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traveling with family

July 1, 2010

One more time I’ve made the trip back to Ohio from visiting my son in New Mexico. We have made this trip innumerable times in the last 30 years. I tried to take my kids to see their grandma every summer. Their Grandmother Howe spoke no English much at all beyond ‘hello,’ ‘good-bye’ and a few numbers. So the only interaction she could have with them was if they were actually staying with her for a while.

As I got things ready for the 3 or 4 day trip I thought what an expedition it was for us to travel when my brother and I were kids. Dad was a big fan of Buicks and Oldsmobiles. I don’t ever remember him having a car other than one of those, although he would argue with Uncle Hollis over the merits of Chevrolets versus Fords. Uncle Hollis always drove Fords—‘fix or repair daily’ Dad always said. Anyway.

When I was growing up we only ever made three trips of any kind of a regular basis. Aunt Mary and Uncle Gene lived in Grove City, Ohio. Aunt Mary was one of Mom’s two sisters. They had four kids; Rita was closest to my age only a few months older. The others were all much older, Loren, Joe and Shirlene. We drove down there once every year or so.

Aunt ‘Rene” and Uncle Arthur lived in and around Newark, Ohio for most of my growing up years. They moved to Fort Smith Arkansas sometime when I was around twelve. Aunt Rene was Mom’s baby sister; she and Uncle Arthur had two kids, Dobbie and Lonnadene. While they lived in Ohio these were the cousins we probably visited most often and they were the ones closest to my brother and me in age. Dobbie was/is actually, about four years younger than me about my brother’s age I guess. And Lonnadene was maybe five years younger. Uncle Arthur pastored in Rocky Fork Church of God outside of Frazeysburg Ohio for part of the time, then they moved to pastor a church in West Virginia—I want to say “Roanoke,” but I’m not sure. We visited the Frazeysburg home often and I think we went to West Virginia only once.

The other place I remember going was to visit Arnold and Reva Cromlish and their kids, Dottie, Linda, and David, in Michigan. I don’t even remember the city… just someplace in Michigan. That was our longest trip so we didn’t go very often, but we did go several times. We would visit them for three or four days. Arnold was a Church of God preacher and they lived in the parsonage behind the church building. Michigan is known as the Land of Lakes and the kids took full advantage of it. They were all brown and swam like fishes.

A trip with my dad was a major production, even just to Newark or Columbus. Of course 50 years ago vehicles weren’t as dependable as they are today so even a trip that short involved major mechanical tune ups and oil changes. That happened a few days before the trip. Mom meantime sorted and packed and got things ready to take with us. She always believed in over-kill when it came to packing. Every possible alternative must be thought of and planned for. Whew! I didn’t do that much when I was taking two kids all the way to New Mexico.

We always had to leave at the break of day. Now today a trip to Columbus takes about two hours; Rachael and Notah just hustled out and hopped in the car with a knapsack. Back then, even allowing for slower cars, it couldn’t have taken more than four hours, but Mom and Dad always acted as though it was a trek to Alaska! They would haul us out before dawn and stuff us into clothes. Then we would take a blanket and pillow and crawl in the back seat while they proceeded to pack the trunk with enough stuff to last us for a couple months.

And they also packed food! I never could figure that out because Aunt Mary and Aunt Rene both had grocery stores in their towns. If they didn’t have enough food, why couldn’t MOM go and buy some THERE? I don’t know… never figured it out. It wasn’t like the trip was long enough to need road food, but Mm acted like we might face privation if she didn’t have a good supply of bread and deli-meat for sandwiches and apples. And it never seemed like we arrived all that early in the day. It’s the world’s greatest mystery.

Now for the trip to Michigan, all those preparations were a little more logical. It still only took one day; I’m guessing about 8 hours maybe longer given the slower cars. But there we were at least staying several days and were doing a variety of things on the side. I’m still betting I took fewer supplies and clothes for the trip to New Mexico– travel time plus another week and a half or a two week stay—than mom and dad took for that trip to Michigan.

Then a couple times after Aunt Rene and Uncle Arthur moved to Fort Smith we visited them. That involved at least one night, maybe two, on the road. THAT was a whole other issue with my Dad! He dragged us out at the crack of dawn, of course, but he drove until all of us were exhausted and every decent motel was taken. My memories of those couple of trips to Fort Smith involved dingy motel rooms with dirty bathrooms and damp beds!! Mom was cautioning us every other word to NOT drop anything on the floor. She would have preferred that we not even WALK on it.

It would have been much better to stop early enough to get a decent room for not too much more. (Because the sleaze joints charged the same prices as the decent ones, they just weren’t as nice.) But once we were there and settled with family we had an wonderful time. And remembering it is a joy.

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