Road Tripping at Christmas (Part 1)
"Ever since the magi first went in search of Jesus more than two thousand years ago, it seems that Christmas and 'road trip'have gone together." -Max Lucado
Will you be traveling this holiday season with or to your family? Years ago, when our children were quite young, we made the yearly Christmas pilgrimage to my parents' home, a trip of about 100 miles. My preparation prior to this annual trip included completing all the home decor for the season, writing and mailing the holiday cards, keeping track of all the children's school and other Christmas activities, purchasing and wrapping all the stocking stuffers and gifts for our immediate family and an extended list of other relatives, baking all the cookies, preparing our contribution to the holiday party spread, and finally packing suitcases for the six of us. The husband's responsibility was to gas up the car. As many of you know, road trips with kiddos are not always serene, relaxing occasions. They are more like endurance events. And mind you, in those days, we had no cell phones, car tv's, or handheld gaming devices to amuse the kids. Entertainment was found by looking out the windows.
Snacks were provided frequently and in abundance. Eating was not a matter of the children being hungry. No, snacks supplied amusement. And quiet. With overly-excited children came over-active bladders. This situation was concerning when the driver operated in his we-will-not-stop-till-we-are-there mode. There would be at least one bathroom-related change of clothing, somewhere en route. We would experience the usual trilogy of "I'm bored," "Are we there soon?" and "He's/she's touching me,"ad nauseum.
And yes, there would be vomit. We could bank on it. Somebody would vomit. And then we'd debate whether the offending child was car sick, even though that malady wasn't normally a problem. Of course, within 24 hours of arrival 75% of the children would come down with some form of winter virus. Relatives would wonder if my children were always that cranky. None of the children would nap during the journey, even though we'd strategically timed the trip to coincide perfectly with nap time. Let me amend that - they would finally fall asleep ten minutes before arrival, having slept just enough to leave them uncooperative about everything for the rest of that day and irritable. We'd safely arrive at our destination and then celebrate all the aspects of the holiday together.
Typically, we attended a Christmas Eve worship service, and we always sang Silent Night there in German. Afterwards the children tried to tolerate the old folks cooing over them as they squeezed the children's cheeks. "My how big you've grown," they'd marvel. I'd smile and pray hard at those moments that none of my littles would retort, "My how fat you've become!" After church we'd gather together for an amazing spread of food, enjoyed by all but the littlest ones. They'd think the food was weird and would only eat two tiny meatballs if it was a good night. The adults congregated around the shrimp bowl, sharing memories of the past year. We have even been known to barter for those last few precious pieces of shrimp down in the bottom of the bowl. When most of the guests were finished eating, Grandma gathered the children around her and recited The Night Before Christmas. I have wonderful memories of those spellbound faces and twinkling eyes, but I sure wish I had more photos.
Then the moment those kids have been waiting for would finally arrive. Gifts appeared and there'd be a virtual storm of tearing paper and flying bows. Even the family dogs got in on the "paper, paper" frenzy. Months later remnants of red and green papers would be found behind the planters and between the couch cushions. Bedtime was always a tricky deal. The children were over-excited and the parents were sleep-deprived. Getting everyone bedded down with minimal meltdowns and avoiding the typical grandma's-house-stalling-tactics was quite the challenge.
Even so, I'd never change those road trip holiday Christmas gatherings for all the money in the world. Stresses, fatigue, trials, and sicknesses aside, the memories we made are so precious to me now. These days, along with the memories from many past Christmases, I enjoy watching my grown children creating their own memories and family Christmas traditions. Another journey of great significance happened two thousand years ago. In my next post, we'll examine the road trip made by the Three Wise Men. Travel woes, drama, and gifts were part of their story, too. It wasn't exactly road trip euphoria for them, either. Oh, but what a Gift!