I saw a sign the other day for a story contest. The topic was either song or games. I couldn’t tell because the flyer was clearly repurposed from a prior year and indicated both of them as the topic in different places. Song and games made me think of writing a creative non-fiction piece about taking road trips with my family when I was young. It made me realize that I’ve only ever flown on a plane with my brother once, and I was so young I don’t remember it. For our family vacations, we drove. Mostly to either Wisconsin, where my mother’s parents had a cabin for family use or to Toronto where my father’s parents and sisters lived.

Both drives were long, especially for someone who had and has trouble falling asleep in cars, but the Canada  route was definitely longer. The reason that song and games made me think of those long drives was that my family used to play a game during those drives.

Guess the Song.

First, the person whose turn it was would whistle a tune, and everyone else would try to get it. If no one had a clue, then someone could call, “hum it,” and the whistler would switch to humming. Still nothing? “La-la it,” was the next step. The next step after that was conceding defeat.

There weren’t really winners and losers in the game, per se. But if no one could guess your song, that meant you weren’t performing it very well. So I got frustrated when no one could guess correctly what I was trying to convey. I also took a long time to learn to whistle properly, so this game wasn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse.

By the time I had learned how to whistle well, we rarely took family vacations. My mom and I had some trips together, including the first plane trip I remember. My brother and my dad, I think. My dad and I traveled once with his mom and sister to visit Italy, but my dad and my aunt left a day before Nonna and I did. We took the bus together, and she insisted on not paying, which ended in us being taken off the bus by police who tried to tell us we should be fined for not paying the bus. Nonna did her best confused tourist act and I maybe cried a bit and they let us off, exasperated, I think.

Now I live far away from my mother, father and brother. My mother can’t travel very easily. My ability to whistle has atrophied from lack of use – perhaps also because I no longer regularly play the flute. There are no more road trips and no more games of Guess the Song. And I didn’t write any of this before the deadline for the story contest. I let it sit and simmer in my brain, and let the date slide past, in part because I didn’t want to pay entry and in part because I feared the inevitable rejection. Inevitable, because I don’t think I write the kinds of things they want to read.

And that’s okay. But maybe, next year, I should try anyway.

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