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On the Road

November 28, 2014

Written by Marykate O’Malley, mother of three wonderful children, Gladwyne PA 


My road trips used to take place with my regular side kick and lifelong best friend, traveling from Philadelphia to Avalon, NJ during the summers and from Philadelphia to Washington, DC during college. After college, on most weekends, traveling from Philadelphia to New York City to head out with our friends. Because doesn’t everyone travel over 2 hours to “go out”?

One of my favorite road trip memories was New Years Eve and we were driving to Manhattan. We were deep in conversation when suddenly I turned to her and asked “are those mountains” where mountains were not supposed to be. We were so ingrained in our talk that we missed all exits and drove to the Poconos, and then made our way to New York. Which being New Year’s Eve was probably a blessing given the traffic situation.

Another time I was visiting a dear friend in Arizona and we were making our way back from the Grand Canyon, driving through the dessert, at night, when we ran out of gas. She hopped out of the car, not at all scared, to walk back to a gas station we passed a mile or so back. I had never seen such darkness and peered out into the dessert terrified of what was lurking just beyond me. And yet I couldn’t help but notice how the stars shone with such intensity and there was the strange contrast between fear and awe at such beauty and silence. As I sat waiting for her, every Stephen King book and horror movie I ever watched was coming to visit me in the passenger seat of her SUV that night. And so I did what every good, terrified Catholic girl does, I started the rosary and didn’t stop until we were well on our way back to Tempe.


photo (16)


Photograph courtesy of Rachel McGinn photography

In college my friends and I would travel in a pack, with 13 girls, in fleets of cars and descend upon unsuspecting parties in one fell swoop. We went everywhere together. We piled into cars , on each others laps, with mixed cassette tapes playing an odd assortment with everything from “Come on Eileen”  and “The Gambler” to “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”. This is what we do in the animal kingdom. We create herds, and travel in packs through life together.

Today my herd is three young ones and plenty of stuffed animals. My youngest carries on the tradition of traveling with her pack and is accompanied by the “Pig Family” where ever we go. There is father Mudd, Mother Wilbert (not to be confused with the other pig Wilbur), children Oink, Piggy and Allebra. And their companions a large leopard Leppy, and a giant Panda pillow pet, known as Pandy. (Because doesn’t everyone bring a giant pillow pet with them when they travel). Not to be outdone, my son bring his sidekick Sting, a stingray from the Norwalk Aquarium the size of a 4 year old. And Superboy, his small tiger from the Bronx Zoo. My oldest, being practical and a minimalist (“Mom, she is really bringing all  of those?” followed by “and you are going to to let her?”) carries Andy, her dependable sock monkey and Pinky, her small pink pig from babyhood. The Pig family, Leppy, Pandy, Sting, Super boy, Andy, and Pinky, and me set off on our adventures. Cassette tapes are replaced by DVDs, diet snapples replaced by water bottles, snacks on hand.

My conversations used to be about life, and spirituality, and careers, and well, everything. Today, they are the same. They just sound a little different. On a recent road trip from Philadelphia to visiting family on Long Island, it sounded something like this:


  • We are watching Rise of the Guardians, Santa Clause explains to Jack Frost his “center” as something that grounds him and is the purpose for his life. My son remarks, “my center is soccer.” And then, “if you looked at my heart, I bet I would have a soccer ball instead of a heart.” This goes deep people. Soccer is deep.
  • And then the conversation turns to the Easter Bunny. My youngest points out that the reason there is an Easter Bunny is because he was the first one to see Jesus after he rose from the dead. Eek. Looks like an education gap I need to address. My son corrects her, it is because a bunny is the first animal that Jesus ever saw. She accepts this explanation. I accept it, better than the first. I record these things because the cuteness is simply too much.
  • And later in the ride (I could have been playing Christmas music) he remarks: “it’s like everyone forgot about Thanksgiving and only cares about Christmas.” My youngest shot back: “that is because everyone knows Jesus is more important than turkey.” Ouch. Game on. I could read his thoughts – she has a point but there is no way I am letting her win this argument, After all 2 years older is stature and there is a dignity that goes along with that. So he begins to defend the historical significance of the pilgrims strategically not bringing turkey into the conversation.
  • And the entire ride my oldest sat in the back of the car wearing a panda hat. Every time I would look in the rear view mirror I am looking at and speaking to the stuffed animal panda she is wearing on her head. Which is always the voice of reason, chiming in to point out the obvious, rational thought, and only when necessary.

Despite the freedom of navigating a rest stop with ease, and listening to whatever I want on the radio, I prefer Leppy, Sting, the Pig family, Pandy, Superboy, Andy and Pinky as traveling companions. And conversations about how Santa’s elves arrive at our houses from the North Pole, or alternative transportation to Long Island such as time machines. Snapple had its day, I am loving stimulating conversation, water bottles, and snacks traveling with my herd through life together.


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  1. Anne Schenendorf

      on November 30, 2014 9:05 am

    In a season of car rides, there is no better company. ;D I loooooove this!!!!! Xxxooo


  2. Tara

      on April 3, 2015 8:15 am

    Just reread this one and I love it! You’re one very lucky Mommy! Have a lovely Easter with your family (because Jesus did see a rabbit fas his first animal! Love him!) and all the new beginnings that Spring brings. Love you! ❤️


  3. Marykate

      on April 7, 2015 7:30 pm

    Thanks Tara! So funny because the first animal Jesus saw being a bunny came up again on Sunday. Ahhhh … have to laugh. Love new beginnings!! And love you darling friend!!! XXOO Thanks for your comments!!


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