Himself and I are happy in the Mount Hermon cabin but there is always a wistfulness at knowing that inevitably our stay is too short. The kids are less sanguine as the opportunities for electronic entertainment are fewer. I drop them in nearby Scott’s Valley to see Piranha and then go to have a signal light replaced on my car. The ringer on my phone is accidentally turned off and when I return to the cabin Himself tells me they have called and said they are stranded as the management refused to admit 14 year old Spuds to an R rated film. I fetch them and return to theater with him the following day. I say that he has my permission to see the film but they refuse to admit him unless I attend with him and proceed to unbraid me as a bad parent. “You don’t want him to see that film” a woman intones. “Yes, actually, I do.” I don’t bother mentioning we’re from L.A. and the woman goes on to tell me that the plot of the film revolves around the production of a porno film and she will not let go of her ire that I would even consider exposing Spuds to this. I realize we’re not getting anywhere but as we retreat from the theater, the Seventeen year old utters in a good stage whisper, “We’ll just go home and watch porn.”
It’s been a long time since I slept in the same room with the kids. Both slept in bed with us for what seemed at the time forever but I cannot remember now exactly when both of them stopped. I write this from a Microtel across the street from a Walmart in Klamath Falls Oregon. In the old days I use a Frommer’s or a Lonely Planet, find a place that sounds good and call and reserve a room. Now I start with Trip Advisor, study the ratings and then check availability which then leads to Expedia and Priceline and six other sites so I can compare prices. Then I go directly to the hotel’s website and see if it is less expensive to book directly. It is arduous and in my haste I fail to notice that while well rated and very inexpensive, the Microtel is about 8 miles from the town proper and in a staggeringly unattractive area. I disbelieve the GPS because it “couldn’t possibly be this way,” and after driving around for forty five minutes amid swarms of mosquitos worthy of a horror film we finally call the hotel and the woman directs us via fast food purveyors, “go past the Wendy’s and turn right at the Burger King and then left at the A&W.” She is affable when we arrive, extremely portly and with food crumbs adhering to her upper lip. She gives us free tickets for the bowling alley across the street where I can get additional discount because it is Ladies Night.
We have driven over seven hours from Santa Cruz. The seventeen year old sleeps stretched out in the back seat for most of the trip. Spuds rides shotgun and is responsible for providing me with snacks, changing the CDs of the audiobook I listen to, navigating and finding restaurants via Yelp on my new smart phone. He is patient and nonplused. He will be a better spouse than either of his parents. He finds a place called Louis Cairo in Williams California. There are branding irons and guys in cowboy hats and homemade bread with an inch of roasted garlic. We had almost no breakfast and by three p.m. we are famished. I righteously order a salmon salad and try to hold back on the bread but then blow it with fresh berry cobbler. There has been an issue with a missing Ipod car charger and while we are able to partially recharge at the restaurant the seventeen year old goes a bit over the edge when we exit the restaurant into 110 degree heat and he is unable to locate his headphones. Spuds and I, manage to remain calm and supportive and Spuds returns to the restaurant to see if they’d been left there. This seems to further rankle the Seventeen year old although when he does locate the headphones in a door pocket he thanks us for having been so patient so he too is probably better marriage material than either of the ‘rents.
Himself is only with us for three days in the cabin we love in Mount Hermon and we are both sad when we drop him at the airport in San Jose to return to work to proceed on our Oregon college tour. We are seldom separated for more than a week and it is hard for me to imagine him feeding himself and tending to the house. He calls around dinner time, as we are driving through the spectacular Shasta Lake area and asks if it’s ok to eat the carrots in the refrigerator or if I was saving them. We will be gone over a week and I guess it is with admiration he believes I plan meals that far in advance. Given the green light on consuming the carrots he asks how to prepare them.
We stop for gas in Dunsmuir and drive through the historic town and we note that like in so many places we visit, most of the store fronts on the main street are vacant and boarded up. . The kids note that most of the inhabitants they see on the streets resemble something out of My Name is Earl. I realize what strikes them in these little towns in Northern California is that, unlike at home, the most of the people who commute on foot are white.
The Seventeen Year old texts constantly with a number of his friends who are newly arrived at college. They tell him about roommates and orientation and his reaction is complex. Three of his closest friends are gone and it will be a long time before he sees them again. He is happy for them but also anxious for himself about being faced with the same prospect in a year. I remember starting college and knowing no one and writing a lot of letters to friends at home. A friend’s daughter writes thank you notes for college graduation gifts and she does not now how to address an envelope. There was a payphone in the lobby of my dorm but it was long distance and reserved only for calling parents collect to ask for money. I suspect that as soon as friends acclimate to college life and begin to make friends that their contact with the 17 year old will be less frequent and as they settle in my boy’s own apprehension about the big change will diminish.
We are three and not four and without Himself we can order what we want in a restaurant although while the maternal 25% of the family is never averse to starters and dessert, beverages containing sugar are frowned upon. We lack however our repository of information. We drive through the Crater Lake area, one of the most beautiful drives I have ever taken but the kids and I are too lazy to read explanatory signage and haven’t studied up and without Himself we all know that we do not fully appreciate what we are seeing.
Himself and I agree that while we traveled far less frequently as children than our own children do, memories of childhood travel are our most vivid and among the happiest. I miss Himself during this atypically long separation although I am thankful that he has adapted to his new Smartphone to the extent that he can text us frequently. I am aware that there won’t be that many family road trips in our future. I hope that my children remember this one like I remember my own childhood ventures away from home. We know that this is a significant period in history and I suspect as adults my children will remember the economic crisis we have yet to surface from with the same poignance as my parents remember the depression. I hope too that they remember how fortunate we feel to be able to make such a journey and that for these few days before the beginning of school and my eldest’s 18th birthday, that we are happy.