Being pulled out of bed in the murky dawn. Hurriedly dressed while there’s still an edge in the air.
Whispering (inexplicably, the whole house is up) “Is it today? Is it today?”
“Yes, it’s today. Come on, hurry up.”
The car is so full there’s barely room for a tiny bum on a crowded seat. A messy head is squished happily up against bed pillows, the doona is folded under feet. A giant cuddly toy sits on the esky between two excited children in the back seat, and a bike wheel’s protruding somewhere near an ear.
“Are we going now, are we going now?”
“Yes, we’re going now. Hold on, your dad’s just checking we’ve locked up.”
Is this a scene from my childhood, or my children’s? It’s hard to tell. It could be both. It is both.
“Hold on. Did we leave the heater on?”
A lot has changed in two generations. Sat nav. Screens the back seat. Podcasts in the front.
But some things, some things have not.
Like: “Are we there yet?”
Ah. The road trip.
There’s a turning point in every family road trip where the excitement turns to frustration. The comfy clutter in the back seat – at first a jumble of novelty – is now just a mass of irritating discomfort. The power’s out on the iPad and a little brother has been teased until he can be teased no more. He’s started kicking.
And that’s the moment when any savvy road-tripping parent knows to start building up to the big reveal – The Stop.
There are special rules for road trips. Things that you don’t do every day - when you're not all huddled together in an over-stuffed tinbox, hurtling towards a change, whether it's just a weekend away down the coast or the full January camping song-and-dance - are perfectly acceptable on the highway.