No, I’m not talking about presents or decorations or decked out trees.
Although, my mom has been throwing twinkly lights on pretty much anything on the farm that’s not an actual animal since the beginning of the month.
And then she started putting up the Christmas trees.
Because why put up one tree when you can put up three? Plus, she needed two trees just to hold her extensive collection of chicken ornaments. Because, really, you can’t live on a farm and not have a poultry-themed Christmas tree.
I think it’s a law or something.What I’m talking about is the true meaning of Christmas:
INDIANA FAMILY ROAD TRIP!
Ahem, so maybe Indiana family road trip is not exactly the true meaning of Christmas.
But it is what I think about when I think about Christmas.
You see, my family hardly ever traveled when I was kid.
I guess that’s just one of the things about growing up in a family with five kids. I mean, think about it. Would you want to go anywhere with five kids? My parents may be a bit unhinged at times, but they’re not complete lunatics.But the one trip we were guaranteed to take every year was the Christmas road trip to Indiana to visit our grandparents.
The trip could take anywhere from ten to eleventy-billion hours. Depending on how many times the family van broke down.
It would begin with my brothers and sisters and I staking claim to our “territory.” This meant deciding where everyone got to sit and devising complicated laws to determine who got to use the armrests and for how long. And then yelling at each other should those laws ever be broken.
The rest of our time was spent begging our parents to allow us to eat at McDonald’s rather than from the bag of ham sandwiches that my mother always had packed.
And then when that didn’t work (because it never did), we’d beg to stop at every single rest stop along the way. Because there was always the chance that something magical might happen at the rest stop. Like we might be allowed to get something from a vending machine. Or the bathrooms might have hand dryers instead of paper towels.
And then about five hours into the trip, we’d start asking, “Are we there yet?”
Until we were there yet.
As you can imagine, it was THE BEST FUN EVER.
Mostly because it meant I got to read books for about ten to eleventy-billion hours straight without anyone telling me to go outside and play. (Yes, I am a big book nerd. What-of-it?)
And because it meant we got to have three Christmases instead of one – one at home before we left and then one at both of my grandparents’ houses. And even though we only ever got socks at my one grandparent’s house, I think we can all agree that three Christmases is better than one.
Even if there are gift socks involved.This year the Indiana family road trip was quite a bit different than during my childhood years.
First of all, rather than going over Christmas, we went last weekend.
Secondly, it was only my dad and I on the trip.
And, sadly, these days I only have one grandparent to visit: my father’s mother, who lives in a nursing home in Indiana near my aunt and uncle.
But, on the plus side, I didn’t have to have a thumb war with anyone to gain control over the use of the armrest. So there’s that.Before hitting Indiana, we stopped overnight in Ohio to visit my aunt and uncle.
Upon arriving at my aunt’s house, we were informed it was Bunko night. Which apparently is, in fact, a thing.
Shortly after our arrival, sixty-year-old women in Christmas sweaters and holiday-themed jewelry started descending upon the house. They invited me to play and assured me that I would catch on quickly even though I had no idea what a Bunko was. And I had a sneaking suspicion it involved math which scared me.
Lulled into a false sense of security, possibly by the gentle ringing of their jingle bell earrings or, more likely, by the free-flowing wine, I agreed.
And that’s when I learned you should never trust women who wear Santa sweaters unironically.
These ladies meant business.
We played Bunko for four hours straight.
I am not even kidding you.
There was no time for idle chit-chat or bathroom breaks.
It was all Bunko, all the time.
By our last round, I had lost all ability to count. I suspect this had something to do with the fact that didn’t have much counting ability to begin with.
But still.Luckily, when we arrived at my uncle and aunt’s house in Indiana the next day, we were not greeted by more Bunko. I’m pretty sure my brain couldn’t have handled that.
But we were greeted by booze.
Which, I assure you, my brain handled just fine, thank you.
We also were greeted by my grandmother. Who is ninety-four, but you wouldn’t know it by the way she kills at crossword puzzles and can kick back a martini.
She makes a point of carrying lipstick with her at all times and won’t leave the house without doing her hair. I haven’t even figured out how to apply lipstick yet. And, yeah, my hair hasn’t seen a brush since 1986. One day when I grow up I want to be half the lady she is.We only got to spend one evening visiting with my grandmother, but it was a lovely night.
We went out to dinner at a fancy restaurant with my uncle and aunt. My grandmother drank a bright blue martini, and I ate trout stuffed with lobster stuffed with awesome.
And we all got to meet Orville Redenbacher. Because apparently that’s just what happens when you go to Indiana.The next day we drove home.
Well, I drove home. In a weird role reversal, my dad ended up reading books for ten to eleventy-hours while I did most of the driving.
Which meant we got to stop at any rest stop I wanted.
And, even though I’m thirty-six and have stopped at a few rest stops in my day, I still find rest stops just as magical as I did back when I was a kid – if not more so.
Probably because I can buy anything I want from any vending machine ever.
I can even buy stuff from the gift shops if I so desire.
Because you never know when you might need a Jesus license plate.
Plus, now all the hand dryers are the automatic, super-blowy ones.
Which I’m pretty sure means they’re powered by magic.What’s your favorite family holiday tradition?