My parents left this morning, with my youngest sister in tow, on their annual "states no one else wants to visit" summer vacation. My mother's fear of flying meant all our family trips were limited to where you could drive by car without depleting the energy and patience of the driver - my dad. So from ages 5-14 or so, after exhausting all the enjoyable east coast destinations (Florida, D.C. , Ottawa, New Hampshire), I became very familiar with states like Delaware.
Before I get a rash of e-mails from irate Delawareans, I want to make it clear that I am not dissing Delaware. It is a fine state for setting up tax shelters and for driving through on the way to other, far more interesting states. Delaware is also justly famous for its state bird, the blue hen chicken, and for being the birthplace of actress Valerie Bertinelli (who is either best known as one of the daughters on One Day At A Time or as the woman who married Eddie Van Halen, but not, alas, for being born in Delaware). As a destination in and of itself, however, Delaware is a bit lacking, water gaps notwithstanding.
I was the first person in my family in four generations to visit Israel, and never made it west of Pennsylvania until I was 24, so to my mind, Delaware is the symbol for all that is limiting or marginalized in life, as it was the least ingratiating of all the uninteresting states we visited when I was a child.
And yet...I miss those trips, even the one to Delaware, mostly for the shared family experience. The car rides themselves were always more entertaining than the destinations, as invariably someone would throw up, someone else (why was it never the one who threw up?) would spot a license plate from Hawaii or Alaska (the ultimate point-getters in spot the state license plate game), my dad would threaten to stop the car if we didn't stop fighting, and my mom would remind us before getting out of the car not to touch anything anywhere ever.
There was a warmth and an innocence to these trips it is impossible to recapture. The world is too large now, and I have been weathered by living in it. I feel bad for my youngest sister, who at 11, does not have the camraderie of a bunch of siblings to go with her (the closest in age being 8 years older), and who, having already been to the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and San Franciso, will only know places like Delaware as the places no one else wanted to go to...