Sitting Down For The Road

We don’t have many traditions in my family. We don’t sit around the Seder table asking questions; we don’t eat Chinese food on Christmas; we don’t have Taco Tuesdays or Gefilte Fish Fridays. We are pretty ordinary people in that sense. Or every sense.

There is one tradition that I’d like to keep and pass along to my kid – sitting down for the road.

A view of Congressman George H. Tinkham’s suitcase after his trip. © Time Inc. David E. Scherman

Every time we were about to leave on a trip my Dad always said “Let’s sit down for the road” and we would set down our suitcases and sit quietly for a minute. It wasn’t my favorite thing to do – when you are a kid on the way to an exiting destination the last thing you want to do is to be stopped in your tracks and sit around even for a minute. But then again it’s a minute well-spent. You could realize you forgot something, or just look around one last time so a memory of your place will travel with you and eventually make you homesick. You could concentrate, finalize a plan, prepare for the departure, as a pilot might say revving up the engine. Many useful things you can do in a minute. Or you can just not do anything and wait for your Dad to signal that the sitting down for the road is over and open the door to something that awaits outside.

I’ve done this ever since I can remember. I sat down in places I’ve never returned to; I sat down with people who I never got to see again; I sat down before the trips I remember and many forgotten ones. Now I get to tell my kid to sit down and I like the continuity of it. It’s a real tradition, beautiful in its simplicity and as meaningful as one wants it to be.

For the road…

  • Will Notb

    Funny how our parents’ traits live on, n’est-ce pas?

    • That’s the meaning of life 🙂

  • Bob

    I wish you had asked your father how he came to acquire the practice of sitting down. Did he learn it from his father or mother? Was there a learning experience which taught him the value of waiting? In my family, we just threw our junk in the car and headed out. I can’t remember anything bad happening as a result. I’m sure we would have simply bought something if we forgot an important item. Perhaps that would have been impossible in Russia, due to either lack of money or places to obtain needed goods. In any event, it is an interesting piece of family culture, one completely unexpected by me.

    • I quickly searched if there are any reasons for this custom and most sources agreed that it started back in the time when people believed in house spirits and either wanted to fool them or appease them or both. While that meaning of it is lost, it always made sense to me and unlike other customs and traditions doesn’t require any effort or time.
      As always I’d like to thank you for reading and caring to comment 🙂