Are we there yet?

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Six adults packed into an SUV, heading for a fish fry on a Friday evening, and somebody in the third row yells, “Are we there yet?”

My mind goes into fast rewind to when our kids were little and we’d take trips, two adults and five little ones packed into our station wagon. Maybe we’re on our way to visit grandparents or we’re pulling a two-wheeled trailer with our camping gear heading for a campground. Almost invariably, we’d get that “Are we there yet?” question a number of times before we reached our destination.

Things were different then. Cars were not equipped with DVD players and kids didn’t have hand-held game devices to keep them from being bored. We’d load in a few comic books, coloring books and crayons, and toys, but that never seemed to be enough to keep them distracted for very long.

Fortunately, our kids were willing to do some sing-alongs, so they’d harmonize to songs like “I See the Moon,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “On Top of Old Smoky,” and “Old MacDonald” to fill up some of the time. They’d also play a game they called “no slaps back.” If someone spotted an out-of-state license plate, they could slap someone gently and say, “No slaps back – California.” Silly, I know, but it would pass some time.

We taught all the kids to play cribbage when they were very young, so they’d look for cribbage hands on license plates. That wouldn’t work now because Wisconsin license plates have only three digits.

Another game which they liked to play was “I went to the zoo and I saw …” The first kid would name an animal that began with an A; the next one would have to say “I went to the zoo and I saw … (whatever the first kid said)” and add “I went to the zoo and saw” … something starting with a B, and so on. A variation of that game was “I went on a picnic and I took …”

The kids all had kazoos and they’d have a little band back there, but often long after the other four tired of that, our youngest would continue kazooing, usually “We Are the Champions,” until his siblings would yell, “Dad, make him stop.”

Our first station wagon had a rear-facing third seat, but none of the kids wanted to sit facing back, so we’d usually fold that seat down and put a mat in the back behind the second seat for them to play on. No seat belts or restraints of any kind – can you believe it? Five little kids loose in the back of the car.

There were no regulations about child seats or restraints. If we’d had an accident, they’d have all been flying around in the back and who knows how many serious injuries there might have been. Luckily that never happened.

There are many great memories of our camping trips from when they were little and from our bike trips when they were older, but even when they were a little older, we’d still hear, “Are we there yet?” Or “How much longer?”

I miss those days!

Roger VanHaren can be contacted at