I’ve mentioned before, I think, that I am the youngest sibling of 6. Having a family that large (or larger) wasn’t that uncommon when my parents first got married as it is these days, but the fact that my oldest sister is 20 years older than I - that was unusual then, and it still is. And most people who hear that say some version of “Your poor mother…” I just have to assume that they’re not referring to me, specifically. (Also, my oldest sister, Bonnie, was engaged before I was born. My brother-in-law has been in our family longer than I have!)
Obviously, things in our family changed a lot in the span of 20 years when Bonnie was the child to when I was. Money was a LOT tighter during the early years of my parent’s marriage, for one thing; and apparently, they were also a bit stricter with my older siblings than with the younger ones. And by a bit, I mean a LOT. According to them, anyway. But all of us, ALL of us endured – or enjoyed – our father’s Sunday drives.
Our father was a truck driver. As far as I know, that’s all he ever wanted to do. He loved to drive, and to explore places he had never been before. I don’t think he had a fear of getting lost, and he definitely had road maps stored in his brain. I guess it wasn’t surprising then that on weekends, when he had a bunch of kids and a need to entertain them, he drove some more. I’m not sure if he chose a destination most of the time, or if he just picked a back road and followed it, or went somewhere he had been already. Actually, I couldn’t have told you then (and certainly couldn’t tell you now) where we went because my nose was always in a book.
The rides were a lot longer when my older siblings were the little ones. Sometimes all day rides: they drove to see the Tappan Zee Bridge being built (I know it’s officially not called that anymore, but I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to call it anything else); went to see the Ashokan Reservoir being formed; explored the Adirondacks – lots and lots of places.
And at some point during the day, the kids would get hungry and my dad would find some back road to pull over, and my mom would provide a picnic, for a family of 6…in a car. Food, drinks, plates, silverware – all of it. Just recently Bonnie said we should ask mom if she remembers making mashed potato salad. Yes, you read that right. No, it’s not a typo. Apparently at one point in time, our mother – being a woman with a tight budget and having to feed a large, growing family, made sure to use ALL of the leftovers. Including mashed potatoes. And she had a side of the road picnic to plan for, and so…the mashed potato salad was created. Two things about this “salad” – Mom categorically denies ever making it. And everyone hated it so it only happened once. But apparently it seared a memory in my siblings’ minds, so I’m guessing mom is just in denial.
But anyway, the rides were shorter when we (the “younger” siblings) were the ones taking the Sunday drives. And they started after lunch! (smart woman, our mother). And as I said, I can’t really tell you where we went, because I was reading. I opened a book the second the car was in motion (Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys were a HUGE favorite) and I was oblivious until the car stopped or my parents would say “Look at that.”
I was appalled when I learned that some people get car sick and can’t read in a car. What do you DO on a car ride if you can’t read? Look at the scenery????
(Also, as the youngest, I got the “hump” in the middle of the back seat so there was also a lot of bickering of “stop touching me” “mom, they’re touching me” “mom, make them stop touching me…”) (and let’s not forget the pointing of a finger really really close to the brother or sister on either side and say “I’m not touching you…”) (Now that I think about it – I really wonder WHY my parents chose to take Sunday drives with us!!)
One family story is that we went somewhere to see a covered bridge; and the bridge ended in the middle of the creek / river it was going over. My sister asked our dad “How did the horses get to the other side?” and his reply was, “They got a running start and jumped.” She says it took her YEARS to realize he was joking.
So yeah, because of my age and birth order, and since I read pretty much non-stop from the time I got my first “Dick and Jane” book, I don’t have many clear memories of our Sunday drives. But there was one drive that was different than the others. Our rides were always Dad driving, Mom in the passenger seat, and then two or three of us in the back seat. Except this one time… Honestly, I don’t know where we were going or where we had been. But it was night time (so probably not even a Sunday drive) and MOM was driving, and *I* was in the front passenger seat. Beth and Dad were asleep – it was just me and mom. We were listening to a mystery radio program, and as we were getting closer to the end of the program, the signal started to get a bit weaker and staticky. I asked mom if she would just pull over so we could finish the program before we lost the signal. (She said no…)
There’s no real point to this blog post except reminiscing that I hope is enjoyable for anyone who might read this. And especially during these times of “enforced” family closeness, it’s good to remember that sometimes it’s the really simple things that create the most lasting memories for your kids. Like mashed potato salad or listening to the radio with your mom.
Stay safe, keep washing your hands and wear a mask!! And reach out to someone if you’re struggling. We’re in this for the long haul – take care of yourself.
What are some of your special family memories?