The thought for this week was my sister remembering something about car trips when we were kids.
We grew up for the most part in New England, near one side of the family. But the other side of the family lived farther south. Some 9-hours-by-car farther south, which when I was very young I thought was in another hemisphere. (Hint for the geographically-challenged: it’s not. Not even close.)
Nine hours in a car is rough on everyone involved. The person it would have been roughest on was my sister, who was prone to car sickness. I can’t even imagine how awful those drives would have been for her, had it not been for the magic of Dramamine.
Because of this handy wonder-drug, my sister could bear the otherwise misery of the long car trip.
She bore it by sleeping through it, mind you. There was no such thing as non-drowsy anything back in the day (not that non-drowsy forms don’t still make you tired; they just don’t actually knock you out).
So for that first hour or so of the trip, my poor little sister would be a mix of dueling sensations: nausea and sleepiness. Sleep was the respite. And the best way to be asleep, and stay asleep, and not feel positively green, was to sprawl across the bench seat.
You know that thing that kids do on trips? The whole she’s-touching-me, you’re-on-my-side, Mom-make-her-stop thing that is a parent’s own personal hell? Uh huh. Well, you can guess that my trying-not-to-vomit, fast-approaching-unconsciousness sister was not going to be reasoned into politely keeping on her side. Within a very short time, she would be out like a light, and well into “my” space. All over it, in fact.
But you know what? Nine hours in a car is a loooong time. And one of the finer things about being a kid is that you can be so trustful of your parents’ ability to keep you safe that you don’t feel at all inclined to stay awake and watch traffic go by. It was a long trip, and sleep makes the time go, and I’m a good sleeper. So I would do what any even slightly rational (and at the time, remarkably small) person would have done.
I slept on the floor. I always got the floor.
Well, not always… When I got a bit older and too gangly to curl up in a ball on the floor behind my mother’s seat (head on “the hump” between the seats) – and probably also we needed more space for suitcases as our clothes got to be bigger as well – the foam mattress that we’d always have in tow for my sister and I to sleep on when we arrived at whichever-relative-we-were-staying-with-on-that-visit, started getting laid down in that space on the floor instead of in the trunk. And so when my sister would fall asleep across the bench, I would be asleep beside her, on the rolled mattress.
It was not “fair” per se. But having family live 9 hours away when you’re prone to carsickness isn’t “fair” either. And honestly, looking back… it wasn’t like I was suffering over it. I didn’t like having to take the floor, but I didn’t actually mind it either, once I was there. At least, not as far as I can remember.
So Sis… don’t apologize to me for my always getting the floor. Let me apologize to you for complaining about the perceived “unfairness” and making you feel bad about it. You were just a little kid. You were just not feeling good at all. It wasn’t a question of fairness; it was a question of giving someone you love what they need, preferably without being a martyr about it.
I am really sorry for not “getting” that at the time.
I really do love you. I’m sorry I didn’t show it better back then. I hope I do a better job now.