I went on the longest road trip I’ve ever taken this summer. My boys and I drove all the way from Southern Ontario to Alberta — Prairies and Rocky Mountains and my family — then back again. We wondered if we might be insane to attempt such a drive with a 4-year-old and a 10-month-old, but off we went, and it was truly a great adventure. There was only one roadside timeout for the kid (there probably should have been a few for me, ahem, lucky I’m in charge!), occasional nursing breaks for the babe and the usual gas/pee/food/photo-op stops.
I wanted to do something crafty with Rudi to keep him engaged along the way. So in addition to borrowing a portable dvd player (a total godsend) and the required colouring materials and books to read, we made a diary book for each day and prepared an antique glass canning jar to collect simple treasures along the way: Rudi’s Travelling Treasure Jar, a.k.a. The Jar!
The Jar itself is a beaut with its glass lid and metal flip attachment. And every day, once or twice, we’d gather a stone or pine cone from the roadside, parking lot or forest path of the day, or a coin from the US, or an arcade token from the movie theatre, or some grain or oats from the fields we were passing, or a beer cap from mommy and daddy’s adult pops in the hotel room (we drink beer with really cool caps okay? It’s all for the kid. Honestly) .
I only had to suggest collecting pieces the first couple of times, after that Rudi would gather things for his Jar in his pocket and in the evenings in our hotel, or at Granny’s house, we’d open The Jar and review the contents, talking about our journey thus far and then add the new trinket/s to the collection. A couple of favourites are the little white figurine of a man with a walking stick and rifle, his paint all but gone. Rudi spotted him in my aunt’s garden and she said, “take it! the bird’s are always dropping crazy things in here!” We can hardly imagine what adventures the wee old fellow has endured! And the mini horseshoe, which was smithed for Rudi right before his very eyes at the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village where I worked in my teens.
The final result is a jar full of prairie flotsam and jetsam, a beautiful collection of the in-betweens from our trip. And those were my favourite parts — the in-betweens. Being cooped in a car with my husband and our boys for 5 days of driving each way was my favourite. Kicking stones in the hotel parking lot in Lake Louise and then running through a forest path to catch the sight of the passing train was my favourite. Stopping for an emergency pee on a prairie back road that looked so quiet only to be overwhelmed by the earsplitting cricket song outside was my favourite. Standing on the car to get a better view of the massive hoodoos in the North Dakota badlands … you get the drift, I could go on and on about the favourite moments that The Jar conjures.
Of course there were the standard squabbles between all of us, usually to do with hunger, exhaustion or sore butts (around hour 5 Rudi would always moan spectacularly and say, “my bum hurts!”) but really there was more harmony than I’d anticipated and I loved that it was just the 4 of us in our Toyota Matrix ship, rocket or pirate depending on Rudi’s mood, zipping across the miles and miles and miles and miles between my adult and childhood homes. I’d do it again in a heartbeat. And I look forward to opening the jar from time to time with Rudi and remembering.