Today is the seven-year anniversary of Mom’s death, and 12 days since we lost Dad. I still can’t believe they both died at the end of a spring semester, as I was about to embark on a sabbatical when I could spend more time with them. As teachers themselves, I’m sure they would have hung on if they could have. I love the way these photos capture our annual treks around America in a trailer, complete with dog (and usually a cat) — looking at maps, planning itineraries. This was the blessing of having teachers as parents: summers free to travel and really learn the world. It’s interesting that we worked best as a family when we were packed together in the smallest space and disconnected from our usual work and school lives. I vividly remember a couple pulling next to us on a highway somewhere, as we pulled our camper in a brown station wagon with a canoe tied to the top. “You’re beautiful! The American dream,” the woman hollered to us. These photos capture that; they look almost like ads, the color is so brilliant, our faces so happy and intent.
Even then I knew all was not as idyllic as it seemed, but I still loved those summers. My parents’ marriage didn’t last, but they gave my brother and me this incredible experience of discovering in person the 48 contiguous states. I wish more Americans traveled in their own country now as they did back then; that was actually one of the perks of the pandemic, many people did discover their own backyard. But now the rich fly to foreign lands, the poor can’t afford the cost of gas, and the middle class is an endangered species.
Mostly I miss my parents, and families that saw the country together through car windows, instead of performing for their screens.