My mother’s brother and his wife lived just a few hours from the dream house when I was growing up. Uncle Bill had a large brood of kids, typical of a Mormon family – Ricky, Tommy, Bruce, Carolee, Billy, Christine, Laurie, and Jimmy. We would often visit our cousins and they would often visit us – so we were pretty close – or trying to kill each other, depending on the day. Since we shared a grandma up in Idaho, sometimes my sister and I would hitch a ride when the cousins were making the trip – and one trip in particular stands out in my memory.
Uncle Bill owned a large station wagon that had flip-up bench seats in the “way back” so that the whole family could fit. I use the term “fit” loosely, because space was tight – so even with those flip-up seats, kids were crammed into every nook and cranny, especially when my sister and I tagged along. No one wanted to sit in the flip-up seats, not only because there was no leg room, but because they faced each other. The only view was a sibling or cousin’s face (with the scenery rushing past behind them) or, if you craned your head at an awkward angle, you could stare out the back window.
On this particular road trip, my uncle and aunt were in the front seat, along with the two smallest. My sister and I were wedged in the back seat between Carolee and Kristine – and the four older boys had been assigned to the flip-up seats in the way back. As you can imagine, during a three-hour car trip, in cramped quarters, with ten children, there was plenty of giggling, teasing, and arguing. The girls had claimed a sheet that was in the car and we would put it over our heads from time to time so that we could have “private” conversations in our makeshift tent. The boys poked at each other and did “boy stuff” like flinging boogers at one another and occasionally pulling the girl’s hair. However, once we had been on the freeway for an hour, their shenanigans quieted down a bit, because a couple of them started to feel carsick.
Tommy finally yelled to Uncle Bill to pull over, because he was going to throw up. Uncle Bill, not wanting to extend the car trip any longer than necessary, told Tommy to roll down the back window, stick his head out, and proceed with the vomiting. So, Tommy did as he was told. It must have been alarming to other drivers on the highway to see a teenager stick his entire head and shoulders out the back window of the station wagon as we were traveling at such a high rate of speed. It must have been even more alarming once Tommy started to spew!
However, that wasn’t the most alarming thing! In his zeal to save time, Uncle Bill had not fully considered the ramifications or physics of his decision to have Tommy vomit out the back of the car. With the station wagon traveling at highway speeds, and the back window lowered, a backdraft was created. As Tommy puked, the turbulence picked up most of the vomit and shot it right back into the car! Several chunks hit Ricky right in the face – and he immediately started to vomit as well – which only added to the problem. As vomit began to fly past our heads, the girls started screaming and we threw the sheet over our heads for protection and ducked down in the seat as much as we could. Billy threw himself to the floor of the way-back, squirming to fit between the legs of his brothers. Bruce calmly grabbed a corner of our sheet and pulled it over his head, hunching down in order to make himself a smaller target. When Uncle Bill was hit in the back of the head by a hunk of vomit, he wisely decided that perhaps it WAS best to pull over, even if it added some time to our trip.
As soon as the car stopped, we all piled out to the side of the highway like rats leaving a rapidly sinking ship. Only Tommy and Ricky stayed behind, dry-heaving and coughing. I don’t remember much of what happened after that, but as an adult, I pity my aunt, who I know probably got to clean up most of the mess. I do remember that the rest of the trip was made with ALL of the windows down in an unsuccessful attempt to ventilate and deodorized the car. I also remember that we girls made a quiet game of “spot the vomit” that had missed the initial cleanup attempt – because splatters still remained on the back of a headrest, the overhead light, and along the side of the window, just to name a few. As road trip games go – I suggest you stick to the “Alphabet Game,” “I Spy”, or “Twenty Questions” – “Spot the Vomit” is just not as fun as you might think.