Road Trip with Mom–Ten Daughterly Things to Do (Or Not)

When my mother was seventy-eight she moved from Salt Lake City, Utah, where I live, to Sun City, Arizona. Now I fly to Arizona to see her, and we use her home as a launching pad for road trips where we catch up, renew and forge those tender, tenuous and paradoxically deeply rooted mother-daughter bonds. We’ve traveled south to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Nogales, Mexico, north to Sedona, Prescott and Winslow, east to Greer, and down to Tucson and Tombstone. They have all been good trips, though not without their small traumas. In the spirt of wishing all grown daughters well, I pass along what I have learned to help others who are unaccustomed to, perhaps frightened by, even temporarily, “living 24-7 with Mother again.” 

  1. If, upon your arrival and before you leave on the trip, she asks you, the young technological genius in the room, to fix her telephone so it will again take messages, read the instruction book like you never have read an instruction book before to figure it out. One press of a button could keep you a genius to her and starts the trip on a good note.
  2. The aging tummy can be especially sensitive to food preferences. Never let your restaurant choice trump your mother’s. If she says, “Oh, that one has such cute curtains,” reply with, “Bet that means they’d have great grub, what do you think?” It’s better to recall that look of motherly scorn she gave your high school report card when she reads the menu while seated in her restaurant choice. It’s also easier to leave the restaurant and drive to one you saw.
  3. If, after the inspection of a hotel room, she hints another pillow would be nice, or perhaps another blanket would be comfy, call housekeeping immediately. Better to do that at 6:00 p.m. than be roused by her constant movements to “be comfy” at 3:00 a.m.
  4. Never flatly refuse to eat offered food. She may be eighty while you are a daughterly age younger and you may feel like you have eaten eight meals in two days, but it is still best to lift your eyebrow, take a morsel and say, “Yum.”
  5. If she flirts like a raging hormonal she-bear with the waiter, remember it’s her vacation, too.
  6. Refrain from sounding like your nine-year-old whiny self. When she jumps in her passenger seat and lets out an animal survival gurgle because the car to her right that you saw surprised her, don’t whine, “But I saw it.” Perhaps “What a jerk of a driver he is,” in practiced alto would work better.
  7. When she tells groundskeepers to water their plants more often or hostesses that their skin would look much rosier wearing green than that yellow, remember–you wouldn’t be such a perfect human being yourself, if she wasn’t your mother.
  8. Should you find yourself shopping for clothes as souvenirs of such a grand trip, appreciate but do not buy the sailor suit she holds up to you and declares would be so cute on you. Who else would still think of you as young and adorable in a sailor suit? Certainly not the sales clerk who coughs and none too graciously covers her smile with her hand.
  9. If she offers to make an egg salad or tuna sandwich to take to the airport, take it. Planes get delayed and an airport meal costs as much as the entree you had at a nice restaurant the night before.
  10. If it’s been a while since you’ve given her a full-on hug, take the time. You may be surprised how that woman who loomed so large in your childhood when you were a demanding baby, a whiny kid, a hormonal raging teenage she-bear, is now little, cuddly, and cute.
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