Our family has been summering in Florida for the past 20 years. Every June we packed our computers, printers, boxes of files, office supplies, suitcases for five, toys, blankets, pillows and three children into our Suburban and headed south with five bicycles hanging on the bike rack bringing up the rear. The trip to the condo is a 12 hour drive if you include potty stops and food procurement. Loaded to the gills, we would head towards the interstate, turn around at least once to get something we forgot, and finally take the on-ramp south toward our summer of relaxed days of swimming, biking, fishing and most of all for me, de-stressing.
Over the years, life has changed. Desktop computers and monitors have been replaced with laptops. Printers are now able to be shared between PCs and Macs. Boxes of files have been replaced with a wireless internet connection to a server in our office. Boxes of checks have been replaced with on-line banking. The kids grew up and the bikes were left in the garage. This year brought us another change. We traded our three kids for my in-laws, Paul and Jackie, and our female golden doodle dog named Fred. This June we packed our laptop computer bags, one shared printer, office supplies, suitcases for five (yes, Fred has her own toy suitcase) and four sets of golf clubs.
For 20 years I rode up front in the spacious navigator’s seat while the kids sat in the back seat squished by all their junk. This year I was relegated to the back seat behind the driver. I spent 12 hours pushed up against the door with Fred’s butt in my lap. My place in the navigator’s seat was taken by Paul. My job of navigator was taken by Jackie sitting in the backseat behind Paul. Although times had changed, some things remained the same. The hourly asking of “Are we there yet?” was replaced by Paul asking “Where are we going?” As always, I was ever grateful for my emergency stash of napkins when Jackie dribbled Diet Coke down the front of her seat. I still had the same feeling of dread when David swiveled around and handed Jackie a handful of sweet and sour sauce to dip her chicken nuggets into. With three kids it was impossible to get through lunch in the car without someone wearing their sweet and sour sauce. I wasn’t the least bit surprised when Jackie announced that she had spilled the sweet and sour sauce down the front of her shirt. I just handed her another napkin. Paul took over Matt’s job of reading us all the road signs that we passed. David still called out our “percentage of the way there” just like when we travelled with the kids to cut down on the “we should be there, shouldn’t we?” questions from the navigator’s seat. I still stood outside the gas station bathroom with cold drinks dripping condensation onto my shirt, cradling a pantry full of snacks while waiting for the last straggler to get finished up. I still worried about having to make an unscheduled emergency potty stop because Fred, like Matthew, refused to get out of the car and go to the bathroom.
We still entertained ourselves for hours just talking. Sure the conversation looped back over itself just like the news on CNN but hey, at least you knew your lines. When traveling with our kids there were always the sounds of rooting around looking for some lost toy or for new batteries for whatever the latest and greatest gadget was. On this trip, Jackie spent a lot of time rooting around in her bags looking for her lost bottle of water, her hankie and new batteries for her hearing aids. Our normal book on tape was replaced with me reading chapters from our book Cookies for Dinner out loud at the request of my fellow travelers. It really made me happy to hear them laugh. Hopefully, they were laughing at the stories.
As much as things have changed, one thing has not. When I woke up the next morning and walked out onto the patio to watch the pelicans splash into the bay, I had the same feeling I have had for the last 20 years. I have an amazing life and I am so lucky to have this wonderful family to share it with.