I'll just start by saying the whole thing was my idea... taking a road trip for Christmas. Eric's family was planning a 90th birthday celebration for his dad on Sunday, December 21st, yet none of us could leave until a few days before that. Spending upwards of $2,000 to get everyone to CA for a few days and doing nothing seemed absurd.. yet funds were limited to do a whole lot more.
So.. I thought a lot about whether any of us really needed to be at home for Christmas. And, truth be told, we didn't. We could make Christmas happen wherever we were. All seemed enthusiastic when I tossed out the idea; I sent links and suggested everybody take a day (or two) and plan part of the trip, but they were busy with school and the most I could get out of them was a request from each: Legoland; Zion; Saguaro NP; and Death Valley.
I spent hours(very enjoyable hours because I LOVE to plan and figure out travel arrangements!) putting together an itinerary using AirBnB and National Park websites and Google Maps.
My husband sometimes calls me a travel-Nazi, but I'm recovering. I have in the past over-planned things and forced everyone involved to stick to the agenda whether having fun or not! Now I under-plan, and allow so much more personal choice. I'm actually proud of myself and my ability to be let micro-managey about travel.
After the big family birthday gathering, we spent time with our dearest CA friends in Riverside. Actually, this alone was worth the trip!
Here we are on Larry & Marilyn's porch. The only family member missing is Casey. I got a little Xmas tree for our car, which was supposed to be a fun & funny thing, and also to appear in all the pictures in lieu of Casey who could not be with us, but it only made it into this one picture and the fun/funny thing didn't take off. But other fun/funny things did. Sometimes you can't PLAN fun & funny. The tree only cost $3 and we all thought about Casey & wished he were with us, a lot.
This is the Mission Inn in Riverside. One block from the congregation I served from 96-99, it's quite a regional landmark. The attendant at the car rental desk in Ontario actually asked me if we'd come to see the Christmas lights. In the almost 20 years since we lived there, its annual holiday display has become a huge attraction. Seth & Eric had just arrived.
Our friends. Dave, Lorrie, Larry, Marilyn, Me & Eric. At bottom: Marjorie, Nathan & Rosie. We will probably never have friends like these guys again. It sucks that we have gone all these years without finding good friends, and its cool that they have remained friends with one another. The three kids are in college. It is, of course my fault that we left Riverside, as I could not stay at that church a day longer. Still, a big loss.
I really hope and believe that this Christmas Day is one that everyone will remember as very special and unique. I could honestly get into going away somewhere every year from now on. It felt incredibly free and relaxed and joyful. We stayed at this sprawling, eclectic domicile in the Sonoran desert, owned by a very interesting artist and her paramour, who generously opened the kitchen, common rooms & decks to us, so that we could have a gorgeous sun-speckled breakfast and gift opening. Then we visited Marjorie's first-grade teacher! She'd moved from Kentucky to Tucson and saw on Facebook that we were there. It was the kind of surprise you can not possibly plan.
En route to Flagstaff , we ate our Christmas dinner at a huge and fabulous Asian buffet. Perfect! And Seth, who had been wishing for a white Christmas, got that too: it had been snowing all day in Flagstaff, and although he was asleep, he woke up long enough to see the snow on his way into our Air BnB.
Doesn't this sound good so far? It was! But maybe the trip was a day or two too long. Maybe there's an unwritten rule about how much time families should spend in a car together before they really annoy each other. Because, by the last day, everyone was very cranky and particularly upset with me! And worst of all was that I honestly couldn't figure out why they were upset with me.
So instead of talking about that, I'm just going to talk about letting go and how far I've come in my (now sixty because I'm writing this on my birthday) years. Going to the Grand Canyon (see Marjorie above) was a HUGE trigger for me, as I took Casey and Colin there 25 years ago soon after getting divorced. I don't think I am any less fearful of cliffs and edges than I was then, and Seth made me even more anxious than Colin did when he was there at age six. So, I stayed well away. But I knew that Colin & Marjorie would go out on the cliffs and take lots of pictures and I was fine with it. I even went close myself, after securing Seth with Eric! A whole family asked me to take their picture and I had to wait while they got organized right on the edge! I was okay. No one died.
Went to Mexico. Seth got a haircut. I had no idea the barber, who spoke no English, would pull out a straight razor to finish the sideburns. If you know how impulsive Seth is, you will know why this made me anxious. But I breathed through it. It was fine. His first haircut, and possibly one of his finest. For a mere $4.
Below you see Eric, very excited about In-n-Out Burger, and milkshakes. However, Eric, although slim and active and a non-smoker and non-drinker, has high cholesterol and high triglycerides. This is concerning. Then there's Colin, buying drugs in Mexico. Not a concern. They were for his cold. He's almost four years clean. This is a big yabba-dabba-doo. Hence the humor and irony of the picture.
Let's just say I have in the past been prone to a whole lot of worrying about the people in my life because I've had a reason to be. Most of them are addicts or alcoholics or have some form of mental illness. So they are on the edge, so to speak, and it's not just that they could go over the edge and die suddenly. They have done this. This is not an unrealistic fear. Still, I've come so far in the past 25 or so years. I can manage my anxiety. I know I can't control people. I know I can't save them.
Don't fall, kids!
The low point came in Death Valley. How apropos. It was our final day. We awoke to a flat tire. On a Sunday, in Las Vegas. All tired.
We got into a disagreement about something that seems very insignificant now: what route we would take to get to Death Valley from Las Vegas. We had to turn around and go about 5-6 miles back, and everyone swore that I had told them to go a certain way (which I had, the night before) and got furious at me. I was flummoxed and flabbergasted. They were all (except for Seth) annoyed with me, and I just could not understand why. In retrospect, we probably should have let go of even trying to go to Death Valley that day, but we went. By the end of the day (below, here we are at this amazing crater called Ubehebe crater, near Scotty's Castle), we were at least talking with one another, but it was pretty clear everyone was ready for the trip to end.
It's now about six weeks later, and I am still puzzling a bit over what caused the family to get so upset with me. Clearly, it's me, or at least partly me, because they were all aggravated. I feel as if I need to understand so I can be more clear about how to relate with them in the future. But I think each of them separately, has reasons to be aggravated with me, as I do with them! It just all came out on that one day. I trust that we will discover and uncover them as time passes, or I will if I go forth with good will and good intentions. Meanwhile, I have become much more serious about keeping my daily meditation practice as well as a journal practice. These I hope will keep me honest and doing the work I need to do, going forth. So that is good.
I witnessed so many wonderful things about my family that I want to savor. I don't want the beautiful and joyful parts of the trip to be overshadowed by one cranky day!
Seth's awesome haircut. Actually, everything about Seth was awesome. The one who should have been a "problem" was the least of the problems. Go figure.
The trip is over but the journey continues.