I love a good road trip.
In my younger years, I loved taking road trips alone. I would throw my guitar in the back of my Jeep and drive 12 hours to sing at a coffeehouse for fifty bucks. I didn’t care about the money. I just loved the freedom and the experiences I was able to have by living that life.
These days I prefer company. Namely, the company of my thirteen year-old daughter, Zoë.
There is nothing better than setting out on the open road with my girl and a good cup of coffee.
We have soooooooooo many incredible road trip memories. (cue Karen Carpenter’s version of The Way we Were.)
On our first road trip to Grand Rapids, Zoe was less than a year old.
She was in a rear-facing carseat, but there was a freaky mirror affixed to the ceiling of the car so I could see her face.
She chattered and cooed and flapped her arms like she was trying to take flight. And I talked to her the entire trip.
I have always spoken to her as though she is 35 years old.
No baby talk here.
That’s not my style.
That cherubic little face reflected in that ridiculous fun house-style mirror is etched on my brain forever.
When Zoe was 3 years-old, we took a road trip to Nashville.
The battery on the portable DVD player died, so Dora the Explorer was no longer an entertainment option. (Can I get a hallelujah?!)
We got stuck in a traffic jam, and her 2 year-old brother screamed and cried his fool head off for over an hour, because the car wasn’t moving.
It was starting to stress Zoë and I out, so I taught her to sing There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea.
We sang at the top of our lungs.
Zion was über pissed. He continued to scream. So we sang louder.
It sounds a little cruel now that I’m writing it all out, but I what I remember most is how hard Zoë and I giggled.
Around the time Zoë was 6, we drove to Evansville with my sister, Carrie, to celebrate my paternal grandmother’s 90th birthday.
Thank you sweet baby Jesus that Zion had ridden with my parents, so he wasn’t in the car.
Some jerk-off in an SUV had been weaving in and out of traffic, cat-and-mousing us for over an hour.
I remember thinking he was going to cause an accident.
About an hour from Evansville, we had to stop at a green light to allow an ambulance passage into the intersection. The arse in the SUV wasn’t paying attention, and rear-ended us going 40 mph.
Carrie and I blacked out for several minutes. Zoë was conscious through the entire thing. Thankfully, we were all okay.
When we came to and saw who had hit us, and I heard the ambulance driver say it was a miracle that Zoë wasn’t killed, I went 12 kinds of apeshit on the driver of that SUV.
To this day, Zoë says that is one of her favorite memories of me.
(Not my finest moment. But you mama bears understand, don’tcha?)
Over the past year or so, Zoë and I have become a little obsessed with the TV show Supernatural. (Have you seen Misha Collins? Meow.)
The soundtrack is a plethora of great music, mostly from the 80’s. So Zoë has discovered a love for classic rock.
It gives me a deep sense of pride to hear my daughter singing songs like Renegade, Simple Man, and Back in Black.
Last year while making the 2 hour drive to IKEA, Zoë and I gave our most flawless car performance to date.
Bohemian Rhapsody, baby.
I will always remember when we both hit that high note together and then started head-banging at the exact same time.
I’ve always been a suck-it-up kind of mom. I don’t cry much. I never cry in front of my kids.
But since Zoë’s 13th birthday, I have been crying about nothing. And everything.
Zoë helping her grandma.
Zion being sweet to the dog.
A good stew.
Friday morning we were driving home from being out of town for Thanksgiving. We were listening to Christmas music on Pandora, and Bing Crosby’s version of It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year started playing. Zoë and I had just launched into our lounge singer voices when it hit me.
I only have 5 more years with her and she’ll be gone.
And I started crying.
How did we get here? I can remember those toddler-laden road trips like they were yesterday.
Yet somehow we’ve traded car seats for iPads.
There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea for Bohemian Rhapsody.
Her little sear-sucker dresses for plaid shirts and leather jackets.
Dora the Explorer for Supernatural.
I walled up hard for many years. Over the autism. Over the weight gain. Over the divorce and the bankruptcy and the heartbreak. I ate my feelings… and when I wasn’t eating them, I was drinking them. And now that I am doing neither, perhaps that is what has broken open the flood gates.
I’m not pushing my emotions down anymore, so apparently they are shooting up and out.
Like Old Faithful.
I think for so long I was in survival mode and didn’t have time for emotions…and unfortunately I have passed that on to my daughter.
I have raised a little warrior who doesn’t cry or break down or talk about her feelings.
But my hard-heartedness and walled-up exterior seem to be crumbling.
And that’s a good thing.
So during our drive home on Friday morning, after my 1,478th cry of the day, Zoë said, “Mom, do you think I’m emotionally closed off?”
I said, “Maybe a little. But you certainly learned it from me.”
She was quiet for a few minutes and then said, “I don’t like to talk about my feelings.”
So I said, “Me neither. Let’s change that, okay?”
She reached over and took my hand, and you guessed it…
I cried for the 1,479th time.
But now that I have realized how long I have gone without showing emotion to my kids, I will make sure I allow them to see my tears. And show them my vulnerability. And perhaps through my gallons of tears I will be able to teach my daughter that we don’t have to be bad asses all the time.
There’s something about being holed up in a car together that brings about good conversation.
And loud singing.
And laughter and hand holding and tears.
And memories. Oh, the memories.
We are planning a trip to visit my best friend in Ponte Vedra Beach for spring break in April.
I was planning on us flying.
Now I’m thinking we may drive.