When I was younger, my family of three traveled together, but when I was older, my grandmother had Alzheimer's and stopped being able to prepare our meals. We started taking two cars for holiday trips, and I often rode with my dad when my mom started going up early to work on holiday meals and other preparations. My dad would pick me up early from school after I had been there long enough to be counted present for the day, and we would hit the road. I learned a lot about road trip strategy from my dad, and we had the chance to talk about a lot of things in life that I still remember. I love my cell phone and spend entirely too much time looking at it, but looking back, I now appreciate the days of long car rides when screen time was playing a GameBoy powered by AA batteries.
When we weren't talking, my dad and I jammed out to a selection of albums we had in our cars. I most clearly remember that when I was really young and we would travel together, our choices were (a) the radio, (b) Michael Jackson's "Thriller," or (c) "Best of Righteous Brothers." Memories of "You've Lost That Loving Feeling," "Unchained Melody," and "Georgia on My Mind" playing on the car stereo while we drove through the night. I definitely knew more words to Righteous Brothers songs than the average four-year-old in 1992.
Since Richard has to work on Saturday and I have race plans in Ruston on Saturday, we traveled separately for this year's Thanksgiving road trip. Richard left in the morning while I worked half a day, did some last minute preparations, baked a pie, and tested out my roll recipe. I skipped lunch but snacked on raw pie crust scraps (flour, shortening, and butter...mmm) while I packed and ran around. By the time I dropped off a key with my friend Ellen, picked up some South Louisiana beer for a friend, and went through the Taco Bell drive-thru for a late lunch, it was 5:00 before I hit the road. Leaving Baton Rouge at 5:00 pm was a stupid idea, and I guess my Taco Bell "late lunch" was really early dinner, but I somehow still managed to make the trip in 4 hours. Victory!
While I drove, I listened to podcasts and caught up with a friend over the phone for the first few hours of the trip. As I got closer to Ruston, my heart ached for familiar road trip rituals, and I wished I could be closer to more family members this holiday season. Unlike I-95 with its billboards and South of the Border lights as a visual reminder that I'm not too far from family, the state highways of Louisiana are dark and little lonely. What I did have, however, was "The Very Best of the Righteous Brothers," on my phone, which is different from "Best of Righteous Brothers" and doesn't have "Georgia on My Mind." Close enough. I belted out the words I remembered and started feeling a little better almost immediately; it's amazing how music can have that effect.
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I made it to Ruston just before 9:00, and while I wasn't welcomed with the sight of my paternal grandmother in her recliner saying, "Well, y'all made it" or my maternal grandparents sitting in a too-small living room with a crackling fire waiting for us, I was greeted by my best husband, dog, and father-in-law with the same love that I felt in the holidays of my childhood. I've lost several people I loved in my lifetime, but I think I have been fortunate to have gained more than I have lost. This holiday looks different from the last, and last year looked different from ones before that because we lost my grandmother last November. My challenge to myself this holiday season, then, is to stay thankful for the things and people in my life right now, which probably includes anyone who happens to read this.
Happy Thanksgiving, y'all!