Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

From the 50s and 60s to today . . .



Friday, February 13, 2015

The Family Car Trip

Ready to go.
Pictured L to R: Anita, Blair, Dad, George, Jerry,
Missing: Mom, Chris, Diane and the potty.
Traffic has slowed to a crawl.
Not a usual thing for a small, semi-hard-topped, two lane, secondary road twisting through the foothills of Southern Alberta.
The Stringams join the end of a line of cars.
Dad peers ahead through the windshield. "Huh. Weird." 
"What on earth could be causing this?" Mom spits on a Kleenex and starts to scrub the face of her youngest son. "Careful with that chocolate bar, son, you're getting it on your father."
"Can't see, yet. But the line will be straightening out soon and . . . ah!"
The line has done so and disclosed the culprit.
A house.
White clapboard.
Two storey.
Not something you see in the middle of the road every day.
Usually that's reserved for bungalows . . .
The house creeps along. The Stringams creep along behind it, more cars joining them every minute or so like the growing tail of some large, unwieldy monster.
"Mom! I have to go potty!" Little brother, Blair, is standing on the front seat and has started doing the dance.
"I wonder if he knows we're here." Mom pulls the potty out from under her seat. "You'll just have to go while we're moving, dear. We don't want to lose our place in line."
Right. Because the Stringams will be left behind as the rest of the line of traffic moves off at 10 MPH?
"Mom! I hate going when the car is moving!"
"Well, try not to miss." She turns to Dad. "How long till the turn?" 
"At this rate? About three days."
The family is heading to the relatives for dinner. Mom and Dad are beginning to hope that their food tastes 'just as good the second day'.
Mom opens her car door and dumps out the potty, then wipes it out with the spit Kleenex, stuffs it back under her seat and drops the used tissue into her handy-dandy paper bag trash receptacle.
She glances around at her brood. Four are scattered across the wide back seat.
Important note: Seatbelts and safety measures haven't been invented yet.
Jerry and George are arguing over a car magazine. Chris and Diane are reading. Diane is getting rather green around the gills.
Mom frowns. Might be a good time to distract Diane. She glances out the window, hoping to spot some horses. The only thing known to pull Diane from a book.
Blair is now happily parked in the front seat between Mom and Dad, looking at the pictures in one of his brother's comic books.
Anita is perched on Mom's knees, nose against the window and half-filled bottle of cream soda in her lap.
"Mom! I wanna drink!" George has given up trying to wrench the magazine from his older brother and is now sitting with his arms crossed on the back of the front seat.
"Okay. I just get one here . . ." Mom mimes taking a glass and turning on a tap. "There you go!"
"Mom! A real drink! Of Pop!"
Dad glances back at his second son. "There'll be plenty of pop in the well when we get there!" 
"You can have some of mine!" Anita offers her bottle.
George looks at the pale-pink liquid that started out a brilliant red and makes a face. "That's okay. I can wait."
"Mom? I'm car sick!" Diane has emerged from her book on her own.
Not a good sign.
Again the potty comes into play. Diane now sits with it on her lap.
"How much further?" Chris has come up for air.
"A year or two," Dad again leans forward and peers through the front windshield.
"I'll tell a story!" Mom volunteers. She proceeds to drag out her Reader's Digest and regale the family with a humorous gem about being raised in the ghettos of New York.
The story winds down and she closes the magazine.
George sighs. "I'm bored."
Mom blinks. That was fast. Then her face lights up. "Let's play a game! How about 20 questions?"
Jerry drops his magazine to the floor. "Okay! I've got it!"
"Animal, vegetable or mineral?"
"Animal."
"Is it dead?"
"Maybe."
"Hey! You can't have maybes! Only 'yes' or 'no'!"
The game is played to its usual conclusion.
Elvis.
And another round starts.
Blair and Anita have fallen asleep.
Mom rescues the offensive cream-soda bottle just before it tips over. She again opens her car door and discretely empties it out onto the road.
Diane imagines, for a moment what it must be like to follow the Stringam's car at 10 MPH. Heads bobbing about. Car door opening periodically to expel various fluids.
"Oh, look!" Dad grins and points. "The house is pulling over!"
Mom laughs. "Now that's not something you hear often!"
Mom always manages to keep her sense of humour. It's a gift.
Slowly, the line of cars begins to pull out around the house like a stream finding its way around a large, recently-dropped stone.
Dad pulls up beside the house driver and gestures to Mom, who rolls down her window. "Why don't you get a travel trailer, like everyone else?" he shouts with a grin. 
"I'm so sorry!" the driver shouts back. "Were you following me long?"
About four years, three months, twenty-one days, and thirteen hours, Dad thinks. "Oh, no. Not long!" 
They wave to each other and the Stringam car moves off.
Just another family car trip.

14 comments:

  1. Your car trips were quite the adventure. Good thing Mom was the poster-woman for preparedness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And this was in the years before wipes!

      Delete
  2. Hee hee - I was thinking the same as the young Diane - imagining being in the car behind, watching the door open and close, open and close, and ... fluids ... being poured out each time!

    ReplyDelete
  3. And just as I hit "publish" I recalled this story my parents used to tell me, about the long trip we took when I was a baby, still in diapers - cloth diapers, of course. When they left the motel each night, the previous day's diapers would still be damp from washing, so they rolled up the window with the edge of the diaper caught in it, and the diapers flapped in the breeze of the moving car until dry!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heehee! I'd like to have been following that car!!!

      Delete
  4. Gives moving house a whole new meaning!
    I remember drying nappies (diapers) like that on long trips interstate to visit the grandparents.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why didn't I ever see fun cars like those?!

      Delete
  5. OMG I remember the long car trips---never fun for me because I got car sick often! Great post, Diane!

    ReplyDelete
  6. They should have drafted your mom into the army she was prepared for EVERYTHING! My spot in the car was laying in the back window next to the speakers! SUch great safety standards back then!

    ReplyDelete

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