Once or twice a month on Sunday, when the weather was good, all of five us would pile into our blue boat of a four-door Chrysler and away we would go. Another bottle picking adventure. As kids we didn’t always look forward to the drive, or being crowded together in the backseat, but it had become a bit of a family tradition. We also knew that our little expeditions served a two-fold purpose–extra money for our family because we didn’t have a lot and a bonding experience of time spent altogether. From my parents’ perspective, I’m sure that it was also a handy excuse when they could sense that we were getting restless and/or on each others’ nerves at home and needed a break. Likely, it was a much needed break for them too.
For an hour or two, my parents, my two older brothers and I would set out toward some country road or another and every few minutes, we would hop out of the car and scour the ditches for pop bottles, beer cans, and whatever else would yield a few extra cents in our pockets. “Every penny adds up,” my dad would say. And, he was right as usual.
I remember the excitement when one of us would spot specs of silver or glimmers of glass hidden in the grassy embankments and call out, “Stop here, Dad. This is a good spot.” After carefully parking off of the roadway, each of us would then dutifully spread out amongst the area to be covered and gather as many items as we could find running back and forth to the trunk to deposit our used treasures along the way. Occasionally, someone would find a stray bungee cord or a banged-up hubcap, all of which also had to be collected. “You never know when it will come in handy.” I chuckle to this day as I think of my dad’s excessive collection of all things motor-related, car, truck, tractor or otherwise. He is a farmer after all.
By the time we were finished collecting whatever bottles and cans we could, we usually ended up with one or two big, black garbage bags full of recyclables; the bags would be full of holes as evidence of our finds poked through here and there. I remember feeling proud of our efforts and although we would often be covered with mud and grass with sticky hands to boot (my least favourite part), it always felt like a sense of accomplishment. A goal achieved. Together.
Sometimes afterward, my dad would reward us for a job well-done by stopping at our favourite A & W drive-in restaurant where we would order a collection of Papa, Mama and Baby burgers along with their brand-name draft root beer in cold, frosty mugs. Of course, that was the best part of the whole experience. I thought the baby mug that I drank my frothy pop from was sooo cute that, one time, it happened to ‘accidently’ fall into the car, if you know what I mean. (Shh! Don’t tell.) I’m going to ask my mom if she still has that classic, imprinted glass mug in her cupboard. If so, I would like it. It brings back fond memories of that cozy, satisfying feeling of eating burgers and drinking root beer with that familiar, orange tray hanging off our partially rolled down window with my parents sitting in the front bench seat and the three of us crammed into the back of our blue boat of a four-door Chrysler; newfound riches in the trunk and all. Clearly, the true riches were really held within those four clunky, beloved doors with the five of us. Our family. Our Sunday morning tradition.