just glad we're not
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