My Mother

Wild Women Road Trip

Tracey Columns

Well, “The Wild Women Road Trip of 2012” has come to an end. It  was such a resounding success, my mother and I plan to do it again next year… on her 87th birthday!

For months I had been thinking about what to do for her birthday. She  didn’t want a big party and more “stuff” sure wasn’t up her alley. Then one day it hit me. I’d take her on a mini-road trip!

She always loved traveling with her husband. Every year they’d head off to Europe or simply explore different parts of the country by car. They traveled well together, enjoying so many of the same things. But their traveling days came to a screeching halt five years ago when he became ill and when he died, my mom wasn’t up to going anywhere. Who could blame her?

It’s taken awhile for her to rebound – great loss does that to a person – but rebound she has. It was time to shake things up a bit. So, why not wander up the coast of southern California for a few days, soaking up the sunshine, talking to the wee hours, and eating whatever we wanted?

When I proposed the idea to her, she was immediately hooked. The idea resonated. A road trip seemed to represent a kind of freedom she’d been missing, and obviously, both of us realized that uninterrupted mother/daughter time would be a real treat.

We took off from San Diego on a Thursday morning. Packing was light. (Really now, just how much do you need for a few casual days on the beach?) We had some goodies to munch on and books to read.

But we weren’t even out of the garage before our first laugh! It seemed simple. All I had to do was get into her car! But how? Try to imagine this scene – one six foot tall woman (that would be me) lowering herself down, down, down and into a first edition Honda Incite, surely one of the smallest cars on the road. It felt like I was backing into a sleek, silver coffee can. Finally in, I sort of wrapped my legs into position and readjusted the seat and mirrors. After finally managing to curtail the giggles, we were off.

The sun was shining and traffic was light. We had already decided to take surface streets and the old Coast Highway – easier driving and infinitely  more interesting than I-5! But having not live in San Diego for close to 42 years, nothing on this particular route looked remotely familiar to me. My mom would have to navigate. And here’s the best part – she did so without a hitch! We had a lovely little cruise north along one of the country’s most beautiful stretches of coast.

When it was time for lunch, I asked her what sounded good. Her reply? “A bakery goodie and latte.” (Really now, who wants a food pyramid lunch when it’s your birthday?) We found a sweet spot on the ‘main drag’ of a beach town and made ourselves comfortable. Then, my mom dove into one of the biggest, most luscious chocolate eclairs I had ever seen.

And when I toasted her  ‘Happy 86th Birthday’ with my own latte, the most amazing thing happened. A young woman sitting behind my mother turned in her chair and sang “Happy Birthday” to her! It was one of those little random acts of kindness that reminds me of how many good people there are in the world!

Our mornings were long and lazy. Eventually, we’d wander down to the beach and park ourselves on a bench for some serious people watching. There was something quite satisfying about soaking up the sunshine, feeling the ocean breeze on our faces … and laughing uncontrollably as the gulls circled us like something out of a Hitchcock movie!

Every night we’d cozy up on the couch and talk the hours away. What about? Everything! From grandchildren to politics, tattoos to Twitter, we opined. Such simple pleasures can mean so much.

Our road trip was over far too quickly and ever since I left San Diego, I’ve been wondering … just which one of us received the greatest gift?

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