This summer we had the opportunity to do a road trip together again. It would be the seven of us, packed in the old gray Suburban, just like old times. A few years have passed since we have had the occasion for six hours of this kind of togetherness and I was waiting for the usual fall-out that accompanies these trips.

What was different this round, was the fact that for the first time ever, my children were officially all adults.

When they were little, what stands out most in my mind is the crick in my neck that would develop about ten minutes into any trip. I would spend the majority of the excursion looking backwards, settling the constant indiscriminate disputes that would arise each time one of them ventured to speak. There were many times that I wished I were Inspector Gadget so I could simply say, “go, go gadget arm,” and reach out and touch someone.

Having a mini van made all the difference in the world once my neck was too sore to whip my head around. I would with great drama, unclick my seatbelt, and a hush would fall upon the backseat inhabitants as I headed aft. The blame game ensued, followed pretty much by somebody getting it, and I wasn’t handing out cookies.

Another famous phrase we often use goes something like this, “when we get to the freeway…” The rest of the sentence usually ended with “we will all say the Rosary together.” After the predictable moans and sighs died down and the five miles it took to get to the freeway, several kids would invariably be overcome with sudden sleep disorder thus rendering themselves unconscious when it came time to pray. This tactic was never very successful because the remaining vigilant siblings would arouse them with loving forcefulness so they wouldn’t miss out. After all, a family that prays together…

As teen passengers they would mostly keep to themselves once the initial fight over “who sat where” ended. The cleverest tactic used to secure the front seat involved sleeping all night in the car thus beating out all siblings. The preferred method used most often however was the tried and true duke it out process that began hours before we left. They could recall with minute detail every instance since birth when each sibling had already had his or her turn. These same kids who can’t remember when to take out the trash, could recount with the precision of a tax accountant, the date, vacation, and mileage of each trip, and who rode shotgun.

Return trips from California on New Year’s Day after consuming my cousin’s secret chili recipe, were predictably interesting, to say the least. About an hour into the trip the wind began to blow stronger inside the vehicle than outside. The girls would let out a scream as the offending smell wafted past their nostrils, then all the windows would simultaneously go down, and the boys would laugh hysterically. This cadence continued every couple of miles for the remainder of our journey. Without a doubt, the cars behind us got a good whiff as they blew through the green gaseous cloud at seventy miles per hour. Good times.

So what was different this time? In a word, it was pleasant. At departure they loaded right up without the customary seat fight, plugged into their ipod’s, took out their books, and sat there in blissful silence…for hours. It was actually surreal, peaceful even, and just a tiny bit boring.

Gone were the days that made fodder for stories and generated laughs around the bus stop. We had entered a new era, or had we? Perhaps we just caught them off guard and a little bit exhausted from having real lives and real jobs that just don’t leave much energy to fight over little things. I actuality though, I was really grateful for not having to deal with the old familiar crick.

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