Years ago, when we were young and fearless, we decided that we needed a vacation. Ratchlet was not quite 4 years old, and other than one or two short trips for a couple of days here and there, we hadn't had much of a "real" vacation at all during the time we'd been married. You know what I mean by a "real" vacation, "an out-of-state, stop the newspaper and mail delivery, go stay in a hotel where someone else makes the beds, gone for two whole weeks," vacation!! After a quick stop-off in Atlanta to see my BFF, we would go on to Florida, my old stomping ground, and I could show all the sights to Ratchlet and the Big Guy. Besides it was "going home" for me, at least for a little while.
We decided to take my Little Sis along, both as a break for her and as an additonal someone for Ratchlet to play with. Little Sis would be 12 that summer, just the right age to be fairly responsible but still enough of a kid to enjoy being with us! She and Ratchlet have always had a pretty close relationship (even now), which is understandable. The are closer together in age than Little Sis and I are! Anway, it was a win/win deal!
In order to be able to afford this adventure, we decided we would drive there. Well, in fact, we decided that the Big Guy would drive there! (I was a late bloomer and didn't have a license, but that's whole 'nother story.) The Big Guy, being the the kind of guy he is, said we should drive straight through, and not spend money on motels along the way, besides, that would mean we would have more time actually IN Florida. Although I had some real reservations about that, he SWORE that if he got too tired, we would stop at a motel. Plus, the idea of trying to entertain a 4 yr old in a car for several days held very little appeal.
As I said, we were young and fearless, so off we went!
At the time, we were still living in Chicago proper in the same apartment we'd lived in since before Ratchlet was born. It was smack dab in the middle of one of Chicago's neighbhoods and the building had no courtyard or play area, or pool. In fact, it pretty much had no amenities at all! We didn't have a covered, designated, parking space, we had to find on-street parking. We were right on Irving Park Road, which at that time, still had noisy, obnoxious, and frequent trolley buses! Anyway, it wasn't a place to spend much time outside.
We thought Ratchlet would enjoy seeing the country from the car. She loved going for rides in the car....so much to see!! Besides which she could always fall asleep in a car! No danger of driving for 27 hours straight with a cranky, unhappy, sleepy but unrested child!
On the day we were to leave, by the time we picked up Little Sis, and got everything situated, and finally got on the road, it was later than we hoped. That was okay, because we wanted to be driving mostly at night when it was cooler. It was, indeed, a lovely ride. Of course we stopped fairly frequently for food and potty stops (we had a 4 year old in the car....'nuff said!) We sang songs and played word games and watched for cows, horses, and other critters (again, remember the 4 year old!) But after supper, once it finally got dark, Ratchlet and Little Sis drifted off and it was peaceful and quiet. They slept for a long time. I can't sleep in a car so I kept the Big Guy company as he drove
We were somewhere in the Smokey Mountains in Tennessee in the middle of the night. It was a clear night, with not much moon so it was pitch black, there were big tall trees on both sides, the road was empty, except for us! It wasn't scary (it was an interstate after all), just DARK.
Somewhere around 2 am, we heard Ratchlet's little voice, pop up, with a question. "Mommy, what are all those little white things in the sky?" OH. MY. GOD. My almost 4 year old daughter, did not recognize STARS!! She had a great view out of the back window and there were millions of stars visible. (There's nothing like star-gazing on top of a mountain!!) But my poor, city-bred, apartment-raised, little girl, hadn't ever actually seen stars. I was crushed! How could we have neglected teaching her about this rather significant portion of the world she lived in?? Luckily, not too far ahead there was a place we could pull off the road to park and get out of the car.
So we did! There we were, all four of us, at 2 o'clock in the morning, standing in the parking area, somewhere in the Smokey Mountains, looking up at the sky while we explained about the stars to our little girl!
After about half an hour later, we got back in the car and went on our way. The rest of the trip was great, we all had a wonderful time. I introduced my family to the places I grew up. We saw a lot of the sights. It was terrific. In fact, we all enjoyed it so much we did it again a couple of years later!
But the thing I always remember first about that trip, was when Ratchlet discovered the stars "in the still of the night".