When my sisters and I were kids, we traveled a lot in the Summer. Our parents both worked for the public schools, and camping was a cheap and effective way of seeing the sights. I didn’t know we didn’t have a lot of money by the way, that sort of thing just never came up. We took things as they came, and I know I asked for a lot more than I got, but the same can be said of a rich kid who has more than I can imagine. Kids…
Anyway, we saw so much. One Summer, I was 5 or 6, we took the Chevy convertible and the Cox camper and drove from New York state to California and back. I didn’t appreciate the heroics of taking 3 girls under 10 on a journey like this until decades later. The car was hot. It overheated often enough that each time spent waiting to get going again has blurred into an amalgam in my memory, and it lives as only one experience, rinse, repeat. My dad may have cursed about it, but if he did, I don’t remember. I just remember him adding water and the waiting. And of course, I remember bickering with my sisters, arguing over the small amount of space we had in that car. I remember getting car sick in most every state we passed through. I’m relatively proud of how many states I’ve thrown up in actually. Sorry parents.
The thing I remember most though is the views. The things we stopped to watch, the things we drove by. Incredible things, Grand Canyon, fields of gold, the view coming down Pike’s Peak (we lost power steering on the way down, and I was sure we’d die, but it was as beautiful as it was terrifying). And mostly, the sunsets. My father has taken tons of photos of sunsets over his years. He would often stop the car, and just as often slow down and tell us to be quiet and look out the window at the gorgeous sunset. He wanted us to gasp in awe, and we really should have. I don’t think we did though. I’d like to say I remember gasping in awe. I do, however, remember the sunsets. I did look. And I don’t know when it finally sank in, but at the ripe old age of 47 I can say that now I remember the sunsets over plains and mountains, canyons, and through ridiculous heat that you could see rising in waves from the earth. I remember, and I’m so grateful for the sunsets, and for a father who wouldn’t give up on making us stop and appreciate what was right in front of us.
I don’t think I stopped the car often to show my kids the sunset. But I slowed down an awful lot. And I nagged them, and forced them to put down the Gameboys and LOOK! I hope to God that they remember some day, and torment their own kids with the beauty of sunsets they won’t appreciate until later on. I’m not sorry for nagging. I’m only sorry I didn’t completely stop the car more often, and take more pictures.
I’m reading this chapter of a very good book right now that describes the inextricable link between joy and gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings joy so often, according to people who manage to be joyful on a regular basis. While I’m working on the joy, I couldn’t be more grateful for the sunshine, and the stubborn will of parents who know something the children will eventually know for themselves, if they’re very lucky.
I just spent the weekend at the beach with my father and stepmother. I was the first one up, at 7:30 Saturday, just in time to take some snapshots of a gorgeous sunrise. I was giddy with it. And I’d beaten my dad – he missed this one. But the next day, I peeked out my blinds at 7:32 and saw him on the deck, camera in hand, fully focused. I snapped my fingers old-school style; darn it, he’d beaten me. I rushed into my robe and hustled outside anyway.
I snuck up on my dad, took a couple pictures of him and the sunrise with my phone, and then announced myself. He laughed, but didn’t stop shooting. And that was awesome.