On the Road: Traveling Tales

Traveling would be easier if you could send your house ahead of you and meet up with it when you arrived at your destination. The reunion would be sweet. All your stuff would remain how you always keep it, just in a new location. Crammed minivans, wrinkled clothes, and forgotten toothbrushes would be a thing of the past.

As a lover of all things neat and organized and structured, I'd enjoy this. Still, something valuable would be lost.

When we loaded up our van Saturday morning, even our two-year-old discerned that something was different, that we weren't just taking a quick trip to the grocery store. She climbed into her car seat while we were still packing, kicked her feet, and announced, "Brooke go. Brooke go 'cation." She knew that excitement lay ahead, and she wanted to be a part of it.

Two-and-a-half hours later when we stopped (for the first time), the mood in the van had deteriorated. Legs needed to be stretched. Tummies needed to be fed. Diapers needed to be changed. Joel took the older two girls into the rest stop while I nursed Kerrington in the van.

Within a few minutes another van pulled into the parking spot beside ours. The doors opened and a travel-weary family emerged. I only had a few moments to observe them, but they could have been our family -- any traveling family, really. The toddler in the backseat with a leg slung over the side of the car seat, arm clutching a beloved stuffed puppy, head nestled sideways, and eyes blinking heavily to shake off the ill-timed, disrupted sleep that likely provided just enough rest to ruin any chances of a legitimate nap during the remainder of the trip. The child who could only find one shoe. The mother who dropped her purse while searching for her wallet, scattering its contents onto the already messy van floor. The father who'd been hoping that they would have been another thirty miles down the road before needing to stop.

One family's minivan served as the microcosm of all traveling families: the whining, the bustle, the map and GPS. How many families in America were currently en route to vacation, simultaneously full of anticipation and steeped in the disorder that's inherent in a road trip? How many children had asked if they were "there" yet? How many parents had threatened to turn around right now if the arguing didn't stop? How many siblings had drawn invisible lines in the back seat to stop the other from encroaching into their rightful territory?

No matter the travel destinations, these elements are universal. Forgotten toothbrushes and all.

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