The Ultimate Family Road Trip

Kathy McElfresh
Kathy McElfresh

Family Time: What Does It Mean to YOU?

My earliest recollection of family is the motley crew pictured here.  My dad had 6 brothers and we lived next door to my grandparents and his two youngest brothers there and another brother on the other side of our house.  Family was everywhere.  I had two brothers and sisters and five cousins on the same block and we were a short walk away from lots of other cousins.  Weekends were filled with barbecues, fishing or camping trips, trips to the river or a beach on the Gulf of Mexico — usually big family outings.  It’s a real shame that there aren’t more photos from that time.  I do have a few that I’m working to restore and preserve — and scrap!

After college I moved away and settled in another state, starting a new family and living closer to my husband’s relatives.  Family gatherings like the one pictured above happened only at the end of a road trip of some sort! When we traveled it was just the three of us and we usually sought the most direct route to our destination.

Over the years the composition of what I considered “family” changed as my marital status changed and my son grew up.  The road trips were to visit The Kid and his growing family rather than to our parents’ homes and still, they were more about getting somewhere as directly as possible rather than spending time together on the trip or seeing sights along the way.  After retirement we moved near The Kid and this group of little ones became the “family” that we spent time with, took a million photos of and defined ourselves by.  We had become Granny and Grumpy and (as the photos and scrapbook pages prove) we were busy and happy and had found our ultimate calling in life.  Let the good times roll!  

Those kids grew up to be these kids and (sadly) grew tired of posing for the millions of photos , sometimes downright refusing to participate.  (hence the heavy filtering…)  I now check the “widowed” box on forms and the road trips the two of us took are just memories in a scrapbook.  Or several…

So now let's talk about a REAL family road trip.....

To celebrate the life of my precious John (aka Crappaw aka Grumpy) we (aka “the family”) decided to take a road trip back to some of his favorite places for gatherings with some of his favorite people.  We packed our bags, rented a car that would hold all 6 of us (though we may have over-packed and had less room than is desirable….) and we hit the road.  I could write a book about how among the 6 people in the car there were 6 unique and contradictory sets of expectations.  And I might spend some time advocating for more preparation and up-front work to discuss and agree on said expectations.  But this was a “mission” of sorts, meant to replace a somber funeral service with something more uplifting and celebratory and surely everyone understood that and was on board, right?  So off we went, subjecting ourselves to the closest of quarters and suffering the inevitable clashes that arise when such matters are left so loosely-defined.  As “matriarch” of this band of ruffians I had an itinerary based on my own goals and interests, and as “scrapbooker of all things” I even had a notion of photo ops as we traveled for 9 days.  Hardly anything went to plan — the fishing trip out of Pensacola and the float trip on the Guadalupe in Texas were cancelled due to weather.  We spent so much wonderful time with friends that we missed a few itinerary stops.  But the things that mattered were perfect. 

First stop on the Kokomo Tour..... Pensacolaa Beach

We’ve been back a couple weeks so I’ve scrapped quite a few photos in 12×12 format, some for challenges or series, not in order, nor with any comprehensive journaling included.  These two pages depict beach time and they’re always and forever my favorite kind of photos to scrap even if the only story is about how awesome it feels with wind in your hair and sand between your toes.  

Next stop: Louisiana to visit Patrice

It’s been TOO long since I’ve seen my sister and even longer since James or the kids have seen her.  She was THRILLED and so were all of us!  We actually rerouted our return so we could see her again on the way home.  These photos were the first ones I wanted to scrap!  Yes, they were “posed” and predictable but I think they still convey the joy that we felt.  John and Patrice were close — he had a quiet way of communicating with her that was special, and I was concerned that she’d be sad to realize he was missing from the group but her joy won the day.  These pages are intentionally mismatched and uncoordinated — a mix of collections and embellishments meant to capture the chaos of the moment.  There is extensive hidden journaling on the “family” page on the two cards with tabs to the left of the photo panel.  

Next Destination: In and Around Houston

John and I had lived in the Houston area for over 30 years and it had become (and still was/is) “home”.  Family drew us elsewhere but this is where we felt the most like “ourselves”. It was important to James and me to share that with the kids.  By this time they’re just excited for the next “thing” we were going to DO, not at all the next restaurant we’d eat in or the next group of people we’d get together with in said restaurant.  So we tried to mix it up among activities and sit-downs — even made it to an Astros game! What won’t make it into the scrapbook pages (but maybe….) are the stories of frustration and impatience and embarrassing outbursts, largely due to a conflict in teen and grownup agendas but not helped by the weather-related cancellations.  We learned to develop back-up plans on the fly and we let each kiddo have some degree of input into where we went next.  Houston is a BIG metropolitan area, so there was a LOT of driving from one venue to another as we made important stops to meet with people and to scatter ashes.  There were disappointments along the way and a few really nice surprises.  Family or not, 9 days on the road with 4 teenagers has its challenges.  But photo and story opportunities abound and someday they’ll be happy I captured as many as I did!

My plans for documenting it all....

The page above was for my featured designer spot in the recent LOAD721 Mini-Load based on the number 7.  It just so happened there were 7 locations that we scattered ashes and while there are no photographs of that activity, this page captures how special the places were.  If I were to look back on the entire trip and do a single page that sums up the essence of the trip, this would be it.  There’s a bit of whimsy, lots of water, our honeymoon hotel that’s turned into an amusement pier, the baseball park we walked 4 blocks to get to, our home on the golf course and the BBQ place nearby;.  Nearly every embellishment on this page has special significance.  I debated about how to scrap this trip — because it was much more than a “trip”.  Here’s what I settled on.  I love doing 12 x12 pages and although I store my pages by category, I like to jump around and hardly every DO the scrapping chronologically.  So these pages will end up together but they’ll have been done individually and there won’t be any common “style” — I’ll be using whatever floats my boat at the time.



I do want a chronological, themed, cohesive “book” that holds the complete story of this once-in-a-lifetime journey to lay my sweetheart to rest in his special places.  It won’t be somber or heavy — I’ve decided to use the 6×8 mini-album that I started in a Vicki Boutin class using her “Color Study” collection.  It’s colorful and exuberant and so fun and versatile that I thought it would be perfect.  But I found myself wondering about the “arts and crafts” theme of the embellishments and I’ve now got the perfect solution — I was able to find lots of supplies from her “Let’s Wander” collection which has lots of travel-themed elements and colors that will work beautifully with Color Study.  It’s in this book that I’ll journal about the purpose of the trip and the significance of each stop, not just what we did or where we ate but why it was important to John and me.  I’ve already begun a bit of a journal to capture thoughts before they fly away and these words will find their way into the book and/or onto the 12×12 pages.  I’m thinking of doing a video series where I complete the book, maybe a few pages at a time.  I’m not sure how that’d work and I expect it’ll take some planning.  But it gives me some measure of comfort knowing that I’ll never be “finished” with this very precious project of mine.

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