Laura Zoeller

Letter perfect traveling companion

A to Z: the perfect traveling companion

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Taking an overnight trip is a very different experience with two kids in the car than it is with one. Typically, my overnight trips are focused around soccer tournaments, and the one child with whom I usually travel is my eldest. She tends to be a relatively quiet traveling companion, reading books and listening to the radio. She also tends to be easy and inexpensive to feed, since she can find something she likes on any menu.


My middle child recently went on one of these trips with us, and the entire dynamic was changed. She is a much more boisterous child, liking the spotlight to be focused on her, although she is quite gentle and sweet-natured. She also is a pickier eater, making our stops for food a trifle more difficult to plan. But after this weekend, I don’t know if I would ever want to travel without her again.


Both girls decided to play the alphabet game during the last hour of our drive out to Ohio. Mostly because I needed them to talk aloud to keep me awake after the sun set, I encouraged the game. The rules were simple: take turns finding the letters of the alphabet, in order, on signs and advertisements along our route. No license plates allowed. Sounds easy, right?


When my middle child’s turn came up, she – who was sitting in the back seat – had a difficult time seeing the signs. So, she just started making stuff up.


“Oh, it is my turn,” she would say. “I have the letter ‘g.’ Ooh, McDonalds has a ‘g’ in it, right?”


Um, no, actually, it doesn’t.


Next, she couldn’t remember what letter she was on, so although she needed to look for a ‘k’, she kept shouting, “M! M! M!,” and pointing out signs that contained them. When I finally convinced her that it was a ‘k’ that she needed, she shouted, “Cleveland,” quite satisfied – without looking – that it began with a ‘k’.


Um, no, actually, it doesn’t.


As we neared our destination, I was no longer afraid that I would fall asleep while driving. I was mostly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to quit laughing, and slightly concerned that my child couldn’t spell her way out of a first-grade spelling bee.


When we got to the letter ‘z,’ she was so concentrated on using the pizza box that was in our car that she missed several signs with the word “plaza” on them, despite my pointing to them and calling out her name. Once we convinced her that the letter had to be OUTSIDE the car, she was determined to find one on her own.


A “hazardous materials” sign approached, and I attempted to guide her attention to it. From her angle, she could see the ‘z,’ but couldn’t quite read the word, so she decided that it must say, “magazine.”


Um, no, actually, it doesn’t.


After a couple more miles of laughter, we had arrived at our hotel, having thoroughly enjoyed the ride. The rest of the weekend, any time we were unsure of what we were supposed to be doing, someone would shout “Cleveland” or “M!” and that would send us into riotous fits of giggles. It was an awesome memory for all of us. I imagine that at some point, the whole thing will get quite old and cease to be funny.


Um, no, actually, it won’t.



Laura Zoeller can be reached at zoeller5@hughes.net.


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