It all started with a death in the family. And a secret prayer to be able to spend more time with my extended relatives.
Sometime around Thanksgiving every year, my husband and I sit down and think about our travel plans for Christmas. He works in a restaurant with limited time off and the rest of our family lives 800 miles away, so going home for Christmas is never a simple matter. As it was shaping up this year, we were going to get about five days in Illinois with our families. Enough time to drive for a whole day, celebrate some Christmases and drive for another whole day.
I’ve been missing my family, thus the secret prayer to find a way to spend more time with them. The kids have a long school break and my husband was the only one who needed to be back at a certain time. (It was a secret prayer because I don’t like sounding disappointed by our circumstances. After all, I married him with full knowledge that one day we would live in Pennsylvania. I just didn’t anticipate how hard it would be to be so far away from everyone else.)
Then my uncle, who lives in Colorado, died, and we started asking different questions.
Are we going to Colorado?
Who is going to Colorado?
When are we going to Colorado?
How are we getting there?
My uncle was the sort of person who didn’t want people to make a fuss, so he wanted no funeral service, only to be cremated and have his ashes scattered in the mountains (an impossibility in the winter months).
But the rest of us need closure and to be together, so the planning began. During the holiday break, when several family members have time off because they work for school districts, a trip to Colorado would happen.
The catch? Several of those family members do not like to fly, so this would be a road trip.
Unwilling to subject ourselves to a possible 16-hour drive with a day off followed by another possible 16-hour drive (did you know Denver is 1,500 miles from where we live in Pennsylvania?!?), my husband suggested something crazy. (At least it sounded crazy to me.)
“Why don’t we fly home?”
We have lived in Pennsylvania for more than six years and have never flown back to Illinois. Mainly because it’s expensive and not perfectly convenient. Since there are four of us, we still need a vehicle in Illinois, so loading up the van and driving for a day or overnight has always been the preferred option.
After my initial shock and near-refusal, the idea grew on me. We would arrive in Illinois considerably fresher and certainly earlier than if we drove, and because we would only be in our hometown area for a few days, not having our own vehicle isn’t too much of an issue.
So plans came together. We booked tickets. We arranged flights and school and work schedules.
And that is only part of the adventure.
The second leg of our Christmas vacation involves four generations of family in an RV driving across the Midwest Plains to Denver for a long weekend of grieving, celebrating and being together. It also involves one of our particular foursome flying back to Pennsylvania from Denver so he can return to work and the rest of us spending a few extra days in Illinois with a yet-to-be-determined rendezvous somewhere between Illinois and Pennsylvania.
If you’re still with me, you’re probably thinking one of two things. I know this, not because I’m a mind reader, but because every person I’ve told this plan to has had one of these two reactions and nothing in-between.
One reaction is: “That’s awesome! You guys are going to have so much fun! What an adventure! I’ve always wanted to do that!”
The other is: “Wow. That sounds … interesting. I’ll pray for you.”
Honestly, I waver between both of those feelings–excitement and terror. Because, let’s face it, this could be the most awesome thing to ever happen to our family or it could be a total disaster. (In reality, it will probably have moments of both). Either way, this will be one of our most memorable holidays ever.
And that’s worth something.
So, I can’t promise you a bunch of blog posts from the road because I’m not exactly sure what all we’re taking with us. But, if you’re interested in following along the adventure on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram, I’m going to use the hashtag #XCountryXmas for all travel related posts. (You can find me on Goodreads to see all the books I read while we travel, too.) I will be writing down memorable quotes, journaling my thoughts and taking pictures along the way, hoping to bring you a share of our memories in the new year.
And just to give you a teaser, here’s the first memorable quote for the trip to come.
Me: Izzy, I e-mailed you teacher today and she said to have a good trip and that you were excited.
Izzy (the first-grader): Yeah, and I might even see the Platte River.
Me: How do you know about the Platte River?
Izzy: My teacher told me. It’s in Nebraska. I can’t wait to go through Nebraska.
Me: I think you’re going to be disappointed. (No offense to Nebraska.)
To epic road trips and beyond! (And Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and all that jazz!)