It was the summer of 1988. Before cell phones,before the internet,before hybrid cars,before super cool comfy family fitting SUV's. I was 12. The oldest of 4 and as a preteen mad at the world.
My father decided that we were going to drive to kansas for the family reunion. Our family,my Uncle and his boys,my Aunt and her kids and my Grandmother who always had a chip on her shoulder and was always yelling at someone for something someone had done. We would be gone for 2 weeks and all travel together. In seperate cars,but together.So, we packed, and my family loaded ourselves into the clunky old brown humungus station wagon and hit the road for Kansas. From Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. A very long drive. My parents in the front seat,my sister and I in the back and my 2 brothers in the big back part where all our piles of luggage and blankets were jammed roof high. It was crowded. With no air conditioning.
There were concerns as we came closer to the border because my Uncle is a Communist (yes,for real) and there were worries that they would not let him cross. (The FBI has a file on him).He didn't tell them and they didn't ask and didn't look at his ID ( oh, those were the days..) so he crossed. For the record, Communism is not part of my family and we don't support it. My Uncle just wanted to be different.
I still wonder what the officers at the border thought of our jam packed station wagon. Even back then we were quite the sight when we set out on family trips.
My Father always wanted to be prepared for anything on family trips. He brought a little porta potty. Yes, a porta potty. That we were forced to use because there was no way my Dad was stopping the car everytime someone had to go. Imagine a 12 year old girl in the car with her family trying to squeeze herself into the back of the car to pee in a porta potty in front of everyone with the car moving.And no air conditioning. We did not have tinted windows.
Then there was the water jug. Not just any water jug. This jug could hold about 10 gallons of water. We were not allowed to stop for store bought drinks. My job ,as the oldest ,was to keep the water cold. Here is how it was done. When my Dad would stop for gas he would buy a bag of ice to keep in the cooler which was also placed in the back of the station wagon with all our stuff,the porta potty and my brothers. But right behind my head of course so I could have "easy" access to keep ice in the jug.He would fill the jug almost full( leave room for ice of course) from watever tap or hose was available at the gas station. SO, the water usually came from the nasty taps in the gas station bathrooms. Yuck. I had to keep the jug on the floor where my feet were supposed to go becasue there was no room anywhere else. I had to keep it shaded and as we were driving, drop the ice into the jug a bit at a time to keep it cool.
During one stretch between gas stations, my youngest brother got the poops. The runny kind. He was little and hadn't really mastered the art of holding it long enough to get to the toilet( in this case,porta potty). He had already peed most of his clothes so he was naked in case he needed clothes later on. So nobody discovered he had the poops until I went to the back to lay down. Not that there was any room,... but my legs were cramped and I needed to stretch. I found a comfy blanket and managed to maneuver everything so I could semi lay down. I layed on the blanket not knowing until it was too late that the blanket was full of runny poop. And upon looking at my naked brother,who just sat there with a blank look on his face,I realized ha was also covered in poop.I think I was able to change my clothes.And being the oldest ,I had the priviledge of cleaning up the runny poop.And my poopy brother.While the car was moving. ( my Mother needed to enjoy her vacation,said my dad).We drove to kansas with a stinky poopy blanket in the hot crowded car.And a porta potty that was getting stinkier.With no air conditioning.
The porta potty was getting full during one stretch between gas stations(my job, as the oldest, was also to dump and clean the porta potty,because my Mother needed to enjoy her vacation)so my Dad had a grand idea...get ready...if the boys had to pee, they had to do it in a big soda bottle. No, we didnt get to stop for store bought drinks. My Dad had brought these empty bottles from home to use as water bottles. So we drove FOREVER with a stinky poopy blanket,a full porta potty,naked little boy and a soda bottle full of pee.Not to mention, my little brothers hadn't mastered the art of pee IN the bottle.Again, no air conditioning.
We stopped to eat one time. We never had alot of money to eat out so this was a big deal for us. We found a nice little place to eat. We walk in and see that yes, it is nice. Very nice. We looked like hobos and thanks to the porta potty,poop blanket and pee bottles probably smelled a bit rank too. ( my little brother was wearing clothes by this time)And we were sweaty because it was so friggin hot and our car did not have air conditioning. We took our seats and my brothers proceeded to act like they had never been taught manners. They ran around,they belched,they farted,they threw things. When the waitress came to take our order my little brother asked for just a plate of bacon. We ate as fast as we could and got the heck out of there.
We made it to Kansas and got settled. As we went on a tour of my great uncles' (who did not believe in wearing underwear,but wore very loose shorts)farm, we noticed a field of marijuana. It grew wild. It was taller than corn.It was against the law for my uncle to cut it. It grew wild so there was nothing he could really do about it but leave it alone.My Great Uncle drove through the weed with all of us in the bed of the truck.My cousin kept picking it and my grandmother had a fit because number one,she was worried my uncle would be arrested because the weed was tampered with,and number two she was convinced that my cousin was now a dope head juvenile delinquent.
One of my other cousins and my sister caught a bunch of frogs and had a big fight over who had more frogs and whose frogs were whose. My Great Aunt then insulted my sister ( I can't remember exactly what she said).This sparked a family feud between my Aunt and my Mother and of course everyone had to get their two sense in on the matter.
My cousin drove an ATV off of a huge cliff and we all thought he would die when he hit the ground but he ended up to be fine.
My cousin got stung by a hornet and used the F word which sparked more contraversy than ever because who in the world knows the F word at that age??(said the older folks)
The drive home was pretty much the same as the drive there. After we crossed the border back into Canada, my mom opened the glove box and noticed the pile of weed my cousin had picked.
My Communist Uncle made it safely home without being arrested at the border.
The poop blanket stayed clean on the ride home.
My brothers learned to pee in the bottle without peeing on me.
My brother was wearing clothes.
And we didn't die of thirst because I had managed to keep the water cool.
My Dad never brought the porta potty on any more vacations.
On future road trips we were allowed to stop for store bought drinks.
My cousin never did become a dope head delinquent.
The family feud about the frogs lasted a decade.
The weed is still growing in the field in kjansas.
I'm pretty sure my cousin still says the F word.
I turned out pretty normal and so did my sister and brothers.
My parents added 3 more kids to the mix.And bought a van which ended up being crushed by a crane right in our driveway in the middle of the night. .....But that's another story.
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