Thursday, October 22, 2009

Travels with Mom

I recently wrote an entry about traveling to Alaska with my mother in 1982.

I love traveling with Mom and I regret that we're not able to do it as much now. The first real trip we took together was sometime back around 1980. We drove down to Spruce Pine and Mineral, North Carolina, to go rock hunting. We have great memories from that trip about a very large black snake stretching across an old Jeep trail, murderous ducks attacking my feet, a restaurant that offered enormous family-style servings, and us acting like crazed gold miners the first time we spied flakes of mica glittering in the sun. If I remember correctly, we were at the intersection of a medium-sized road when we saw something shiny in the loose soil of the median strip. We actually pulled the car over and scooped up some of the soil containing the mica flakes. Yes, we're nuts. Flakey, even, but I still have the moonstone, amazonite, tourmaline, and all those other rock samples we collected on that trip.

Our last trip together was in in May 1997 when Mom flew out to Davis, California, to drive cross country with me back to Virginia. I had moved there for a long-term relationship that ended unexpectedly and abruptly the previous fall. (Well, it was unexpected to me. Maybe not unhoped for by my parents.) At any rate, I was in a rather fragile state but had finally made the surprisingly mature decision to return to Virginia instead of trying to carve out a life in California. I decided to ship most of my belongings back to my parents' house, stuff my car full of what was left, and drive my tattered soul back home. Mom generously offered to fly out and travel with me so I wouldn't be alone. Despite the circumstances necessitating the move, we had a blast on that trip. We laughed at the locals at the Walmart in Barstow, saw thunderstorms dance across the Grand Canyon on Mother's Day, and ate a five pound bag of carrots along the way. There was the hotel room in Flagstaff that had a bathroom so small that the proprietor had cut a notch out of the bathroom door so it could swing past the toilet bowl to open. There was the all-you-can eat Chinese food and fried catfish buffet in some small corner of Arkansas that had a few six-legged customers dining on the tartar sauce. Nevermind that Mom was convinced that we'd never find the interstate again and would be stuck in Amboy, CA, forever, or that one morning I made Mom leave the hotel room five minutes after I woke up because she was already taking the luggage out the door to hit the road at 6 am. It was a glorious road trip and I'll never forget that Mom wanted to go with me.

That first trip to Alaska with Mom was no less of an adventure, too. Sure, it was off to a shaky start with my unexpected arrival into womanhood, but Alaska is simply a fantastic place to visit and we were wowed by it the moment we stepped off the plane in Anchorage. The scenery, the wildlife, and the history of the state make Alaska a fantastic destination. I can't say that my aunt and her daughter traveling with us had an equally glorious time as we were barely speaking to each other by the time we left. A week in a Winnebago with 3 adults and two near-teenagers will dampen even the strongest family bonds. There was an incident with a can of Cheez Whiz, the refusal to pitch in with communal chores, and that's about all I need to say about that. I wish I had the pictures to share with you, but the one of the us taken at the terribly touristy North Pole, AK, says it all: Mom and I stand at one end of the welcome sign, my aunt and cousin stand at the other, and we're either forcing a smile for the picture or barely containing the urge to snarl at each other. And yet Mom and I still laugh about that trip.

I wish we could take another trip together. Even more, I wish my daughter was old enough to take a trip with us and remember it. As it is, either Ally will have to listen to all my stories about traveling with Granny, or she'll have to come with me to see Amboy (population 13!) all for herself.

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