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As the school year starts, prayers for the journey that lies ahead
It’s been some time since my family has taken what any of us would call a real vacation. We’ve managed a couple of overnights here and there since our last big trip, when we rented a place near the beach on Florida’s panhandle, but that’s been years. We’ve had two kids since then. Life gets busy; money gets shoveled toward other priorities — a car needs replaced, a kid needs braces, a kitchen needs remodeled. The list is long.
After the 2020 we’ve had, we’re due. We’re all due.
Even before the pandemic came and stuck around like an uninvited house guest that wouldn’t leave, we’ve had the summer of 2021 circled for a grand, Griswold-style vacation — a Great American Road Trip out west to see parts of the country none of us have seen — Route 66, the Grand Canyon, the red rocks of Utah, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado and 400-plus miles of whatever Kansas has in store.
Now, there have been some logistical concerns about how we’re going to manage the already delicate relationships between eight people for the 70-plus hours — covering more than 4,000 miles — that we’ll be riding down highways together. I’m sure we’ll all be longing for social distance. But we think we found a solution. A big, 35-foot-long solution.
Neither my wife or I have been even the slightest bit frivolous in our nearly 20 years of marriage, but recently we threw caution to the wind and bought an RV — a big Class A the size of a city bus. Now, it would be fair to ask one or all of the following questions: Do either of us have any experience with such a vehicle? No. Do we have any idea what we’re getting ourselves into? Not really. Do we care? Not at all.
The one we bought is nearly as old as my high school diploma, but it’s been owned by the same sweet couple for more than 20 years. They bought it new and treated it like home, making memories with their kids and grandkids, and now they’ve passed it on to us so that we can do the same. Along with the keys, they gave us nearly all of the necessities they’ve collected over the years: the silverware, the pots and pans, the tablecloths and bedding, the camping chairs and the coffee maker and the small tabletop grill. They didn’t need them anymore, they said, and hoped we could use it all. We can, and we will.
Having never really driven anything larger than a pickup truck, I nervously slid into the captain’s chair of our new land boat for its test drive. After saying a silent prayer to St. Christopher, I gave it some gas and pulled it out of the sweet couple’s driveway onto a two-lane county road. As I picked up speed, it bounced and swayed with every wobble of the road. It felt like I was wrestling a moose and the steering wheel was its antlers. The skinny middle-of-nowhere roads I turned onto to head back were even worse, and I kept apologizing to the oncoming cars as they maneuvered themselves nearly off of the road to make room for the novice driving the family tank down a road where it clearly didn’t belong. Once we finally corralled the beast back into its home driveway, I loosened my grip on the wheel and felt the blood flow back into my fingers. But as I sat there for a moment, breathing again, I stared out of the enormous windshield, excited about the sights we’ll see out of it, the memories we’ll make next summer. But that vacation lies somewhere on the horizon.
For now, there are more immediate matters to tend to. For the first time in five-plus months, my wife (a teacher) and our kids are headed back to school, masks and Lysol wipes at the ready. Maybe the protocols that so many have worked so hard to put in place will be effective. Maybe the kids will stay safe and schools will stay open. Maybe the cases will start to decline and we’ll see signs of hope on the horizon. More than likely, though, it’s going to be a bumpy ride that we’ll have to white-knuckle our way through, hands clasped together in prayer.
Either way, it’s going to be a long journey, but we’re all in it together. St. Christopher, pray for us!
Scott Warden is managing editor for Our Sunday Visitor.