Our blue 1999 GMC suburban was the traveling pinnacle of my childhood. There were several things that made my childhood feel like home among the many bouts of hidden emotional turmoil I felt about myself. The family car was one of those things that spark happy memories whenever I think of it.
The suburban was a great car and represented my family like nothing else could. There may be other representations, but the Fosterian bus was the best one. When I think of that big car I’m reminded of the many trips to Boston and this is was lights me up inside the most when the suburban comes to mind.
When my mother was the soloist at the Christian Science Mother Church for the services held on Sunday my mother (usually by herself) would schlep her three young kids, eventually four young kids to Boston every Saturday. We would stay either at the Hilton Hotel, the Colonnade Hotel, or at friends’ houses. For the first several years we were at the Hilton, but my memories start at the Colonnade Hotel.
Oh trips to Boston were the greatest. Those were the days, the days before fear took hold of me. The days before my siblings had an understanding of what it was like to make it on their own. Those were the days before we had any idea what we wanted to do with our lives. Those were the days before “self-love”, “self-care”, or labels of negative emotion were part of my vocabulary.
Though my mother had a different experience of the many trips to Boston I was in love with them. Most of the time everything seemed to go well when we would go up to Boston and when my Dad went with us then the trips to Boston were even better because Mom had someone to help her. We would listen to music in the car together sometimes, we would listen to music by ourselves most of the time, and we would watch movies on Dad’s laptop or on a DVD player. The amount of time it took for my siblings and I to choose a movie took up a good 20 or 30 minutes of the trip, but once we picked something the car was quiet for an hour or so, until someone had to take a pit stop.
About 3 or 4 hours later we would make it to a tunnel. This tunnel was a sign that we were almost to Boston so it was very exciting to reach this tunnel, but it was also a Foster sibling tradition to see who could hold their breath the longest for the duration of driving through this tunnel.
My sister, or brother would call the competition to begin as we neared the tunnel.
“THE TUNNEL! Ready? Quick! Everybody hold your breath!”
Everyone would gasp in and hold their breath as hard as they could. The car would be quiet, and dark for several minutes. Once the car emerged back outside, light would fill the car and we would all quickly exhale a big sigh of relief. Then my siblings would take verbal tallies of who won and who lost.
“I win!” One would say
“No! You laughed a little. You have to hold your breath until the very end of the tunnel so that means I win.”
“I did hold my breath until the very end of the tunnel.”
Bantering would continue like this for a few minutes until someone gave up the fight, or Mom would call the car to order. Then the movie would continue for a while, or a CD would be put in and we’d listen to music together.
We would go through one more tunnel. This one had lights in it. It felt like going through some kind of special rocket launcher. From the start of those bright lights inside the tunnel it felt like all passengers in the car would settle in, and our big blue suburban like something out of a children’s TV show would speak.
I pretended the car would speak through an intercom to the imaginary space station, and to his passengers, “All passengers go for launch. Roger. Initiating speed launch. All on board prepare for lift off. Ready for lift off. 1,2,3…BLAST OFF!”
Just like that the moment we would hit the brightly lit tunnel we would shoot through the last few minutes of the drive, up a ramp, and just like that Boston would be painted before us. We would arrive just before dusk.
The thrilling feeling most people would get listening to the opening of the Star Wars theme and knowing that they were about to witness another awesome adventure with their favorite characters was how I felt as we would pop up the ramp and arrive in Boston. The Colonnade Hotel would be across the street to our left, the mall would sit proudly to the right and in front of us would be the Mother Church Plaza in all its glory. I would take a breath and exhale with ease knowing, and delighting that I had arrived home. My home away from home.
Photo credit to Conrad Kaplan