We left the day after school ended in June, with the thought that major attractions would be less crowded and the summer heat would not be full-blown. Reservations were made, bags were packed, and we felt ready to go. One thing we weren't prepared for was getting used to one another again. Although we live in the same house, each child attends a different school, while I work from home and Mike goes to the office. On a good day, we're together only a few hours of waking time, and part of that is taken up by meals, homework, and after-school activities. Weekends are so busy with errands and chores that though I hadn't realized it, we weren't connecting as a family.
The bickering among the kids during the first week was awful. Every finger on the wrong side of a seat, every music selection, every sigh, made someone snarl. There was an epic battle of window up versus window down, and they didn't want to sleep in the same bed.
By the second week of the trip, however, when we reached the Black Hills and Yellowstone, we really hit our stride. The western roads had opened up, and without all of the East Coast congestion, Mike enjoyed driving. The scenery was beautiful and we were learning to get along with one another again. We stopped hearing "You're on my side of the seat," and "Get off of my stuff!" and heard more of "Do you want to listen to my iPod with me?"
We were traveling like pros by the third week. Our hotel routine was down pat, and we could unload the car, check in, and be in the pool within 15 minutes. In the morning, my heart sang to see the girls snuggled together in bed. They kept each other entertained with jokes, songs, and stories during long hours in the car.
The camaraderie among the girls lasted all summer. Back home, I spied them lying together on the sofa watching TV and helping each other with sunscreen. They still bickered, but as sisters, not strangers.
Last month they went back to school, once again seeing each other only in passing. This time, though, if I notice a distance or separation, I know the cure. I will toss them in the car and go for a drive.
Tina Holt writes from Phoenixville.
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