Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me, as is ever so on the road.
– Jack Kerouac, American novelist, writer, poet, and artist who coined the term Beat Generation, from On the Road
My family and I have been anxiously awaiting going down to San Diego this year for Thanksgiving. My sister-in-law and her family and our family have been taking turns hosting this holiday since 2007. It’s a time for my kids to get together with their cousins and see their aunts and uncles, and Noni and Papa. We have taken the entire week off in the past, but weren’t able to this year. I missed the last Thanksgiving in San Diego in 2011; David and the kids drove down the Sunday before. I had too much work, but I had a one-way ticket to fly down on that Wednesday. My mother was stricken with pneumonia the Monday before Thanksgiving and was in the ICU for two weeks before being sent to an acute-care facility for five weeks, after which we relieved her of her pain and said goodbye.
Last year was a strange Thanksgiving. We hosted and I was acutely aware of having had lunch at the hospital in Folsom at the previous Thanksgiving and my brother-in-law bringing in Styrofoam boxes of turkey for our dinner. Losing loved ones is hard enough, but when you lose a loved one during the holidays, those holidays are never the same. They’re just different. Last Thanksgiving was difficult, as we hit the one-year anniversary of everything connected to losing my mother.
This year, although I have always been grateful for many things and am mindful of my blessings especially at this time, I feel an urgent sense of thankfulness – for my health and my family and my extended family’s health. David and I are both crazy busy at work, but better than the 180-degree alternative. While he will be bringing work with him on our road trip, I am looking forward to a much-needed respite.
Given that it’s been four years since our entire family has made the Thanksgiving trek to San Diego, we are looking forward to the drive – seriously. We won’t have Rex and his bed tucked in one side of the back seat while the kids are huddled in the middle and other side, although the kids and I agree that we didn’t mind having him with us. He always wanted to come on our trips, though it’s the strange destinations that made him nervous and us ultimately realize that he’s best left at home to be tended to by all our neighbors and to be the good watchdog.
When I was a child, I enjoyed the family drives that we took to visit my dad’s brother, our Papa, and his wife, who stayed back in Los Angeles even after we moved up to Terra Bella when I was very young. There’s something about road tripping that gives me that snuggly, cocoon feeling. David says I never relax until we’re pulling out of the driveway. I check and make sure that we have everything packed, the suitcases, the sleeping bags, the blankets and pillows, the snacks, the books and magazines, the laptop for movies, the laptop for work and writing, the music. Everything we could possibly need in our car.
The kids still watch each other’s movie picks. They fight fiercely one moment and then are laughing the next. They have been talking about an observation car game that they played on a previous trip and are looking forward to playing again. These moments are precious. And as they grow older, as we grow older, road tripping for the holidays will become a different experience. One that I am not ready to think about just yet.
We will be driving to Lemoore and staying with David’s brother and his family for the night and then off to finish the last leg of the trip to San Diego. Isabella and David made chocolate chip cookies for my Lunafest meeting and David’s youth baseball meeting last weekend. We squirrelled away 12 cookies for our road trip – three a piece.
We are set. For all our family and friends and everyone else who are traveling this Thanksgiving holiday to be with loved ones, safe travels!