A Brain-Lapsed Adventure

As we relish having the entire family under one roof this holiday season, I think back to a family adventure when the kids were much younger.  

“Let’s take a train ride from Florida to New York!”  It was my hubby’s idea, and the kids cheered.  I wasn’t quite so sure, but decided to go along with it. 

“OK, kids,” I said in a brain-lapsed moment.  “Since we’re going to be on the train for eighteen hours, you can each fill a backpack with things to do.”  Adding further evidence to my obviously oxygen-deprived brain cells, I added, “Why don’t you each pack your own clothes in another bag?” 

We loaded up all the luggage in Jacksonville the evening of our departure, with the kids chattering about this new mode of travel, and visions of Grandma’s Thanksgiving turkey dancing in our heads. 

After the excitement of the new experience began to wear off, I made a discovery.  Trains are noisy and shaky.  Add to that the conductor’s zeal to wake everyone up at each city so no one would sleep through their stop, and it made for a long, miserable, sleepless night.  The kids were exhilarated, running from car to car, getting snacks, playing cards, digging through their bags of toys, until they passed out with exhaustion.  I looked on with envy as the hubby and three kids snored, while sleep eluded me. 

We pulled into Penn Station late the next morning and unloaded our ten – yes, ten – bags.  We lumbered along till we found a clear patch of floor to pile up our belongings, and waited for my brother to pick us up.  People walked by, staring at a tired family slouched in a sea of luggage.  Time passed, and no brother.  I called him. 

“Jim, where are you?” 

“Oh, you’re there?  I’m leaving now.” 

“Are you kidding me?  You haven’t left yet?” 

“Don’t worry.  I’ll be right there.”  

Needless to say, we spent a good portion of the day at Penn Station, trying to keep track of kids and luggage.  When Jim arrived, we managed to squeeze everyone and everything into his Camaro, and headed for Grandma’s. 

After an enjoyable and well-rested Thanksgiving visit, it was time to get back on the train.  But this time we were headed for Washington, D.C., to do a little sight-seeing, and to break up the trip a bit.  We piled all the bags and kids onto the commuter train, excited about seeing the capital.  I packed a snack for us all.  People in business attire stared and shifted in their seats as I opened cans of sardines, spread them on crackers, and passed them around.  My brain was still malfunctioning. 

We arrived in D.C. and somehow made it to our hotel with all kids and bags intact.  Memory, in its kindness, tends to block out the painful details.  Sometimes misfiring brain cells can be a good thing. 

We were soon in front of the White House, reading a sign on the closed gate:  “Closed for holiday decorating.”  I imagine we were quite a spectacle, the five of us standing there bewildered, twirling around, wondering where to go next.  A black limousine pulled up, and an energetic driver popped out. 

“Want a tour of D.C. for fifty bucks?” he asked. 

“Dad,” said our oldest son, “don’t do it.  It’s a rip-off.” 

I pulled the hubby aside.  “Can we trust him?” 

“It’s worth a shot,” he said, seeing no other options in our helpless situation. 

He paid the fifty dollars and we piled in.  We were bag-less, which was a plus.  The driver cheerfully took us to Arlington Cemetery, dropped us off, and said, “Be back in an hour.” 

We stood and watched as the limousine grew smaller and smaller in the distance. 

“There goes your fifty dollars,” said our son. 

We decided to make the best of the situation and explored the historical memorial site.  To our amazement and delight, the limousine reappeared an hour later.  But something was wrong.  Our driver was standing with his arms spread-eagled across the side of his car, being frisked by a policeman.  We approached with trepidation, hoping to possibly get back our fifty dollars. 

The driver and cop took one look at our faces and broke up with laughter. 

“Gotcha!” said the driver.  He had picked up on our skepticism and enlisted the help of a friend in uniform for the performance.  We all had a good laugh, and enjoyed the best-ever tour of Washington, D.C. for fifty bucks.  Our tour guide helped us visit far more places than we ever could have managed on our own. 

After a few days, it was time to get back on the train.  Yes, the ride from D.C. to Jacksonville was thrilling and well-rested for the kids and hubby, but once again miserably sleepless for me.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  I will never do it again. 

We laugh as we look back at the experience.  Sometimes it’s good to have a brain-lapse.  It makes for a great family story.

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4 Responses to “A Brain-Lapsed Adventure”

  1. slowdancejournal Says:

    Looking back is sometimes the best view…

  2. Mary Lois Sanders Says:

    I think I’ve been on that train!

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