Monday, May 9, 2011

Alphabet Lessons



Just as I suspected, the trip to Colorado came and went in a flash. Any person who has ever gone on any vacation knows the feeling. The days creep by as you await the magical date on the calendar, then once it arrives, time speeds up, and in a nano second it’s all over. As soon as we pulled into the driveway back in New York, real life kicked into high gear again. Hubby unpacked, then re-packed, to go on a work trip to Connecticut. The kids jumped back into school. I split my time between work, unpacking, and once again preparing the house to go on the market.

But just as I’d predicted, we made some great new memories on this trip that re-introduced us to our identity as a nomadic family. It was a new experience for me, traveling with all boys. Our daughter stayed home to work, so for the first time I was the only female in the car. I held my own pretty well and only once became misty eyed, when an innocent comment was made by the woman creating my sandwich at a Subway in the middle of Indiana. She crafted the orders for my hubby, then each of my three sons, and when she finally got to me, she flippantly said, “Boy, I guess you wish you had a daughter…”

It was the end of the trip, day nine of our ten days on the road, and I was definitely ready to see my girl again. After swallowing the lump in my throat, I calmly replied to the Subway lady, “Oh, I do have a daughter. She’s at home. And I do miss her.” I’m sure it was a forgettable moment in that woman’s life, but I can immediately be in that moment again, reminded of the way our family is changing as our children grow older and move on with their lives.

From our very first day on the road, we played many rounds of the ABC game. It started with just finding the letters, on any sign or license plate. Then, to make things more challenging we changed the rules. Each letter had to be at the beginning of a word. That might not sound like a big deal, but when you’re driving mile after lonely mile through the flat fields and empty highways of Midwestern states, a billboard of any kind is a treat, and one with the correct words on it can be a gold mine.

Electronics were put aside as everyone in the car rallied up to play. Who knew teen age boys could be so easily entertained? They all groaned as we passed a semi truck with the word ‘Zemmert’ printed on the side. We weren’t even close to needing a Z yet, and we’d struggled to find J and O words. The chances of finding another perfect Z word when we’d need it were pretty slim.

Slowly, slowly we clipped our way through the alphabet. We got a bit tripped up again when it came to X, but a good hospital sign with the word X-ray on it saved the day. After a quick Y (Yummy!), we were finally in need of that magical Z. Mile after mile, billboard after billboard, and no Z. Then suddenly, Jeff pulled to the side of the road. As we came to a stop on the gravel shoulder, the mood in the car changed. We all assumed there was a problem with the engine. From my perch in the back seat I could see my hubby’s face in the rearview mirror. He didn’t seem concerned.

Then I saw the smile lines form around his eyes. He was up to something. After a minute of quiet confusion, he simply said, “That Zemmert truck should be along shortly…” Knowing we’d passed it a dozen miles back, he was sure if we sat for just a minute, it would come along and give us our Z. The nervous tension in the car erupted into laughter and high fives. It would’ve never occurred to me to pull over on the side of the road, on the first day of a four thousand mile trip, to wait for a Z. Hubby got huge points with his boys.

A few days later, as we were driving in downtown Denver, out of the blue my husband commented on a license plate we’d just passed. “Wow, look at that. WQJ. What a dream…” We were all confused, since we’d been out of ABC game mode for several days. Silently we were all wondering how he would think a WQJ could mean anything related to dreams.

Then he spelled it out. To pass that specific car on the highway would have been a dream, when we were desperately searching for difficult letters. My boys decided that if they ever lived near a highway, they’d have huge billboards in their yards, filled with words starting with every letter of the alphabet, just in case there were other travelers in need of a good Q word.

And before you start thinking I have genetically altered children, who just love being in the car for 86.5 hours over the course of ten days, let me set you straight. There were plenty of fussy moments, and a few random, well placed punches, thrown by frustrated brothers who’d had just a little too much togetherness.

But as the mom I don’t dwell on those fleeting moments. I like to remember the laughs, and the playful wrestling that threatened fragile lamps on hotel room tables. It makes me smile to remember all the new places we explored and the inside family jokes that were born on this trip.

And one of the best memories of all is the mental snapshot, of a car full of these people I love, sitting on the side of the highway, waiting patiently for a Z.

1 comment:

Table for Seven said...

We love that game!!! On every trip, someone will randomly yell out "A" and the game is on. We're not up to words yet. Though with four/fivish readers, I suppose we could start. I'm envious of your move. We like it here and want to stay here and are looking forward to staying here, but the nomad in me longs for an adventure. Update us regularly so I can live vicariously through you!