Monday, December 4, 2006

National Lampoon's Thanksgiving Vacation


I don't even know where to begin describing this weekend.  It was wonderful.  Chaotic.  Inspiring.  Exhausting.

And that was just the first twenty minutes.

They came in two cars from the airport; Eric drove Julie (my sister-in-law) and the kids Gwen and Raiff back, and Steve (my brother-in-law) and Laurie (my mother-in-law) rented a car and drove together from the airport.  In that twenty minutes, Steve and Laurie were in a fender-bender (a mirror-bender, actually), Addie fell onto her head again, Nolie, Gwen and Raiff were screaming their heads off, Julie was in tears, and I was headed out the door for a faculty seminar.  Wowza.  I was just glad we had boarded the dog, otherwise I'm sure he would have crapped all over the carpet.

Really, though, it was an incredible weekend.  I mean, I love these folks because they're my family now.  But I also really like all of them, which is an added bonus.  I loved talking with Julie about how fast our kids grow up and about what it's like raising them; I loved hearing from Steve about how things are back in San Diego, so that I can imagine their routine when they leave; I loved watching Grambie Laurie bliss out with all of her grandbabies.  I chased around with Gwen, who jumps like a frog, squeals like a banshee, and smiles like an angel; I bounced Raiff, who gives giant bearhugs, grabbing fistfuls of your hair and pulling you to him as if he just can't get enough of you.  These are good people, the best.  These are my people.

In all, it was a magnificent visit, with much love and reconnecting.  But of course everyone was utterly wiped out when the San Diego Schneiders boarded their plane Sunday.  Having house guests, even of the most wonderful kind, is tiring, especially when your house is on the teensy side, like ours.  But, really, I felt most tired for them.  Have you ever traveled with small children?  Holy cow, is it crazy.  There's the stress of the flight, which might be delayed, or canceled, or over-full.  There's worrying about your child freaking out on the plane while other passengers shoot you poison-dart-eyes.  Your kid might barf or poop everywhere, and there might not be a changing table in the lavatory.  You might lose your bag, drop your kid on her head, miss your flight.

Then, if and when you get where you're going, things might not be babyproofed the way they are at your house so that you never get to sit down for one minute for chasing your baby around making sure he doesn't light himself on fire or swallow a Christmas ornament, and you might have to sleep in different configurations such that nobody sleeps much at all, or the kids might get sick.  The food is different and you're constipated from traveling.  Your kid might have tantrums that reach heights they never reach at home, and you worry someone thinks he's out of control, you're a bad parent, whatever.  On and on.  A perfectly joyous visit can also be perfectly stressful.

I remember when I first flew back to Idaho so that Addie could meet my folks.  She was weeks old, and the minute I strapped her in the carseat on the way to their house, she started to scream.  She screamed for the whole twenty-minute drive.  I got sweaty and panicky and eventually broke into tears, too.  Her screaming sounded so loud to me, and I worried my Dad would get into a wreck from the hassle of it, or that my parents would think Addie was a bad kid, or that I was in the backseat pinching her, and that my secret--that I am truly a horrible parent!  That I should never have been allowed to procreate!--would be revealed. 

Of course, Addie eventually calmed down, and so did I, and the rest of the visit was pretty uneventful.  But I still remember that feeling exactly, and it's recreated almost every time I go somewhere with the kids.  Just leaving your front door is inviting a whole bunch of uncertainty that we as parents are always trying to ward off by carrying extra diapers, sippy cups, fruit snacks, barf bags, changes of clothes, toys, books, pacifiers, wipies, birth certificates, strollers, carseats, etc.  If that trip out the front door is leading you to the airport, the anxiety--and the gear--is tripled.

But we do it anyway, this traveling half way across the country, because we want our kids to know one another.  We remember how much we loved our cousins as kids, and how important it is for them to know that family is a big idea, meaning lots of different things.  We do it because, although we love where we live and what we do and who we are, we are always missing where we came from, and missing the people who aren't here with us.  We do it because these babies grow so fast, and we need to grab whatever minutes we get with them and hold on tight.


  1. Well, I had the best time visiting you and yours, Jen. And yeah: we were nerve-scorched from the trip, but it was much easier than our trip to San Jose for a friend's wedding. For one thing, Grambie lent us a third pair of hands. I think you'd be amused by the way that we used them on the trip back.

    For all the reasons you mention, your place is a preferred destination for us, most importantly because we get to grab precious minutes with our dearest kin. But, it's easy for us to be with you guys because you really understand this game. You're naturally able to cover for us in ways that non-parents-of-young-kids cannot.

  2. Amen to Steve's comment. The trip made an impression on Gwen, who has been saying "miss uncle Egig, aunt Jen, cousin Addie and cousin Nolie, both yesterday AND today. I'm so glad she got time with her's so important to us for our kids to know family and we'll keep coming, even if it's hard. If that's alright with you. Thank you for putting us up & putting up with us. And Ms Laurie was awesome help. I am SO grateful. I'm already looking forward to next year & ways to make it less stressful, if there is such a way.

    You've got to stop making me cry reading your posts but then again, I'm reminded (by Steve) that I AM the crybaby.

  3. Jules,

    You guys are awesome. And I have both of your blogs "favorited" on my homepage. So keep writing. We can be each other's biggest blogfans.

  4. I feel the same!

    Love your blog, btw. Particularly the post on Madonna, and the saga of your NC trip. That felt so familiar to me. How the hell did people do this shit in, like conestoga wagons?