‘Tis the Season . . . for Family Togetherness: Every summer, three generations of the Blair Clan travel to the Family Reunion in the North Carolina Mountains, to enjoy a week or two of Simple Pleasures.
Sadly, new technology has now all but eclipsed Family Togetherness. Today, the design of personal electronics allows each traveler [except the driver] to retreat into his or her own personal bubble or sphere, wholly unconnected to the other travelers, with whom he or she happens to share space.
But I was lucky: The six members of the original Blair family, from 1952-1962, experienced uninterrupted Family Togetherness, before this new wave of technology. If you were born after, say, 1980, you are indeed unfortunate: You cannot imagine the fun and creativity that you missed. So, I will describe it:
Our green Buick, a behemoth, had neither power steering nor automatic seat/window adjustments. It had no air conditioning but, then again, neither did our two-story apartment at Randolph Air Force Base, near San Antonio. My mother was heavily pregnant with me, when my parents moved to Texas, in the summer of 1952. My mother took a shower every time she climbed the stairs, which was several times per day.
We received a military transfer to California in the summer of 1958. We planned to travel in the Buick across the desert, which would be an unbearable challenge. So, my father bought a motorized device, no bigger than a bread box. It sat on the floor board, at my mother’s feet, and bounced ice cubes around the interior of the box. Then, it fanned the cooled air into the interior of the car.
As soon as we passed across the interminable desert, my father stopped and bought everyone a Date Milkshake, at the first oasis. You never tasted anything so delicious, cold, and refreshing in your entire life.
The Buick had no seat belts, which made it difficult for each siblings to mark off his or her “territory.” There were neither infant safety seats nor booster seats but this deficit allowed the older siblings to pass the baby to the front seat, where my mother would feed and console him or her. Then, she would pass the baby back to us, until we grew tired of him or her. And back and forth and so on.
The back seat of the Buick folded all the way down. Upon this flat surface, my father placed a sheet of plywood, which butted up against the front seat. This enlarged space provided a “sleeping berth.” You see, my parents sometimes traveled at night: I might go to sleep in my bunk bed in San Antonio but wake up to see the sun rise in El Paso. Disoriented, I would have no memory of my dad having carried me, wrapped in a blanket, out to the car, in the middle of the night.
After waking up, we siblings threw street clothes over our pajamas and stumbled out of the “sleeping berth” to have breakfast. My dad’s quest was to find the best locally-owned “Mom & Pop” restaurant, where we heartily ate a Farmhouse Breakfast. My parents were frugal and we would not eat a meal again until supper. [Although we would have a snack and beverage.]
The boredom of four siblings, cooped up in a car for 10 or more hours, took its toll. Sometimes, an older sibling read aloud to the younger ones:
Or, the older sibs read silently, while the younger children took naps.
[Image Credit: Lovely Books blog]
However, we could read only for a short while before nausea set in.
We played card games with the younger children:
Or, we passed around the View Master and re-lived our travels, from the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, Disneyland, and Knott’s Berry Farm:
We took turns drawing on the Etch-A-Sketch:
Or, we played with Wooly Willy or Hair-Do Harriet.
My grandmother taught us older children how to make Button and String Whirlygigs. This fascinated the younger children:
By mid-afternoon, we had exhausted all means of entertaining ourselves and we become punchy: We giggled over the silliest things. My mother turned her neck and head around toward the back seat and warned, “Stop that snickering!”
Yet we snickered even more. My dad fumed silently as he drove, irritated by the volume of noise from the backseat. My mother gave repeated warnings. When he could bear it no longer, my dad pulled over at the next safe place and stopped the car. That was all. He said not a word nor did he turn his head around, in our direction. We were all shamed into silence and dozed until supper time.
After a sit-down supper in a family restaurant, we climbed back into the car. As the sun went down, my dad and mom led us in singing. And this was the best part of the entire day . . .
[To be continued]