Smokey’s parents moved from Chicago to Palm Harbor FL after my FIL retired. We visited them for two weeks every Christmas; our boys never saw an actual white Christmas (Day) until they were 11 and 6. Generally, we drove the 1,600 miles from Minnesota to Grandpa and Grandma’s house. although we did fly a few times*.
On the trip when ES was 2 or so, we took my Subaru station wagon for the trip. As always, we drove straight through, with stops only for gas and food. On the return trip, Smoke drove through the first night, while ES and I slept in the back. (The back seat folded flat, so we were able to stretch out in our sleeping bags. It was fairly comfortable. (And cheap.)) In the morning he stopped at a Tennesee McDonald’s so ES and I could have breakfast before I took the wheel for the next few hours; he wasn’t hungry himself and would rather dive into his own sleeping bag than eat.
ES and I had our pancakes and sausage and a bathroom break, then got back into the car and headed north again, with Smokey buried in the pile of pillows and blankets in the back of the wagon. We played music and story tapes on the car stereo to keep ES amused, but I made him keep the volume low so as not to disturb the sleeping Daddy.
Ninety miles later, slightly befuddled, I was pulled over by a Kentucky state patrolman. I was driving the speed limit, Smoke had checked all the lights on the car before we left home to be sure all were functioning — why was I being pulled over?
When I rolled down my window, the patrolman looked pointedly at the back of the car, smirked at me, and said, “Missing anybody?”
When I turned fully around and looked in the back of the station wagon, it was clear that no one was buried in that pile of sleeping bags. I had only glanced back when I had gotten in the car and driven off… leaving poor Smoke back in that McDonald’s. It turned out that while ES and I were in the bathroom, he had come in to use the men’s room. Like ships passing the night, we never saw each other.
An hour and a half later we were all reunited, no one was mad, and we added another to our collection of stories.
Apparently we are not the only ones to do something like this. Thanks for the link, Chris!
* Coupla other FL stories:
- Elder Son, about 3 at the time, had a window seat on the plane with Smokey next to him. Smoke was explaining to him that the lights he could see were actually on the ground far below us and that we were very, very high in the sky. His explanation went on for awhile, with lots of detail. When he finished, ES pointed out the window and exclaimed, “Dark outside!” That phrase has become our oblique reference to overthinking and/or over-explaining anything.
- I was not working outside the home for the four years after Younger Son’s birth. Every winter Smoke would watch the newspaper ads (remember newspapers?) for cheap flights to Florida, and whenever there was a particularly good one, the boys and I would fly down to visit Grandpa and Grandma for a week. One year when we all flew down for our annual holiday visit, Smokey volunteered to wrangle the boys during the flight “…so [you] could read in peace on the other side of the aisle. And give us dirty looks if they are noisy.” What a guy!
- The year that we had a Japanese foreign exchange student living with us, we took our camper for the annual FL trip, and after Christmas we continued on to the Florida Keys to show Miwa another bit of America. Since the camper had a good-sized icebox, we filled a dishpan with snow before we left and shared it with G&G’s neighborhood kids, who had never seen snow. They had what was probably the only snowball fight in the history of Palm Harbor.