December 4 – Wonder.

How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?

While I dislike being reliant on a big hulking piece of metal that consumes gasoline and belches pollutants into the environment, the fact is that -whether it’s my fault or not- my lifestyle does not allow for me to be carfree. For the past 10 years, I have been driving around a rapidly degrading minivan. Rapidly degrading meaning, basically, rapidly becoming undriveable if not completely mechanically broken down. In other words, yes, the car started every day, but without air conditioning, speedometer, gas gauge, and functioning side door…driving became an unfun proposition.

Road trips, which were the impetus behind the purchase of the minivan in the first place, had become completely out of the question in the past few years. It was uncomfortable enough getting from point a in north austin to point b in south austin, let alone dragging two children with a high stink-potential out on the road.

I’ve missed road trips. When I close my eyes on the thought of road trips, my life opens up like a road, from childhood to now. Every year a new destination, some years – several. Road trips like the ones my family would take, piling all 7 of us in the big blue van to head to Wisconsin or Arkansas or Colorado. With my mother on the CB and my brother as the co-pilot. Breaker 1-9, this is snow white. Go ahead, breaker. And truck stops in the rain, and smoky diners and country and western music. The good kind. The Waylon and Willie and Hank Williams, SENIOR kind.

And road trips like the madcap adventures to Michigan to visit friends in cars that were not cut out for those kinds of missions. And meandering explorations up and down the Indiana/Illinois border looking for fireworks and that time I pulled the Celica over after toomuchdriving o’clock had struck, and we laid the seats back and put our jackets over our heads and slept and slept and slept until the sound of hard, bare knuckly on cold windowglass jarred us awake, bringing the seat upright at the same time unrolling the window “Is there a problem officer?” Officer says “Did you know you are parked outside of a prison? You need to move!” and he leaves and we look at each other and laugh and laugh and continue driving on to nowhere in particular.

Roadtrips that shaped my own children. Like the time we drove to Chicago for the first time to visit with Mamaw after all the time flying. The first time I actually observed my son unfolding himself to the awesomeness of distance in observing the amount of time it took to transport ourselves from Austin to Chicago by vehicle, rather than magically entering one airport in the warm Austin weather and magically emerging from a different airport in Chilly Chicago. Like an amusement park ride. Instead, on the road, humming steadily from south to north. Lulled by swishing road signs and passing fellow travelers. Marking our journey by observing landmarks and noticing subtle shifts in landscape, as well as climate.

Roadtrips like my epic journey from Austin to Portland Oregon and back. My first real assertion of my confidence in myself as a single parent. The sojourn that gave me a much-needed sense of strength, even invincibility. A sense I would need and feed on for years to come. The small details of that journey are unimportant. No photos exist. One essay was written about the difficulty of finding decent places to urinate and defecate while traveling with small children. It wasn’t the details that made this one so important, but the fact that I did it. With only marginal planning, and a horrific sense of direction, I managed the drive up through colorado, wyoming, into Montana, through Idaho to Portland, and down down down the black-sanded shores of Northern Californa, Redwoods, Los Angeles…across deserts and deserts and deserts and Grand Canyon and Carlsbad and brown and yellow and green and home.

So, yes. Road trips, which have been sadly absent from my life, have always boosted my sense of wonder. And while I have modern hippie guilt for gaining a sense of wonder from a wholly selfish pursuit, I am looking forward to much more wonder-making roadtripping in the near future, as Phat Mama’s Minivan was retired and replaced by Phat Mama’s Nerdmobile. 🙂

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