Nothing says family trips in the 1980s like a station wagon without adequate air conditioning.
As the carsick one in my family of seven, I soon learned all the tricks to stave off nausea: “Don’t read in the car”, “Put your head between your knees”, “Take deep breaths through your mouth”, and “Just look out the window”, which was hard to do when my head was dangling between my knees.
Perennially queasy in the warm backseat, I battled my way through childhood trips without asking Dad to pull over—except on June 16, 1983. Winding our way up to visit Mount Rushmore, I was finally out of options.
“Can you stop?” I said, waves of sickness threatening to drown me. “Now?”
I don’t recall Dad’s answer, but he wasn’t pleased by the interruption in our schedule. He pulled the car over and put it into park. I shoved my door open and sprang out. Crouching by a back tire, I emptied my stomach. And then I heard it.
I wiped my mouth and climbed back into the car. “Something’s hissing out there.”
“A snake?” One of my siblings said.
Dad got out and took a lap around the vehicle. He returned. “We got a flat tire.”
No one ever said it, but I’m sure the family thought my bout of sickness, however ill-timed, had saved the day.
The tire changed, we continued our ascent to the presidential faces. But the skies, thick with grey clouds, obscured our view.
“Maybe it’ll clear,” Mom said.
For hours, we waited. But the clouds—more stubborn than we were—persisted.
“I guess that’s it,” Dad said, hands on his hips. “Maybe next time.”
We kids snapped pictures of the hidden landscape. At least we knew what they were all about, and anyone sifting through our photos later would just have to take our word for it.
Today, I laugh at the vomiting episode, the flat tire, and our blocked view of the national monument. But isn’t life like this? My days lately have resembled June 16, 1983. The trip up to the stuff of my prayers is winding, and car sickness distracts me. But wait. A flat tire too? And now when I’m almost there, clouds are hovering, obstructing my outlook.
Is this your life too? I have an idea. Let’s capture some pictures for our photo albums anyway—to remind ourselves. Because the longings of our hearts are still there even when we can’t see them.
Everyone else will just have to take our word for it.
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*Names in this blog have been changed to protect my family, neighbors, and friends in the neighborhood, and in a nod of appreciation to the beloved Swedish author Maj Lindman, I’ve renamed my three blondies Flicka, Ricka, and Dicka.