Michelle Martin

Road tripping

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Travel broadens the mind, or so I’ve been told.

It doesn’t always feel that way when you have two parents and three kids confined to an aluminum can hurtling down the highway, with nothing to distract you for hours but the occasional rest stop.

I’m thinking about this because we’ll be leaving this week to take Caroline back to college.

This year, since Caroline’s arrival date doesn’t coincide with the first day of first grade for Teresa, and because Frank has embarked on a round of his own college visits, it’s turned into a five-day, whole-family trip with lots of moving parts: kenneling the dog; renting a minivan to accommodate all of us and all the things Caroline needs to bring; reservations at three different hotels as we make our way there and back; a scheduled college visit along the way for Frank … and two days off of school for Teresa.

She’ll have an iPad and Netflix, so she can watch her favorite movies in the car. She won’t be stuck counting overpasses to pass the time, like I was on many family trips through central Illinois. But my intent is to make sure she doesn’t spend all her time plugged in. It’s hard enough to get two teenagers with wildly different interests and a 7-year-old to spend time bonding, so to have them all together for this trip is a gift, complicated logistics or not.

She’ll also have maybe a bit more insight into the reality of college life (and tiny dorm rooms) than most of her second-grade classmates.

Frank had hoped to bring along some of his hockey gear and possibly find a rink with open ice for stick-and-puck practice while we were on the road, but was stymied by rink schedules. The one he found starts stick-and-puck the day we get home.

Caroline, meanwhile, is looking forward to seeing her school friends again, and maybe even a little bit to classes. I think she’ll miss home, at least a little, but it’s different going back than going away for the first time.

She’ll be different this year, but so will the rest of us. Travel, and time, change people, and often moving across the landscape highlights the effect of moving through time.

As Christians, we are told over and over again that we are a pilgrim people, sojourning in this life. The Bible is full of travel: Noah flees the flood in the ark, Abraham migrates to the land of Canaan, Moses leads his people out of Egypt. In the Gospels, Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, flee to Egypt, bring the young Jesus with them to Jerusalem. Jesus traveled with his disciples as well, leaving his home in Galilee for his passion and death in Judea.

We are setting forth on another school year; not just students, but the people who love and guide them. May we learn the lessons we need from one another as we share the road.