July 20th, 2010



When I was growing up, we went on a lot of road trips. We had a huge purple* station wagon first, and then a big wood-paneled brown one that we came to call The Bomb. We 3 kids sat in the back seat, and sometimes (it being the 70s), one of us would be lying in the very back, or sometimes on the floor in front of the back seat. Road trips are very boring, if you are not well-prepared and if you have the type of family that doesn't entertain itself by bursting into frequent song. My dad and I would sing along with the 8-tracks but we rarely had a family-choir thing going. Mostly we played games.

We played Count-and-Bury-Cows. We played the License Plate game. We played I Spy (always a challenge in a moving vehicle). We played the Alphabet Category game. Often, my mom would buy those write-on-lift-up plastic doodling pads or the magnetic iron-filling facial-hair things (do you know what I'm talking about?). On ample pads of paper, we would play tic-tac-toe and dots-and-boxes and Hangman and Road Bingo. Whatever worked to pass the time, including poking my sister or scootching over into my brother's space just to irritate him.

I always thought the License Plate game was boring, but it's strangely compelling. Once you start, it's very hard to stop glancing at, and getting excited about, every passing truck. On the way through Illinois a couple of weeks ago, most of the trucks had California, Maine or Tennessee plates. California, I can understand, but what's shipping through the Midwest from the other two? An Alaska tag filled the car will delighted hoots.

My husband thinks its hilarious that my entire family unconsciously names, out loud, every type of animal we pass on a road trip. "Horses!" one of us will call. "Cows!" moments later, as if it were something momentous. As my mom remarked, when you live in the Midwest and drive through field after field after field of corn, something living is definitely a noteworthy novelty.

At the start of our drive to Illinois from my mom's place in Port Huron, I made some comment to my sister (who was driving) about the inordinate amount of raccoon roadkill that I was seeing (not that I was LOOKING for it, you understand, but it's hard to miss) and after I had counted 5 dead raccoons in a very short stretch, she got disgusted and told me to quit counting the roadkill, dammit. So of course, my attention was more and more distracted by every subsequent unfortunate on the side of the highway and in between maniacal giggles, I had to remark on each one: Smeared deer! Possum paste! Smushed skunk! UFO! (Unidentified Flattened Object!) One would never guess I am turning...29 in a few short weeks, eh?

Anyway, it's a long drive. The Yellow Car Game had been banned rather quickly, as it just got too annoying: those things are everywhere. I had printed out Julia's gargantuan 4-page list of I Spy items as well as the License Plate list for all of North America and we spent some time checking things off. Then we played the Alphabet Category game for awhile (our car contained my mom, my sister and I, Martin, and Sarah's daughter Rachel: we were definitely the Fun Car). We breezed through Vegetables, Flowers, Modes of Transport, Animals, Book & Movie Titles, and Weather Conditions.**

Then we played Famous People. It's a favorite. It's a variation on Twenty Questions and the object is to guess the character/personality/person someone is thinking of by asking only yes or no questions.

When I was in college, the summer of my sophomore year was spent working in our dormitory painting dorm rooms Pale Parchment Eggshell.*** We played Cutthroat Euchre during our breaks and lunches but the long hours of painting, two to a room, were often filled with HOURS of Famous People, and sometimes a whole hallway full of people would be shouting out questions from several rooms. When you play that much, for that long, you have to get REALLY creative with your choices. Betsy Ross and Madonna and the President are WAY too easy. We stumped each other on such goodies as the Statue of Liberty, Milton the Pop-up Toaster and the Hamburger Helper Helping Hand or Sparky from Speed Racer.

It's harder when you have to take 3 generations of knowledge into consideration and still come up with a good one that your kids and your mom won't guess right away. The best way to stump others is to stay away from really famous people and pick their sidekicks or minor characters. The best way to figure out the answer when it's someone else's turn is to methodically work your way down from generalities (male or female? real or fictional? dead or alive?) to specifics. It always drives me crazy when the person who is It says they have a character and the others playing immediately start naming names: Harry Potter? Elvis? Bella? Although, sometimes, if you know the person in question, that can work surprisingly well, to their everlasting astonishment.

We figured out Bob's Big Boy and The Brave Little Toaster and Reepicheep and David Beckham and John Keats and Thing 2**** and Smurfette and Uncle Sam and then Mom stumped us all with a Muckle from the Pettson & Findus books.

And now I'm thinking of a Famous Person. Can you guess who it is?


Magically Marvelous, Magnificent and Memorable Birthday Wishes to Bethany!

...and Massive Amounts of Belated Birthday Wishes to thehula, verian, totte, jax_in_sweden, idahoswede, and kejn, ms_hackman, Mia, and sandykins!

Maybe it's all just a bunch of hooey: The Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense (this one's for you, Mom! hahahahaha!)

Calling all Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler Lovers: Month at the Museum

*It was actually a kind of dark mauve, not PURPLE.
**Once, in the car with my mom & dad, either coming or going to Chicago, we played this game and I chose the category Diseases & Medical Conditions. It was HILARIOUS.
***Light beige, in other words. Room after room after room of it.
***From The Cat in the Hat