Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The Turkey Trot

Anyone with kids, or a long memory, knows the story: pack the whole clan into a car for hours on end, pray to the traffic gods, hope you didn't forget anything too important, and spend days shuttling from extended family to extended family.

When things go wrong, they go very, very wrong. But when they don't, it's lovely.

This year we pulled off the equivalent of a hole-in-one. Everything worked, and it was lovely.

The traffic gods were surprisingly kind, by Northeast standards. Even the states that usually give us fits -- I'm looking at you, Pennsylvania -- were smooth. We didn't forget anything irreplaceable, the kids behaved beautifully, and seeing the families was a joy.

This has not always been the case.

In past years, I've had nasty car troubles, awful traffic, strained step-family issues, and once, the longest train ride in recorded history. (My one-step process for making train travel more appealing: speed it up. Okay, Stephen, have at it.) Until that adventure, I would have felt guilty about driving as much as we did. Now, not.

I'm glad that my kids get off a little easier than I did. I remember the twice-yearly seven-hour drives in the Ford Maverick, bereft of such 21st century luxuries as DVD players. The best we got was Chilly Willy, with the magnets to make beards. Now, the kids spent much of the drive watching DVD's of Tom and Jerry or Charlie Brown holiday specials. On the late-night drive back, when I wanted them to sleep, I played a podcast of Marketplace. Lest that be considered child abuse, I was subjected to Paul Harvey -- Paul Harvey! -- in the car as a kid. And that's the rest of the story.

When we got there, all was good. The Girl and The Niece picked up where they left off last summer, gleefully hiding under blankets together and squealing at frequencies that could shatter glass. My brother and I had a few of our patented conversations, which I enjoy and which TW manages to tolerate. My Mom had both sons and all the grandkids under one roof at the same time, which is rare these days.

But that wasn't all. We also saw TW's parents, who are the rare in-laws you can actually like. We even caught up with some old friends, which is good for the soul. No Black Friday runs for us, though we did get to participate voyeuristically; our hotel was next to a Toys-R-Us, so we got to see people standing outside in line at 7:00 for a midnight opening. As far as shopping goes, I loves me some internet.

Several days away from office politics, higher ed, blogging, and the usual routine is good for the soul. I don't want to spend that much time in the car again for a long while, but I'm grateful to have places to go.