(Part One in a series)
Just after my oldest son James turned four years old, we took a road trip across the country together, just the two of us. This was back in October of 1992. We strapped his car seat into the passenger seat of my red Ford Ranger, loaded up his little bike with the training wheels into the truck bed and tied it down so it wouldn’t roll all over back there, packed a few of his toys and books and some crackers and other snacks, and some music cassette tapes for me, and headed out.
We headed East, out of Chicago for distant parts: Washington DC. Well, Reston Virginia, if accuracy is important. My Mom lived there.
The details of the trip are a little hazy through the filter of the passed time, 19 years worth. But the memories of many hours alone in the truck with my first-born son, now 23, are strong. He remembers it well, one of his favorite times from his childhood, in fact. And one of my favorite times of his childhood, too. I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time.
We drove maybe 8 hours that first day, a Friday if I remember right, stopping for the night in Youngstown, Ohio, near the Pennsylvania border. The next morning, after passing through Pennsylvania, I distinctly remember parts of Maryland being beautiful: the morning sun, the clean, crisp October air, the fall colors. We arrived at my Mom’s in Reston in the mid-afternoon.
I don’t know how James — or Jamie, as we called him when he was young — did it, but he never complained or fidgeted one time during the entire trip, which ended up being longer than your normal round trip by car to Washington from Chicago, as we’ll see later. I like to think it was because he loved just being with his Dad so much, of course. I liked being with him too.
It was fun and relaxing to not be in a big hurry, just driving to clear my mind from work-related stress and enjoying one-on-one time with my boy, listening to good music, just driving. It was one of those times in your life when you can step back and just thank God for the gift of life, the gift of pure and simple joy. Me and my boy, my truck and his bike, on the road. Somehow it turned into a magical time in our lives.