Last weekend my daughter Emily and I took the last road trip that we’ll ever take together… just the two of us. On our next trip we’ll have an extra passenger in the backseat. In a car seat. With a diaper bag.
You see, Emily is pregnant with her first child, a little girl. Approximately eleven days from now, that little girl’s Mommy and Daddy, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins will joyously welcome her into this world.
While we all await the beginning of a new era, my daughter and I took this last bit of time together to say a bittersweet good-bye to the old one. We said good-bye to the last days when she will be almost totally carefree.
Road trips are something Emily and I have enjoyed for all of her life. We’ve always liked to just jump in the car and head out on a trip. Free from care and temporarily free from whatever held us bound to our home.
Some trips were planned. Most were not. It’s never been a big deal for us to toss a few belongings into the backseat of whatever old car I owned and just drive to places unknown.
Sometimes we just drove around town and listened to the radio or listened to each other. Often, when she was a very little girl, I would drive 90 miles or so from our home to Fort Worth to just drive around some more when we arrived there. She played in the backseat and pretended to be Fievel the little mouse who sails across the ocean to America and I pretended to be Fievel’s Papa, while we sailed down the highway in search of our own adventure.
Sometimes we’ve had destinations in mind. Other times we’ve driven aimlessly, going wherever the road takes us. Every time we have enjoyed the journey.
We’ve made impromptu trips to hike in the Wichita Mountains, to float on an inner tube down a Texas River, to buy a chocolate dipped ice-cream cone in a nearby town, to go to a drive-in movie, to visit a pumpkin patch, to attend mass at a church in a town where nothing is familiar. We often found a serendipitous, unexpected adventure.
But, we never really needed a reason to go somewhere. Just driving usually seemed reason enough.
On these trips we’ve connected as mothers and daughters tend to do, laughing, giggling, telling secrets, giving advice, crying, pouting, arguing, stopping whenever and wherever we desired, but always making our way back home.
Once when Emily was a teenager and we had hit a rough patch, I forced her to take a ride with me. We started down the highway with me angry and determined to force her to have fun and with her sullen and determined not to talk to me. It wasn’t much fun for either of us, but we briefly regained our old happy relationship.
When I think back on it now, I realize we didn’t enjoy that journey very much, but we did go the distance.
On this last trip, we drove to Waxahachie for no particular reason except because, well…it’s there.
We randomly wandered into a Beall’s store and found the perfect “coming home from the hospital outfit for the baby” that we had sought for months. We went to a movie and watched “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.”
We stayed in a hotel where we watched comedies on cable TV and ate candy in bed. We had our pictures taken on the staircase of an old hotel where a scene from “Places In The Heart” was filmed. We stopped at almost every roadside restroom available.
It was all new to us and unfamiliar in a strangely familiar way. Serendipity.
I didn’t have to force my daughter to have fun on this trip. She was acutely aware that her new journey begins in just a few days. She is on the road to motherhood.
While driving home from our last trip…just the two of us…we pondered what may lie ahead for Emily and her new little traveler. The road ahead may be full of curves and it might be tough to navigate for a while until she gets her bearings.
I told her that I know this for sure: the road will be long and filled with lovely sights she has never seen before. There are many adventures ahead.
And if my daughter ever needs to ask for directions, I’ll be happy to share my well-worn road map.
Motherhood is a long journey. Ask for directions. Enjoy the trip.