“Are we there yet?” Any one who has spent time in a form of cultural character building exercise known as the family vacation will have experienced the ritual and almost liturgical repetition of this phrase.
We drove across the northwest USA in a 1974 station wagon. The kind that Chrysler used to make, with the engine that consumed gallons per minute and where the various parts of the rear seat belts were forever tucked under the living room sofa that was called a “back seat”. It was covered on the exterior with that charming 70’s wood paneling which was popular not only on certain brands of American automobile, but throughout numerous suburban basements. In retrospect it was probably a good idea, ahead of its time. If your wood panel station wagon got into an accident, you could repair it easily with supplies from your own family “rec room”.
And still the cry went up to the father: “Are we there yet?”
Father was always the one to drive. On we would drive, through towns and cities, wilderness and mountains. Leading us on with blazing headlights by night, and a pillar of exhaust and fumes by day; the kind that only an 8 cylinder Detroit horsepower factory can produce. We never questioned his ability to get us to where we needed to go; only his ability to get us there quicker.
The phrase rang out in our father’s ears for mile after mile (this was all before metric). During the day we passed the time in games, in counting things, and of course, in fighting among ourselves. The scenery was always new – that is what makes the journey exciting. It seems that even back then, we kids would always try to claim “our seats”. And heaven help you if you encroached even one finger’s width on someone else’s territory.
For a while the journey itself was interesting enough, with its stops and interruptions and breaks for this and that. But after a while one gets tired of merely journeying and actually wants to “get somewhere.”
I have discovered that what goes around comes around. There is a green hill far away, outside a city wall. It is located in the Monashee mountain range of British Columbia. The drive itself is measured in hours now. It is 12 hours, with at least 3 or 4 stops along the way. I first traveled it over 25 years ago. And these days I hear the voices carry on the great tradition, and I feel my sense of place in the great congregation who hands on that which it has received.
They have slowly come to know the place name signs along the highway, and the turnoff just past the small town, then finally onto the logging road, and then the place where that road ends as well. It is I alone who hike through the mountain to get the boat (where I am going you cannot come now!) – for they too must pass over water to get to their destination.
They think I should be hurrying. But to tell the truth when I have hiked to our destination, and launched the boat, and see them waiting on the far shore through the cabin’s binoculars, I stop hurrying. I sit on the dock, and I rest.
I am here.
Soon enough, I will come for you.