Shawn Smucker is an entrancing story teller. His latest book, How to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp, beckons you to sit around the campfire and listen to tales of adventure complete with grand scenery, internal conflict, heartwarming characters and at least one death defying experience. Shawn, his wife Maile who co-wrote the book, and their four young children set out on a four month long road trip on a bus. Yes, the idea sounds a little bit crazy to me, but after reading this book, I believe anyone could be game for adventure. This is much more than a book that takes you to New Orleans, the Grand Canyon, Teton Pass and places in between. It’s the tale of how one family chose to boldly move forward in the face of major life stressors (changing careers and leaving their home). Shawn writes:
So many feelings surfaced as I considered heading east: relief that the trip was almost over; dread that the trip was almost over; excitement to see what the next few months would hold; fear about what the next few months would hold. Heading east meant returning to friends and family, a community that we missed and the place I had grown up. All good.
But the adventure, in its messiness and its fast pace and its immediacy, sometimes allowed me to overlook the pressing sorts of big picture issues I’d rather not think about. Such as the fact that my current projects ended in June. Such as the fact that at that point we did not have a home of our own to go back to. Such as the fact that our travel expenditures had exceeded our budget by a good bit (thanks, diesel prices). Returning home from such an adventure would mean laying aside the exciting for the practical, the unexpected for the everyday.
But I concluded that this, also, was a good thing. The adventure, while it lasted, had broken many areas of my life down to their most basic elements, then allowed me the space and time to build those areas back up. My marriage. Being a dad. Writing. Mile by mile, I reconstructed myself.
His wife Maile somehow manages to stay sane with four little ones in cramped quarters and turns this adventure into a great educational experience. Can we take a moment to let that sink in – four young children on a bus. Clearly, she is rock star among mothers. She writes so honestly:
Now I, like my mother so many years ago, sit on the beach, cursing the sand and pooh- poohing all the requests from my children to “help me make a sandcastle” or “splash inthe water with me”. All the frivolity is simply too taxing for me. I hide under my sunhat, avoiding eye contact and playing deaf with anyone under the age of 20.
How did this happen? When did I make this evolution from the frolicking child to the boondocked mama? I’ll tell you exactly when it happened: 8 1⁄2 years ago when I became the mother of a blue-eyed little baby boy. From that moment on, he, and our children that would follow him, slowly soaked up the child that I had been. In 24 years of life, I’d created quite a sea of energy, sleep, and creativity. And they, like 4 gigantic sponges, laid themselves upon my surface and started absorbing, till what is now left is a quickly evaporating puddle leftover after a mid-summer rain.
I love that the child in me is carried on in them. I smile as I watch their spindly, pale arms packing down buckets of wet sand to build castle walls the way I did decades ago. I laugh as they discover the warm thrill of peeing in the ocean, a tactic I often used to take the chill off the icy waves. Still, I look forward to the day when my puddle increases again as they, one by one, wring out their sponges to create a vast sea for children of their own, just as my mom created an ocean for me.