Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Over the river and through the woods


It has been over ten years since I've made the traditional Thanksgiving trek to Grandma's house. (In fact, it's been over eight years since I've even seen her, which is a crying shame.)

It's so odd to have let so much time pass like this -- for a long time we would go twice a year. Once in the summer, and again for Thanksgiving.

Travel was something we trained for early in my household. Adventures were very important to my parents. I went on my first campout when I was probably far too young to do so, famously getting lost in my own sleeping bag AND getting violently ill all over my father. That's the stuff of memories, folks.

My parents' parents lived an hour away from each other in central Oklahoma, and driving there from Colorado became a well-worn routine. We became masters of road trips. Early on we would pack a rubbery plastic basket filled of toys and books -- always a new comic book or two stuffed in there somewhere, readable only after the journey began. We'd leave before dawn with a thermos of coffee for the grown-ups and little dry breadstick things for the children to tide them over until real breakfast (perhaps Cheerios in a park somewhere).

Later the baskets turned into little tote-bags that Mom made herself, and later still our car-gear was carried in whatever bag we carried around in civilian life. Musical tastes diverged, Walkmans turned into CD players -- there were a few years when every single car occupant was on headphones -- including the driver. A newly liscensed driver (me!) lessened the burden on Mom, and the trip became a bit faster. The homemade auto-bingo games became longer, then we started playing them "best two out of three". Road maps were pored over, and a lifelong love of maps and vacations and adventures with mileage counts was kindled. Wrong turns were rerouted. Cellphones arrived, but lost service outside of the major cities. Routes became modified, new restaurants were tried, but many of the long-standing traditions remained.

Tomorrow I'm going to re-take that journey, and see how much of the old route's landmarks still stand.

I have mentioned before that Thanksgiving was the special gathering holiday in my family, and is a dear favorite of mine largely because of that. This year's gathering will be smaller than they have been in the past, but hopefully will be none the worse for that. Mom and I have taken it upon ourselves to cook for Grandma this year, to pay her back for all those many meals she cooked for us.