[Road] Tripping Into Winter

By Esther C. Baird/Tri-Town Transcript columnist
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript January 1, 2014

Well it’s January. The lights are still twinkling on many houses, but the Christmas trees are yellowed and the stores are onto Valentine’s Day. The reason for sequins, holiday cookies, and sugar-rimmed cocktails has vanished into the winter mist.
The New Year stares at us full of gym memberships, carrot sticks and nights spent wondering why we bought our daughter a glow in the dark fish tank.
The end of vacation is dizzying. After all the sparkle, all the days spent frolicking, all the trips to the mall where sanity was traded for frenzy, the re-entry is jarring.
But nothing quite blows the glitter off your day like a road trip. I know this, Regular Readers, because I’m typing this from within the Giant Sparkle on one of our jaunts up the lovely and scenic East Coast, (by that I mean scenic everywhere except for the parts where the highway runs). It is often my fervent wish that one of those end-of-the-world movies would come true, that the I-95 corridor, and all its mangled paved cousins with their traffic riddled, grey blighted, sorry excuses for roads would fall crashing into the ocean or get blasted by an asteroid.
Barring that, we carry on.
We love our home in Boxford, but we are the lone, far-flung, family . . . therefore we are part nomad. Quiz me on the best restroom for two girls that also has a grassy spot for a dog and sells quasi-edible snacks. Ask me if single stall restrooms in a circa 1980’s McDonalds could induce an adult-sized temper tantrum. Find out how I feel about the safety of a traffic jam on the Tappen Zee Bridge — there is a reason they are building two shiny new ones one either side is there not!?
When we aren’t reliving the best of list, we’re trolling down the potholes of memory lane. Our trip today has been full of comments like, “There’s the Exxon where we spilled the strawberry milkshake and they didn’t have any paper towels!” or, “This is where we sat in gridlock when Mommy was so sick she threatened to lie down on the highway.” or, “Remember how hard it was to find a locksmith who specialized in Swedish rooftop carriers on Christmas Eve??”
We’re exhausted, we’re thirsty, (no water on road trips!), we’re drowning in rainbow loom bands.
That overachieving little girl on You Tube keeps inventing complicated new patterns and never messes up. Who then has to peel my daughter off the ceiling when she loses her mind because
her fishtail mermaid stitch exploded into 10,0000 neon rubber bands all over the inside of the minivan. . . who I ask? Who!?
The girls are cranky and tired and, it goes without saying, they need a snack. My husband is cranky and tired and probably wishes he was sitting in his office where there was no Sound of Music sing-a-long. I’m cranky and tired and simultaneously need coffee and a restroom, but I happen to know there aren’t any great options for at least two hours so I’m trying to eat my weight in salty snacks to reverse osmosis myself so that I can hold it a wee (ha ha, road trips make me funny!) bit longer.
And yet we’ll do it all again. Many times each year. As horrible as the road trip is, not seeing our family, not getting to have 18 people and five dogs at my Mother-in-law’s house last night, not getting to see our baby niece or play with our cousins or miraculously not burn down the local church during the candle light service, would be unthinkable.
January will require the memories, the laughs, the left over sparkle to push us through the grayness. They will be the warm embers for the coming frozen days.
So we’ll keep driving, but I’ll keep scanning the skies for asteroids.T