Roam If You Want To

a bit of quiet

On a spring afternoon in 1990, my mom, sister and I climbed into her red Cutlass Ciera and began our cross country drive from California to Michigan. The car was loaded with snacks of the mostly chocolate variety and boxes upon boxes of cassette tapes to listen to en route. I followed our course with a spiral bound AAA TripTik, noting unique occurrences along the way (snow, billboards for Winnemucca NV), while my sister smeared chocolate covered hands on the car’s leather interior.

We drove for days, about eight hours each day, with mom at the wheel and me riding shotgun. Just 13 years old, I wasn’t old enough to share driving responsibilities. Just mom and two kids crossing the country.

And this is what I thought of today driving from West Michigan to Detroit to meet friends for lunch. The Princess was with friends – she’d begged off because they were on their way to get a new puppy and that sounded way more fun to her than a day that didn’t involve dogs. Pumpkin, however, opted to come with me. She wasn’t happy about it – she’d have rather gone on the puppy trip – but she wasn’t invited on the puppy trip. She would come with me.

As we pulled out of the driveway, she almost immediately started crying. She’d brought a toy and it wouldn’t sit right on the seat as she’d wanted. It kept sliding. Her tears started. Epic tears. Epic tears with loud wailing. We weren’t even five miles from home.

“You CANNOT cry all the way to Detroit,” I said to her.

“I CAN IF I WANT TO!” she cried back at me.


Immediately, I felt overwhelmed. Face it, who wants to listen to crying for two hours? (NOBODY I KNOW)

And yet, somehow, my mom ventured out on her own with two kids, one a rambunctious three year old, to drive across the country. She was not that much older than I am now.

If she felt apprehensive, I didn’t know it. If it overwhelmed her when my sister jumped from bed to bed in a hotel room in Reno before ultimately flushing my mom’s watch down the toilet, I don’t remember seeing it. I know I lost my cool when my sister spilled drinks on me in nearly every restaurant across the country – but somehow, in my memory, my mom held it together every step up the way, every mile of road, every state we drove through.

And I wonder how.

When I feel so overwhelmed at tears miles in, how did my mom tackle a week long trip with two kids?

I remember when we neared Chicago on a late afternoon. We were driving behind a semi truck and we noticed as he drifted and drifted further to the right side of the road before ultimately driving right off the side of the road. The driver had fallen asleep. I remember mom pulling over then, sobbing. We were stunned – had we just seen what we thought we had? Other motorists called for help for the semi-driver, and we ultimately continued on our way. That is the only time I remember my mom losing it for a minute.

I am told that I am probably stronger than I think, but I have days where I really don’t think so. Days where I wish I could borrow the strength my mom had – or at least the appearance of it.

When I remember that trip, I am more inclined to think of the B-52s “Cosmic Thing” played over and over in the tape deck and the balloons that flew out of the window in Des Moines and hot air balloons in Salt Lake City, and the Chicago Skyway McDonald’s drive thru.

I have a difficult time with showing weakness, with being weak. I want my kids to remember the singing along with the radio and not tears. I don’t know how my mom did it, but somehow, if she had doubts, she hid them.

And yet a two hour drive felt daunting and I arrived home at the end of the day exhausted and completely wiped out.

The thing is, Pumpkin stopped crying within minutes. She didn’t cry all the way to Detroit – she even fell asleep a few times. She was a joy during lunch – all smiles and making jokes and making people laugh and being silly and being just absolutely wonderful like she is. I let those minutes of crying shake me far more than I should. I need more singing along to the radio memories, I think. I probably also need to take up meditation.

About sarah

Sarah is a book nerd, a music lover, an endorphin junkie, a coffee addict. Oh, and a goof ball. She writes, she tweets, and she sings off key.


  1. Gorgeous photograph. I think your Mum most likely felt very much the same way you felt but she just got on with it because she had to. I am sure your daughters remember the singing along and happy moments and if now and again they see the tired side well, it’s no bad thing to know your parents are human as well.

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