I recently returned from a 12-day road trip throughout the West. The purpose of the trip was to move my younger daughter from her dormitory in Denver to her summer job in Yellowstone National Park. She had 10 days off between school ending and her first day of work. My husband and I had recently sold our house in New Hampshire to move to Florida. My daughter has no friends in Florida, so she wasn’t sure if she wanted to come home. Home is an ephemeral word these days for our family. Synonyms for ephemeral describe our situation well; transitory, momentary, short lived. It seemed to make more sense for us to head West and spend time together as a family, as her sister also lives in Colorado.
We planned a route from Denver to Utah that would pass through Steamboat Springs so we could have lunch with daughter number one. It was the first time all four of us had been together since August. I had a hard time not grinning from ear to ear the entire afternoon, looking like some weepy, emotional mother who was just let out of the Home for Struggling Empty Nesters. After a lovely day, we didn’t want to say goodbye. We asked our older daughter to join us at our timeshare trade in Park City, but she had work obligations so we made plans to stop by again at the end of our trip.
The drive through Wyoming was desolate and barren but my husband was excited about the 80 mile per hour speed limit. Road signs warned of wind gusts over 35 miles per hour and the car we rented wasn’t powerful enough to drive that fast through such high winds. He became increasingly disappointed and upset when the car kept downshifting but finally gave in and set the cruise control at 70. We spent the drive singing, sharing stories and inside family jokes, and occasionally arguing. We were a family, at home in our rented car.
The great thing about a timeshare is you have a full kitchen, which saves a lot of money on dining out. We had the added bonus of vacationing with our daughter who had just finished a semester of culinary classes. Our second night there, she whipped up some chicken Marsala as we sang and danced to our favorite song by the Talking Heads. That night the song took on added meaning.
We started getting silly, making up words to the song. “Anywhere she’s cooking Marsala, that is where I want to be… Feet on the floor, hand on the pan… I told you that we needed more butter, she cooks it up as she goes along… ”
After our delicious dinner, we went out to the hot tubs to watch the sun set over the mountains. An older couple shared a waterfall tub with us and as travelers often do, they also shared stories. They had retired from California to Nevada and were on their way to visit their son in the Grand Tetons. We told our story of moving from New Hampshire to Florida and our daughters in Colorado, one on her way to Yellowstone. They laughed and exclaimed, “You sound like a band of gypsies.” And I guess we are. We are spread out all over the country and can no longer return to the home where we spent 22 years together.
I sometimes feel bad about this, uprooting my kids while they are still in their college years. But my husband and I were struggling financially. We were both working too hard for too little, the old house we lived in was turning into more of a burden than a pleasure and I was terribly unhappy in a dead end job in a cubicle. So we sold the house, moved to Florida and here we are, a band of roaming gypsies.
I am now back home in our temporary apartment in Florida while we look for a house we can afford, writing this blog and pursuing my dream of becoming a writer. My husband has started working with a builder. It is one of the best career opportunities he’s ever had. Our daughters are out West, chasing their own dreams. I miss them already and am counting the days until I see them again. I am so grateful to have the time to travel to the places where my family has scattered, no longer tied to a job with a limited amount of vacation time.
Despite our limited income over the years, we always found time to travel as a family. It was a priority for us. Buy a new sofa or take a trip to Yosemite? I think you know the answer. We filled our daughters heads with travel stories. My backpacking trip through Europe, their Dad’s junior year abroad in New Zealand. So I guess we only have ourselves and genetics to blame for their wanderlust. Lying in a hotel room in Bozeman, Montana, seven days into our western road trip, I thought about how our children are physically with us for such a short time but they are always in our thoughts and in our hearts. Our kids introduce us to so many new things and take us to so many new places. For my family, home is no longer a place but a space and time when we are together; wherever we are cooking Marsala, hiking to waterfalls or singing silly songs in rented cars.