Signal to Travel…for dVerse

Posted: September 16, 2014 in Poetry, Travel
Tags: , , ,
Traffic signal clicks:,
     No other traffic in that cool dawn 
     to pay heed,
     just the four of us 
     in our Ford station wagon,
     heading for adventure.

My brother said we saw a lot 
     but not for long.
Dad had mileage planned and where we’d stop each night,
     (no thanks then to MapQuest/Garmin,
     just an accountant’s brain and urge for order.)

Sometimes Dad drove all night,
     Mom asleep on a cot until her turn,
     the two of us crossways,
     feet under the cot,
     sleeping soundly despite the lack of seat belts,
     still alive now to tell the stories and view the slides
          that were the photos of the day.

Living in Nebraska placed us 
     equidistant from all destinations,
     so we drove throughout the
     contiguous United States:

red rock in fantastic formations,
oceans’ (both) crashing waves,
(more destinations beyond those horizons),
yawning canyons and peaks that tore the sky,
plains where there was once only grass,
deserts where cacti were the grass.

Still today, the silently changing traffic light beckons, 
sending seductive subliminal messages
    from places yet unseen.

  1. Gabriella says:

    Thank you, Janet, for sharing your poetic memories. I can also remember long car journeys with my parents, taking turns at the wheel, and my brothers. At that age, the world seemed large and the goals unlimited.

  2. Mary says:

    There really was something quite wonderful about those family road trips, wasn’t there? And so hard to imagine everyone traveled so many mines ‘back then’ without seat belts. Scares me to think about it now. It sounds like you took some marvelous trips…and, ha, that your parents managed to find the way without gps as well! Really a nice share.

    • My parents operate with maps and the sense of direction that people used to have. My dad grew up on the farm and both of them use north/south directions where we tend to use left/right. We had marvelous trips!


  3. Excellent travel poem Janet. It reminded me of traveling with my kids in the days before strict seating laws were introduced for children, we had a people mover, an early model one and we traveled everywhere in it. Such good memories.

  4. Imelda says:

    Your memories remind me of how important it is for parents to have this kind of moment with their children.

  5. wolfsrosebud says:

    i like the longing in this

  6. margaret says:

    The second stanza is so funny and spot on … I lived that too.

  7. claudia says:

    very cool memories… brought back some of the car travels i made with my parents… they were both smoking in the car and my dad refused to open the windows…oy.. was a different time..
    we used to drive with our kids when they were small to france during summer holidays – either to the atlantic – which is quite a journey as well – or the mediterranean side

    • My dad smoked for a short time, Claudia, and we were so thankful when he finally quit! Car travel is very different from just hopping onto a plane a flying somewhere. I love it and indulge in it every year. 🙂


  8. biggerthanalasagna says:

    I want to take my kids on a long road trip now. And I also have someone to blame for making me feel all nostalgic when we hit the grumpy part of the trip :).


    • Heidi, I made surprise boxes for the girls, small boxes (although they got slightly bigger as the girls did) filled with all sorts of fun things. They weren’t allowed to open them until we were on the highway and those boxes saved many a moment. We also had a box filled with art supplies and other enjoyable things which was invaluable as well and we read aloud at times, too.


  9. The connection to the traffic lights repeated at the end is a great detail.. I always like that kind of repetition – at one time cars provided us with a freedom we never value as much today. I have been sleeping in the car as well…

  10. billgncs says:

    I think that those times are always with you, and that you are always happiest traveling. That’s a fine gift your parents gave you.

  11. prior says:

    nice memoir – and like the font. 🙂

  12. Sumana Roy says:

    reading your poem one family road trip flashed in my mind’s eye….it was from Luanshya to Livingstone to see the famous Victoria Falls in Zambia…traveling does enrich our life with gifts of memories too….

  13. Janet Janet….this is so full, rich of mood and atmosphere. Please stay with dverse so these poems get pulled out of you. Who cannot emphasise with you here? It reall strikes a nostalgic chord and more, a past world of no more. Your poetry really speaks so well – sincerely.

  14. MarinaSofia says:

    What a great memory to share with us via poetry! I too have fond memories of driving with my parents, lying down at the back of the car (before seatbelts at the back became compulsory), singing songs so the driver wouldn’t fall asleep, getting lost and so on. I wonder if our children will just remember all the films they saw on their portable DVD players instead of the landscapes they passed through.

    • Marina, I wonder the same thing. When we had the option, we chose not to get a DVD player for our van and instead, we listened to a marvelous 13-hour production of Lord of the Rings. We listened to it every summer on our way to Wyoming and we still do, even when the family can’t all go together. I think striving to disconnect somewhat during vacations is one of the highest goals of travel, else our children (and we) won’t know how to do it.


  15. Grace says:

    What a lovely childhood memories ~ I too remember those car days and journeys when there was no GPS and seat belts ~ Yes, continue to travel to places yet unseen ~

  16. Glenn Buttkus says:

    Like the others here, it is the vivid recall of the family outing that conditioned me to repeat the procedures with my own 3 daughters, who now continue the road trip sagas with the five grandchildren. My wife & I still love our summer road trips, but we miss the girlish buzz in the back seat too. By the way, your closing stanza is killer.

    • Yeah, don’t you miss “Are we there yet?” 🙂 Bill’s reply was always that we’re never there as when we arrive, we’re here, not there. As for the closing stanza, many thanks.


  17. vbholmes says:

    Traffic lights, particularly at night, and in the rain, trigger nostalgic feelings as they change color and message. Good words and metaphor, Janet.

  18. Wow, this brought back memories of station wagon trips, no seat belts, coloring books, pillow fights with siblings….and yes, we lived to tell the tales.
    I like how you book ended this with the stop lights..