The negative part of travel in my family (for lack of a better word for a single parent and single child; somehow the word ‘family’ conjures up images of parents, two siblings, and a mangy dog) can be summed up with an in-joke phrase coined on our trip to CO/NM/AZ/UT in 1988:
“Look at the goddamn scenery!”
There was quite a bit of treacherous driving to be done in the Rocky Mountains, and my mother kept threatening, while we careened down a two-way snow-covered, cliff-and-rockface-hugging road seemingly narrower than the car, that if I didn’t look at the (admittedly mind-blowingly gorgeous) view, she would. (I, of course, was gripping the seat and staring at the three feet of road visible in front of us in the falling snow.)
It was humorous, but it’s representative of the general tone of all my trips with her – an unspoken (or, often, explicit) accusation that I wasn’t properly appreciating whatever it was we were doing, seeing. I wasn’t taking it in enough. I wasn’t reading the signs (I was; I just read much faster than she does.) I wasn’t sufficiently grateful for this Educational Opportunity.
It’s quite possible that she was right, at the time; I probably didn’t really grasp it fully, and I certainly wasn’t aware of how privileged I was to be going all these places. It boggles my mind that my mom was able to budget a substitute teacher’s salary with sufficient skill to allow for these trips. But, then, we didn’t have a big-screen TV, or cable, or season tickets to every sports team in a 100-mile radius, or new designer clothes twice every season, or a new car every two years. Gee, what a let-down.
In retrospect, of course, those trips (CO, CA, ME, ON, VT, NC/SC…) made me who I am today. I have a better idea of what this country looks like than most of my peers, of just how big and varied it is. I was instilled with a sense of geography; I know people who, given a large map of the US, can’t point out which half the Grand Canyon is in. She did good.