September 4, 2010

My "Jane Austen" trip--sort of

Before I met my husband, I had heard of Jane Austen, but never really read any of her novels. They are basically romance novels with usually witty dialogue set in England during the reign of King George III (think American Revolution through Napoleonic wars). The first book I read was Pride and Predjudice. I fell in love with her books and devoured every one I could. I have been tempted to re-read her books again. One event that occurs in every Jane Austen novel is a big trip. The middle class heroine, who has wealthy friends or relatives, is invited to mix with the upper class for a month or so. Yes, I said a month. Sometimes, they last several months. So inviting someone to visit you was a serious undertaking in those days.

I embarked on my own “Jane Austen” trip, though I did not stay in any one place for a month. The ultimate goal of the trip was to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding in the Twin Cities area. We knew we couldn’t afford to fly all of us out to Minneapolis and Eric couldn’t afford to take the extra days of driving both there and back. So, I started thinking about extending the trip for the kids and I and visit my family in Memphis, Tennessee. Since Chicago is roughly midpoint between the two cities, I would add even more time to see friends and some family before moving to the “final destination.” Eric would stay at home, take care of the animals for part of the time, then fly up in time for the wedding and stay a week with his family, driving home with us in two days. We would leave in the early morning hours of July 16 and not return until August 10. It meant missing Arizona friends, pets and, for two weeks, my husband. Some friends call me “brave” or “adventurous” for driving that distance with four kids without any assistance, though I wonder if some of them used those words as substitutes for “slightly crazy.” I was fully prepared however, for the trip. We had 16 hours of Focus on the Family Radio Theatre CDs, and 15 hours of movies not to mention activity bags with lots of books and doodling paper and even a quiz game.
The first leg of the trip--going to Memphis--was uneventful. We listened to The Magician’s Nephew and part of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and watched four movies in the 2 ½ days of driving. I tried to have some extended outside play time in the middle of the trip to burn off energy, though the second day, it was so hot in Oklahoma that no one was interested in running for more than five minutes. The biggest challenge was, of course, potty breaks. However, once again, I am a traveling pro and have established the rule that if one person has to go, then every has to try and go. Every time we had to stop, the kids would wail and protest that “I don’t have to go, Mom!” or “Why are you making me go in when _____ is the one who has to go?” I was the worst culprit at needing potty stops due to drinking several cups of coffee during the morning to get myself going. The kids were really good in the car and even pretty good whenever we made stops, even the ones where the gas station only had one bathroom and there was a line of people waiting to use it. The end of the first day involved eating at a McDonalds with a playland to release some energy in the hopes that the kids would go to sleep early. It didn't work. They were still on Mountain Standard time, two hours difference from Amarillo, Texas. I really pitied the folks surrounding our hotel room on the second night in North Little Rock Arkansas. They were running up and down the stairs and hallways helping me unload the car and sounding like a pack of screeching monkeys riding on the backs of stampeding elephants. The guy staying in the room across from us actually poked his head out of the door to see what was making so much noise. I ended up taking them out to a grassy place behind the hotel to run races and tag for an hour before going inside to get ready for bed. We arrived in the Memphis area around lunch time after getting a really late start to the day. More on my “epic journey” on another day.


AquaJane said...

Jane Austen and her heroines would have walked or taken horse-drawn carriages. No McDonalds ~ picnic baskets. No movies, just forests and pastures to watch. No iPods ~ just the clip-clop of horses' hooves. Hmmm ... could this be why her stories didn't involve long trips with small children? :-) Well, it might be why people in those days stayed so long; it took them so long to get there, they couldn't very well just turn around and clip-clop home. BTW, you are both brave and clever!

tandemingtroll said...

You are totally right about the length of time and lack of entertainment/amenities. Of course, it was also a time when children were taught to be seen and not heard ;-). One thing I that has caused me to really want to read her books again is that I just found out she lived during George III's reign, which meant that she could have been influenced by the American Revolution and the French Revolution. It puts a new perspective on her "romance between the classes" theme prevalent in all her works. Elizabeth is supposed to read a children's version of _Pride and Prejudice_, but the dummed down version of the classics that I have encountered are really painful to read. I might suggest that we read it together at night for some momma/daughter bonding time :-).

Cynthia said...

Sounds like you had quite an adventure. Did the kids love it? Did you?