Sunday Morning ~ How to Fare on the Trip
Tizisinja kamba, kuyenda kwa ulendo sikudziwika. ~ Let us pound maize as food for our journey, you never know how we will fare on our trip.
~ Chewa proverb
January 30, 2022
My brother has a keen ability to remember facts. This served him well in school, he never failing to bring home perfect report cards. He went to college and continued his streak, making him the poster boy for success. Two years younger, I was expected to live up to this ridiculous standard and I never failed to fall short. This led to never ending conflict and frustration for me and a smug self-satisfaction for him, outwardly anyway. I’m sure it was stressful. My father valued hard work, self-sacrifice, and misery and it was our life work to please him. Rich won. I never got all As. In fact, I got very few. I fluctuated between being proud of Rich and hating him for this. My father insisted if I only applied myself, I could get all As. And I supposed I could have but I just didn’t care what year the Treaty of Nante was signed and who was killing who in which war. Nope. Not worth the A. I settled for Bs and Cs and took the beating. We grew up and lived our lives and this got talked about a lot in our efforts to overcome childhood and we decided who cares anyway about the grades? I got counseling for not being as smart as he was, and we lived our lives. But the niggling competition lived on.
Our father took us on cross country camping trips that have been fodder for hours of story telling. The fact that we survived those trips always amazed us. Dad set unspoken goals and we were expected divine what they were and achieve them. Discomfort was an understatement. We kids banded together, necessary for survival. We fought amongst ourselves but we three youngest knew the older boys would win. It didn’t stop us from trying. We’d mock my father in the back seat and kill ourselves laughing. It was a bonding experience for the five of us and whoa boy did it make us strong. Once into adulthood we took different paths in this regard. Two of us have wanderlust and three hate traveling. Funny how experiences affect everyone differently. Since those childhood voyages we’ve not traveled together, so this road trip with my brother evoked some trepidation. I worried the days on the road would be filled with quizzes. I’d be tested on how many facts I remembered about our childhood trips and, not remembering what year a certain mining town was established, would be the loser again. I prepared for that, not by studying all historic sites along the way, but by practicing indifference and letting him win. I know how important that is to him, I defensively told myself. But as we started our westward journey, it was clear we’d both let so much go. Got a later start than planned? So what? There was cellular memory of a late start being apocalyptic and we’d brace for an hour of demeaning rants, stare at our folded hands, and absorb the blame. But this trip? Forty-five minutes after we’d planned to begin, ah, all set. Here we go. There was some serious skin shedding going on.
We kids worked together as a team on those childhood trips, knowing how to care for each other, get shit done, and avoid outbursts. All these years later, it has come right back. We pack the truck efficiently, hand off the driving similarly, spend as little time as possible at rest stops, don’t buy anything, and assume roles without a word. It’s been really cool. I realize how much respect we have for each other, appreciating this familiarity.
We drove this route in 1965 on our first trip to Yellowstone National Park, and this time we took turns talking about what we remembered in various parts of the journey. Rich rattled off facts about historical sites and I couldn’t have cared less that I didn’t know them. As we watched Iowa pass by I remarked that all I remembered of that stretch of road was being hot. He reconstructed car repair situations while I recited meals we were forced to eat. We laughed. We both appreciated what we learned from those trips. Now, long days of driving were easy. We had food to eat and credit cards.
We reached Park City, Utah this afternoon, cruising through the snowy foothills of the Rockies on dry roads under sunny skies while home was being battered with a blizzard. It was the opposite of what I expected. I prepared for the trip with emergency blankets and extra water, knowing highways close and storms come in suddenly. But the real preparation was the letting go. Letting win.
It’s beautiful here.
Love to all,