It was a long drive that began in the evening. My parents put us in the car in the hopes that we would go to sleep. Our long-awaited trip to Florida had begun. At the time, Disneyworld was still a dream in Walt’s head.
Mom and Dad had saved up for the trip. They were always doing that. We would later go to the New York World’s Fair, Chicago for my oldest brother’s graduation from Navy training, and Holland, Michigan, for my other brother’s band trip. But this trip would be our last big one with all five of us.
My oldest brother was sixteen, my other brother, ten. I was six. It was the vacation before the oldest left, but after the youngest had grown old enough to remember.
About twenty minutes out we had to turn around. Mother had forgotten her Catalina swimsuit. It was white with a tiny red logo of a woman mid-dive. It was the suit Miss America contestants wore. It had been an investment.
A half-hour later, we were on the road again.
I remember mosquitos in South Carolina. A frog my oldest brother captured, then released. Red Florida clay hanging from cut out hillsides. A glass-bottomed boat ride. Peacocks, and watching alligator wrestling in the Everglades. And one night and day–a splurge–at Miami Beach.
Eventually, I grew up to sit in the front seat for long trips.
I learned not to “treat” a child in the back seat to chocolate milk. Within a short period of time, the child will be unhappy and no Yankee Candle air freshener can fix that aroma.
I learned how hard it is to drive at night in the rain next to Jersey barriers, with headlights glaring from the other lane and a young child rhythmically kicking the back of your seat.
But I remember my five kids and me singing along as the radio crooned “All I need is a miracle; all I need is you.” And no one complained that I was off key or didn’t know the words. For a moment, we had splendid pitch. Quintessential harmony.
The perfection of the moment washed through me.
Now I have the occasional opportunity to sit up front with grandchildren behind me. Fortunately, there is minimal kicking of the back of my seat. Sometimes, there is the conflict my parents were hoping to avoid by traveling at night. Sometimes, I get louder than they are as I demand peace.
Still, there are moments of perfection. They come in flashes and glimpses as the children sing or tell jokes or just talk to each other.
Once, a swimming flotation device flew down the middle of the van, glancing off the dashboard. A seven-year-old voice said, “I was just testin’ my range.” A major leaguer in the making.
But then there’s my favorite from a granddaughter. We were on the way to see Disney’s Frozen with a van full of cousins.
“I used to have imaginary friends, but my brother told me they weren’t real, so they went away.” Imagination indeed.
The next time we’re in the car and there is conflict, maybe I can tell them about a long drive and a Catalina swimsuit, a frog, a beach, and a miracle song I once sang with some of their parents.
And then I will have a new moment of perfection.
Wishing you some moments of perfection this Independence Day. God bless!