Off the Beaten Track

It’s silly, I guess, to say that summer makes me miss my mom because really everything makes me miss my mom. 

But summer was our special time together, first for me and then later with my kids. 

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“Let’s go on an adventure!” she’d say on a random July morning, and I – never an adventurous kid and even less of an adventurous adult – would grumble because, regardless of my age, I can safely say I’d pretty much always rather be reading a book in the air-conditioning. 

But eventually, I would find myself in the car with her, going … somewhere. 

One time we ended up picking blueberries in a rainstorm; another time we took the Belle Chasse ferry just to say we’d done it. We toured art galleries in Mississippi and camped overnight at a place in the Florida Panhandle that we sort of discovered along the way and bought delicious sun-warmed peaches at a roadside stand in Alabama that we ate by the side of our car, juice pouring down our chins and arms.

It wasn’t always fun. We got eaten alive by mosquitoes; the smell of Avon Skin So Soft – her preferred bug repellent – still transports me back to the itchy, sweaty summer days and nights of my childhood. We got lost a lot, and although she would insist that you couldn’t get lost if you weren’t trying to go anywhere specific in the first place, I can assure you that we drove down plenty of roads we probably shouldn’t have driven down, a particularly memorable one of which featured dozens of frogs committing frog suicide by flinging themselves into the side of our car while my mom and I both screamed (somewhere in Arkansas, I think). We got horribly sunburned on Ship Island because we hadn’t planned to go and so hadn’t brought sunscreen. 

But overall, these trips were a highlight of my younger years, a chance for me, a lonely only child, to get out of my comfort zone and experience something beyond the sameness of Campbell’s soup and Nickelodeon and Babysitters Club books that otherwise marked my days. 

Once I became a parent myself, however, I was not this kind of parent. I never went anywhere, even the park down the street, without checking the weather forecast and packing snacks and filling water bottles and making sure we had plenty of antibacterial hand wipes. I don’t swim in bodies of water without Googling current levels of fecal contamination. I don’t eat fruit from roadside stands without washing it. I carry two kinds of sunscreen in my purse at all times. And I don’t ever ever ever camp. 

But my mom took my kids on these kinds of adventures all the time during the summer. “Wet wipes!” I would yell as she buckled them into the car. “And don’t forget to put sunscreen on their ears! The ears burn the easiest! Ruby needs Dramamine! Georgia has a wasp phobia!”

She would wave gaily and get into the car and drive off, immediately ignoring all of my advice and warnings, and bring them back to me hours later, usually slightly sticky but never any the worse for wear. 

I know they cherish their memories just as much as I do; it’s truly devastating that they won’t get more of them. 
But even if I’m not ever going to be the spontaneous, laidback mom that my mom was, I can try to carry a bit of her adventurous spirit with me wherever I go. 

I’m not saying I’ll go camping, but I might be up for a ride on the Belle Chasse ferry. 

For more Eve, check out her blog “Joie d’Eve” on Tuesday mornings at myneworleans.com