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On the road with family creates bonds

By: Shane Starr

The Fourth of July always reminds me of family vacations when I was a kid.

When three kids would pile into the back seat of the family sedan for a fourteen-hour drive with a high probability of a flat tire or a ruptured radiator hose on the way.

Of course, seniority being what it is, every journey started with my older sisters shoving me into the middle of the back seat, on top of the transmission hump, a protrusion only marginally smaller than the HMS Titanic.

Family trips inevitably resulted in new family lore. We usually departed at oh-dark-thirty so the kids could sleep part of the way. I became the object of merciless ridicule for the rest of my life when I verbalized my disappointment at not hearing the audible “crack” associated with dawn.

Until then, I’d always assumed that I’d just slept through the “crack of dawn.” That was probably the first indication that I was a literal listener and didn’t do well with metaphors.

Eating in the car was much more of an adventure before the fast food era. God forbid if our travels took us through Wisconsin, where my oldest sister and father would insist on shopping for provisions.

Inevitably, these included limburger cheese and onion on rye bread sandwiches. Open windows do not remove that smell; it clings to everything like a thistle on flannel.

I know that better ideas replace lesser ideas, but I’m not convinced that we haven’t lost something important, when the journey has become something to be finished as quickly and mindlessly as possible. People traveling together create a unique dynamic.

I know there were periods of boredom and occasional border disputes (“he won’t stay on his side!”) but they don’t outweigh the good. I can still feel the magic of seeing the snowcapped Rocky Mountains for the first time, or my father telling us the historical importance of a landmark we’d just passed.

Five people spending a lot of time in a space only slightly larger than a Frigidaire freezer requires a lot of patience, observation and interpersonal skills in order to avoid outright fratricide.

Genetics alone is not enough to bond a family; happy, shared experiences are the glue that holds them together long after any logical reason to stay close has passed.

Look for reasons to spend time with your kids.They’ll remember it when they’re 62.