Road Trippin’ With Grandma

By Cathy C. Hall

Road Trippin' With Grandma

Bringing my mother-in-law along on a road trip to Florida was not exactly my idea.

Our family then consisted of two children: our two-year-old daughter, Laney, and our five-year-old son, Joey. Two adults should’ve been able to easily handle two kids, right? But my husband thought maybe we should bring an extra pair of hands that might be willing to entertain an obstinate toddler while the rest of the party went on a scary ride. Someone who didn’t really care about Disney World as much as she cared about two children. Someone who might find it fun and exciting to watch those same two little children while, say, Mommy and Daddy went out for a night on the town.

And so Grandma was invited to join us.

Honestly, my mother-in-law was a very nice, Southern lady. She could cook anything from scratch, and her home was always immaculately clean, including her oven. She never left the house without “fixing her face.” She wore stockings to church in the summer while the rest of us heathens went barelegged. Her hair was always perfectly in place as well as her demeanor. In short, she put the “p” in prim and proper. Whereas I…well, I was more of an earthy Southern woman, the kind of gal who just wanted to make sure the pee got into the potty. She and I had never spent a vacation together, much less the close quarters of a road trip. But prim-and-proper Grandma seemed pretty darn excited about the idea.

So we gamely piled into the car in the middle of a scorching June – my husband and I in the front seat, Grandma (in her freshly-pressed skirt) and the kids in the back. This would be our seating arrangement for all travel, and it suited me just fine.

For the first leg of our trip, we’d stopped a couple hours outside of Orlando and spent the night. The jaunt had been remarkably delightful. The next morning, we eagerly loaded up and drove straight to the Magic Kingdom. The trip, at this point, took a somewhat less delightful turn. Laney, who had recently potty-trained, insisted on checking out every bathroom in the entire theme park. She didn’t always need to avail herself of the facilities; she just wanted to “make sure.”

Joey had a different avenue to check out. Every time we approached a kiosk or gift shop, off Joey raced to see what he could find. He didn’t actually buy anything. Oh, no. He only had ten dollars (courtesy of Grandma). So he needed to carefully consider every toy, every hat, every sword, every gift possibility before laying down his cold, hard cash.

By the end of the day, I think we’d been on a ride about five times. And three of those times were on the same ride.

So when Daddy loaded up the car, and we took our travel positions, the kids were cranky, the parents were hot and hungry, and even Grandma seemed a tad frayed. But before we could eat, Daddy decided that we needed to check into the hotel.

We drove up and down and up and down the strip in Orlando (in a time long before GPS) until at last, we found our hotel. Daddy went inside the lobby to get the keys; we’d reserved two adjoining rooms so that Grandma would have her privacy but also be right there, next to us. But from the moment my husband stepped back outside, I knew something was wrong. And my husband is not the stony-and-silent type. He’s more of the venting-and-loudly type. Especially when he’s tired and hungry and has spent quite a bit of money for his children to visit bathrooms and gift shops.

So he began to rant about a mix-up with the rooms. We had two rooms, he said, but the rooms were on separate floors. Why, he yelled, would he book rooms for the same party on two separate floors? The guy behind the desk, he said (reaching a crescendo), was being a complete and total jerk.

Except he did not say, “jerk.”

I’m sorry to say that Daddy used a part of the anatomy usually restricted for sitting. And not just one’s posterior. He used a very specific part of one’s posterior.

He did, however, realize immediately that he’d perhaps said something he shouldn’t. Especially in front of his prim-and-proper mother and a couple of innocents.

A hush fell over the car. I didn’t dare turn around to the back seat.

Suddenly, a five-year-old voice rang out: “Daddy, what’s an ***hole?”

Followed by a cherubic two-year-old voice: “Yeah, Daddy. What’s

an ***hole?”

Oh. My. Lord. I could just imagine what my mother-in-law was thinking. Because even though it had been her son who said it, I was sure she was somehow blaming me, the earthy wife.

And then she laughed.

Thank you, Lord, she laughed! We all laughed!

To tell the truth, it was sort of a turning point in my relationship with my mother-in-law. I no longer viewed her as simply a prim-and-proper label but as a wonderful, down-to-earth woman. Maybe not as earthy as me, but we got along a lot better after that trip.

The first of many roads we happily traveled down together.

About this writer

  • Cathy C. Hall Cathy C. Hall is a freelance writer and humor columnist from the metro Atlanta area. Her family life essays have been included in anthologies, including Chicken Soup for the Tea Lover’s Soul and Cup of Comfort for Dog Lovers. She has also been published in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, webzines and several regional magazines. You can find out more at her website:

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6 Responses to “Road Trippin’ With Grandma”

  1. Sioux says:

    Cathy–Your story perfectly illustrates how we don’t always fit in perfectly with our in-laws, but also how just one moment in time can break down the barriers and change our relationship forever.

    The frequent trips to the bathroom (what kind of fascinating things did they expect to see? how many different kinds of stink did they want to experience?), the urgency to check out every single toy—so funny and so true. Thanks for sharing this story. It made me go back in time to family vacations decades ago…

  2. Bev Baird says:

    Such a lovely, touchy and humorous story – I enjoyed it from beginning to end!

  3. What a great story and so much fun to read! It reminds us that the best memories can come from not-so-perfect moments. I also reminds me of a road trip I took with MY prim and proper Grandma, where she rolled down the window and hollered “You’re a jack***!” at a semi truck driver. My first experience with road rage. :)

  4. Linda O'Connell says:

    Cathy, I love the description Prim and Proper. My, how everything changes when there are little children to break the tension. Loved this story!

  5. Such a lovely story… humor, honesty, and in the end… love (of family).

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