Fast forward 18 years from the road trip I wrote about yesterday and you'll be in 1978 -- on another road trip. This time I was one of the parents in the front seat, and my daughters, then 14 and 16, were the bored, irritable teens hugging their respective windows in the rear.
We'd been living for a couple of years in Vidalia, Georgia (home of the famous sweet onions) and were on our way back there from Louisiana (where I am now). My husband had a job offer in Louisiana, so our whole family had made a fast trip here to check out the area. It was a long way to go -- 520 miles each way -- over a three-day-period, and we were all exhausted.
Heading east, the blazing sun was in our eyes all morning long. Three of us found some relief as the sun moved overhead around noon, but my husband's discomfort just got worse. This was our first long trip in my new car, a brand-new 1978 Chrysler Cordoba (which turned out to be a very beautiful piece of crap). My husband's head was only a couple of inches from the top of the car, and the glass T-tops focused the sun's rays directly on the little bald patch that had recently broken through on the crown of his head. The hotter his scalp got, the more agitated he became.
Time was of the essence on this trip, but as soon as we came to a service station, we stopped to try to find him some kind of cap to wear. We bought soft drinks, potato chips and pecan rolls to go, but they had no hats of any kind. The cashier told us the next place to stop would be about 30 miles farther down the road.
Back on the road, my husband was starting to fume and was beginning to curse the car and the sun under his breath. We gals sympathized with him, but each of us, individually, had also apparently noted the humorous aspect of his predicament. Not that we would have mentioned it; it wasn't the time or the place to be funny.
Teenagers, as you know, are all about "cool," and they rarely use "cool" and "parents" in the same sentence. It's not difficult for us parents to embarrass our teenaged children even by the way we breathe, so it goes without saying that things we put on our bodies are mostly all wrong. My husband didn't understand those basic facts, however, so as he drove on down the road, and as the sun continued its attempts to boil his brain, he got desperately MacGyver-ish and simply laid a Kleenex on top of his head.
I didn't say a word, but I casually glanced into the backseat and sent a "don't-you-dare-laugh" look to my daughters. Their eyes were about to pop out of their heads, and that little bit of eye contact was all it took to send them into fits of silent hysteria. They ducked their heads. They clamped their lips together. They pressed their hands over their mouths. They wrapped their arms around themselves and held their sides. Their faces contorted and their bodies shook like jackhammers. Every time another car passed us and its passengers glanced our way, a new wave of embarrassment would wash over my girls and they'd have to fight that much harder to keep the laughter from spilling over. The loud music on the car radio was the only thing that saved them.
The time it took us to drive that next 30 miles was as good a time as I've ever had without being able to laugh out loud, but we made it to the hat-getting place wihout further incident. The laughing-out-loud part came later and hasn't ended yet.