Thought I’d post some of what I sent my family about our family’s cross-country trip: Indiana to Portland and back.
It was a very interesting trip to take while my oldest child is 13, as that was the age I was when my parents took three long-legged teens on a route that hit some of the same spots. This was back “in the day” when there were no iPods, no video screens in the back of vans, no mini-vans at all–eeGads!
The trip to Portland was very fast–three and a half days on the road. On the way, we celebrated my middle daughter’s 12th birthday and Father’s day. On Father’s day we got to spend about an hour with one of my nieces and her husband and three children. What a treat. I’m so glad they were willing to rally and drive an hour to meet with us for such a short time, but here’s what I got to know that I didn’t before: My niece loves to fish. I’ve spent so little one-on-one time with any of my nieces and nephews that I just don’t get the opportunities to know these things. Knowing this little bit about her just opened up a whole new world on knowing her as herself, the kid, and not my niece, my brother’s daughter, or the mother of those three beautiful kids. And, while it may seem silly, it was one of the diamonds I’ll remember from this long, long trip. Perhaps I’ll explain why another day, another time.
The most magnificent view we got was of the Columbia Gorge as we drove up into Portland. While the falls in Twin Falls (if youhave a choice, see the Sheshone falls, not Twin Falls) were pretty darn cool, there’s nothing like the Columbia River Gorge.
Also, we found a GREAT brew pub just south of Portland. Yum.
Portland itself was fine. Work for me as I ran from hotel to convention center and back. I did get a few moments of not-work–some of them even with my husband. (We found TWO great brew pubs in Portland–double yum.)
While my husband convened and I worked, the girls went to camp. And, let’s just say what happens at camp, stays at camp (unless you have the misfortune to sit together in a van with those same campers and hear the same stories about the same boy, I mean kids, over and over and over and over and over and …..).
We came back together as a family in a van on Monday, June 25, and took the LOOOONNG way to Seattle, stopping to see Mt. St. Helens–(quote from an unnamed kid ‘how many times are we going to stop and see the same freaking mountain!’).
Mt. St. Helens, at the end of a week of being in intense relationship with my particular faith movement, was a particularly spiritual moment of the trip for me. More than 20 years after the volcano erupted, you still see the collapsed side of the mountain and the trees that were blown over by the blast miles and miles away. It had a way of making me feel like my troublesand I are small–and yet, still significant. Can’t explain it. It’s one of those experiential things.
We drove by Mt. Rainier, then to it, but not all the way up it (we had a kid mutiny in full swing by then). There was a waterfall there that was just stunning and two of our three children actually saw it.
The next day we went up the Space Needle in Seattle and we had the best weather for it: sunny and nearly cloudless. And, we had a clear view of that mountain we tried to see so much of that caused a mutiny the day before.
Then we began our trek east. We stopped a lot of places (Devil’s Tower, which if you’ve seen Close Encounters you’ll have seen; Mt. Rushmore; Custer State Park; Crazy Horse), but I was unprepared to be as moved as I was by Little Big Horn. I went in thinking, oh, not another monument to war, but left with a better understanding of history (with a 360-degree view of a historical event, rather than just one side or the other) and of just the unimaginable horror of that time in our Country’s development. My oldest daughter asked me at one point why we would do this to the Indians and all I could answer was “ignorance and fear.” I think I’d add Greed to that if I were answering it today.
Here’s a creepy experience. We arrived their on the 27th–the day after the anniversary of the two-day battle. As I walked by the markers for the soldiers and others fallen on the hill, the thumb and pointer finger on my right hand began to twitch uncontrollably. At the time I thought “weird.” I told my husband later and he made suggestions about trigger fingers and past lives.
Still, as I walked past the grave markers and the mass grave at the top of the hill and walked over to the monument to the Native people of the area, I stood at the highest point and the wind rolled off the prairie and swept through me in a way that just made me feel like I was a part of time, a part of something so large I’ll never know it all, but that whatever I can drink in, like the wind, will add to my body of knowledge. It reminded me of an Indigo Girls song: “we’re better off for all that we let in.” I took some time on that mountain to let more in. It was a moment I won’t soon forget. Having a few weeks to process it and having since been to a funeral where the minister (definitely not UU) talked about the wind and breath and God in a way that made me feel happy and settled, I think what happened on that mountain was as close as I’ve ever felt to “feeling God.”
Oh, then we found a great Brew Pub in Rapid City! Yum.
I could spend time talking about the small stuff of driving with a family across country, but I won’t. That stuff happens; people are in bad moods, people get over bad moods. People have to pee two miles after the last rest stop, but not bad enough to go at the side of the road. Kids order food they don’t eat because it “tastes weird.” Its part of life; part of living; part of moving on with irritation and beyond it.
At one point I told my oldest that I hope she has a daughter one day and gets to retrace these steps with her when her daughter is 13 as I did with her. I told her I didn’t expect her to understand why this journey was important to me any more than I could have understood what looking at all those mountains and petrified trees with my mother meant to her back then. All I asked of her was a little patience as her dad and I spent some time looking at this beautiful, striking landscape of our country. It will float back to her one day, just as my 13-year-old memories floated up to me as we made that long, lovely drive.
Which leads me to this final message to my folks: I’m sorry. Really, really sorry for all the whining I did; for all the food ordered and uneaten; for all the times I asked for ice cream just after not eating the food I ordered; for all the times I squabbled with my siblings because I was just flat-out bored. I’m really sorry.
And thank you for taking me on that trip, even though I could never, at the time, have understood how important it was to us all.