it's all about me · out and about · remembering / musing

Roadtrip to a funeral (or Tour of Cool 2012)

Being fifty-something, I’ve enjoyed many roadtrips.

When you’re married to a professional driver who loves the road you tend to drive the sorts of distances others fly.

When I was growing up, our family took annual roadtrips to “the country” to visit our grandparents, uncles/aunts and cousins.

This week my three sisters and I took a roadtrip to “the country” to farewell our dear Auntie Gail at her funeral.

RIP Gail.

A three and a half hour journey each way meant there was plenty of time to compare our modern-day roadtrip (dubbed Tour of Cool 2012 by My Girl) with the ones of old. Here’s the comparison.

Then:
Mum, Dad and five little girls squeezed into the family station wagon, piled high with suitcases and miscellaneous possessions. Four little-uns across the backseat, rotating with the fifth sitting between Mum and Dad in the front (bench seats had their advantages). Who sat where was dictated by who was suffering travel sickness, who had misbehaved and who whined the loudest. We travelled pre-seatbelt legislation so sliding in and out (and around) the car was a snap.

Now:
Four fifty-something mavens and Mr P squeeze into the family Commodore with carry-on bags only. Three big-uns across the back seat and one in the front with Mr P (the undisputed driver of choice). The same criteria dictates who sits where. Click-clack in the back requires collaboration to identify which seatbelt is which and then manoeuvre to allow room for the click-clacks.

Then:
We left well before dawn to clear Melbourne before the peak hour traffic.

Now:
We leave late, allowing some morning TV viewing of the Olympics and a trouble-free traverse of Melbourne AFTER the peak hour traffic has cleared.

Then:
We wore shorts, short skirts or jeans and tshirts. It was always mid summer.

Now:
We wear boots, scarves, long pants, spencers and warm coats. Inexplicably (and unplanned) we four fifty-something sisters turn up in grey/black ensembles, despite there being no dress code memo issued. (I heard someone at the wake refer to us as “Four Shades of Grey”.)

Then:
We packed books, paper, pens, pencils and a hand-written list of the towns on the route so we could tick off our progress. There was always a pink and white striped paper bag filled with Minties and boiled lollies to share.

Now:
We’re boasting four smartphones, a GPS, an iPad, a wifi dongle and a packet of all-natural-free-of-colourings-and-preservatives gummy bears.

Then:
We pulled over into a wayside stop atop Pretty Sally (the highest altitude point of our trip) and helped ourselves to Mum-made cheese and gherkin spread sandwiches and cheap big-bottled soft drinks. There was a thermos for Mum and Dad. It was all served from the tailgate of the family station wagon.

Now:
We pull into Nagambie (reminiscing that our grandparents were married at the local church) and choose from several cafes. We crowd our chairs around a laminated table where we’re served espresso coffees, sandwiches and slices of cake.

Then:
We filled the journey by playing eye spy, singing along, niggling and nagging one another and annoying the bejeezus out of Mum and Dad.

Now:
We fill the journey with fifty-something conversation, pointing out familiar landmarks and wondering what’s happening in all those towns now bypassed by the highway. We take phone calls, send texts and tweets, check-in on Facebook and argue with the GPS. We niggle and nag one another and annoy the bejeezus out of Mr P.

Then:
On arrival at the family farm, there were kisses all round as we reacquainted ourselves with relatives seen only once or twice a year. We jostled for space around the dining table, and spilled out onto lounge chairs, ottomans and the floor.

Now:
On arrival at the church, there are kisses all round as we’re reacquainted with relatives we see only once or twice a year. Our grandparents are no longer here. Mum and Dad aren’t here. There are fewer Aunties than last time. We (us and our cousins) have become the mums, the dads, the uncles, the aunties, the grandparents. There’s a bigger crowd of unfamiliar faces and I hear whispers of “There’s Clare’s girls”. (Clare = Mum). We’re directed to reserved “family” seating at the front of the church.

Then:
On Christmas Day, we jostled again (with what seemed like dozens of cousins) for table position and settled in to pull crackers, don paper party hats and dig through warm plum pudding where Nan had hidden silver sixpences … always one for each of us.

Now:
We arrive at the wake venue and position ourselves around giant round tables, settling in to sip white wines (one or two for each of us), nibble on sandwiches and sausage rolls served by lovely local ladies and dig deep to make small talk and remember the names, jobs, partners and kids’ names of relatives (and beyond) who we see only once or twice a year, or less. Before long, the conversation is flowing freely and, as happens at wakes, the tears give way to laughter and memories of great times.

Then:
After several days, it was time to head home to our little house in the city. We left well before dawn to clear Melbourne before the peak hour traffic.

Now:
We linger longer than expected at the wake and leave after dark (and after lengthy goodbyes and kisses all round) to make the trek home. The Melbourne peak hour traffic has long cleared.

Then:
We pulled over into a wayside stop atop Pretty Sally and helped ourselves to Nan-made slices and yoyo biscuits. There was a thermos for Mum and Dad. It was all served from the tailgate of the family station wagon.

Now:
We pull into Maccas for a late night snack of burgers, fries and espresso coffees … longing for Nan-made slices and yoyo biscuits, and all that went with them.

The Tour of Cool 2012 disbands. Until next time.

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2 thoughts on “Roadtrip to a funeral (or Tour of Cool 2012)

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