The Sunday Drive: A Life’s Story

This afternoon my husband, children and I set out on one of our favorite pastimes- the Sunday drive. We have been piling into the car and meandering off into parts unknown for years. It helps that since we are new to this area, only having been here two months, there is practically an entire world of adventures out there for us to explore. For us, there is a mixture of excitement and relaxation that comes in the form of a perfectly empty Sunday afternoon, filled with nothing more than aimless travel along this road and that. Ones that wind and bends beside a river, take us along hill sides, and through tiny slices of honest to goodness Americana living. It pop us out into neighboring towns, zig zag up over bridges and back down country roads. To us, there isn’t much better in this life than a great adventure to nowhere, to anywhere- known as our Family Sunday Drive.

The kids love it too. Just ask them. Sure, at times they might tell you its boring, they’re tired, hungry (again), have to pee (again), or they want to goooo home- but its on these drives that we are building memories and instilling values that will carry with them long into their adult lives. “Trust me,” I tell them.

I can remember as a very little girl my family would take the same “beloved” Sunday drive, though it was set in my hometown, and so navigating through the dry desert landscape of southern California, instead of today’s journey through the lush green wilderness of Oregon. I have thought often about those seemingly endless drives through that desert. God, they were so boring. My sister and I would squabble in the backseat, and the flat, brown never-ending landscape dotted with Joshua Trees and littered with tumble weeds would stretch out on all sides for as long and wide as my little eyes could see. I really used to hate those drives. They forced me to be patient, to make up stories and songs. I had to come up with inventive games to play with my sister, taking turns to point out landmarks, practicing our harmonizing, plotting our schemes. We had no choice. There was no TV in the car. No movies. No ipads. No, these drives were just before the age of the early hand-held devices that would sprout up in my much later youth. And so we had to, interact, to survive the agony of togetherness on these forever stretches of road. I had nothing else with me to distract me, to entertain me, except my imagination; and as I grew older, almost always, a book to get lost in, which would inexplicably last only part of the trip. (Darn my speed-reading ways.)

Why yes, it was most certainly in those moments traveling in the car, those uninterrupted stretches of time with my family, my thoughts, my imagination- where I found myself. Though I didn’t realize it until much, much later. My soul was imprinted with a love for adventure that has come along with me; driven me, to every place in life I’ve journeyed since. It was in those Sunday drives where I learned much of what would shape my personality, and where I definitely cultivated my love of story-telling. I learned that I am patient, inquisitive, imaginative and daring; able to look out at a blank landscape and create a story to match. As a grown up I see new, unfamiliar places as exciting, challenging, filled with possibilities; mine to explore and to create my stories in.

I know in this age of technology its harder and harder to have a tech-free afternoon with your family. I will admit, my children brought along their phones and their tablets today. The older one, the one much like his mama, brought a book. I purposefully kept my phone with its enticing distractions tucked away. It mostly stayed there, aside from an unexpected call from none other than my dad, who wanted to shoot the breeze. When I mentioned we were on a lovely Sunday drive winding along the river, he exclaimed, “Oh, I love a good Sunday drive!” I know dad, I know. Me too.

Let me back up, and take you down my memory lane. I remember once him telling me, during one of our many long and memorable conversations while Dad and I were driving across the country, moving me to my first apartment 2800 miles from home, as a newly married young woman at the tender age of twenty, to my Army Private high school sweetheart stationed in the South. We were driving to my future, and it was quite the adventure! As we chatted about life, and I shared my memory’s version of those torturous Sunday drives when I was little, he told me about how his dad and mom had always liked taking Sunday drives with he and his brothers and sisters as well. He might have even said he hated them, but don’t quote me. And right then, it all began to make sense. I was a part of something bigger, another story started long before mine. In that moment I realized I had a story now too; it was unfolding. There we were, on our way at that very moment, driving across miles of the heartland, as I was setting out on a new adventure of my own.

Something occurred to me today as we twisted and turned along the newly discovered paths of our new home. We listened to a cheesy old-timey country radio station to really set mood and the backdrop as we winded along, past trees, scattered rows of old buildings in teeny tiny “towns”, we saw docked boats along the river’s edge, beautifully aged, turn-of-the-century houses with histories one could only imagine, little shops with handmade signs. So many stories here, so much life. My boys all differently taking in the experience. The young one finding something interesting out the window, and then swiftly complaining of being car sick. Another one, who’s nose, as usual, was in his book; looking up every time we said, “Look at that guys!” Another one eagerly looking out the window, also as usual, pointing out details along the way that we might be missing. He has such an eye for spotting life’s little details. While the youngest, she slept peacefully in her car seat. We are making memories, I thought. Making our stories right here, right now- and it didn’t cost a thing. (Ok gas, yes. Let’s not nit pick.) Yep, it occurred to me while we happily and aimlessly drove along on our little mini afternoon adventure; a circus of funny characters, some in agony, asking when are we going home, others in complete bliss. They have already been on some wild adventures in their young lives. They are so lucky, even if they don’t know it just yet. And then it struck me. Someday, I may call one of my grown children just to shoot the breeze, and if they answer and its Sunday, they may just tell me they are out on a Sunday drive. And I will just smile. I will be a part of their story one day too.

My grandmother, my Dad’s mother, painted this. It’s so special, and it hangs in my daughter’s room above her bed where she dreams up her own adventures. And now you know a little about why its my favorite.

This article, written by a guest writer on one of my most loved blogs, discusses her journey to making the decision to sell her things, travel across the country, and write a book about it. She embraces the idea of living with less and breaks down the fears that hold us back. Even if you aren’t someone who is intrigued by the minimalist movement, there is a lot of wisdom here about what holds us back in life from jumping in the car, and starting off on our own adventures, whatever those may be. She may just be my hero.
What’s your story?

Go have a read.