Before the frost melted by the sun, the kids were loaded into the car. At their feet, loaves of pumpkin bread for each family, broccoli casserole, and an assortment of pies to fit everyone’s dessert preferences. We had a two-hour drive before getting to the first Thanksgiving lunch. Coffee was poured into travel mugs in hopes of running through my veins to give me the strength to plaster on a smile and endure hours of small talk while chasing unoccupied toddlers.
Halfway to our first destination, I’ve realized I had forgotten to pack a change of clothes for the toddler. Annoyed with this mishap, I chugged the last bit of my coffee and prayed that my toddler would decide that today would be the day she wouldn’t lather her food on like lotion. Of course, it was a useless prayer. But, a mother could hope. The kids behaved relatively decent in the car, other than the annoying song they’re obsessed with that was played on repeat. The lunch was great. It’s great to see the kids play with their cousins, get kisses from their great-grandparents, and make memories. It’s lovely catching up with everyone and laughing as we retell old stories. But it doesn’t last long enough.
We must repeat all of this to make way towards the next festivity. However, this will be a three-hour car ride. Hopefully, my kids worn out from playing with full stomachs will nap for most of the trip. Everyone is loaded into the car, kids fighting because they want to stay yet exhausted. That annoying song brings no relief for them as it did before. Another adventure awaits, but to my kids, its agony being buckled in after a long day. My husband and I do the best we can to settle them by playing car ride games. Soon, they rhythmic driving lulls them to sleep. Until we enter the hell hole that is traffic. The break checks of stopping slowly wake each child up, one by one. Only for them to realize that we are halfway there, which means that we have halfway more to go, and all furry breaks out. Another holiday car ride filled with threatened promises.
And this is just the beginning. There will be more lunches and dinners to attend. As soon as one holiday wraps up, another one comes along. Invites from family, friends, and co-workers. All worthy of our time because we adore these relationships, but everything was becoming an obligation. After having kids, the holidays became a never-ending caravanning carousel. The expectation that we will travel to multiple places on a single day became unfair and overwhelming. That is when my husband and I decided to start a new tradition.
On the day of the holiday, we would only go to one or host. We put a stop to traveling all day to only have a couple hours of family time before trucking to the next destination. We didn’t want to ruin the holiday festivities by making things complicated, but the enjoyment was lost. Instead of the marathon of driving and quick fellowship, we switched it for a marathon of all-day baking and cooking, music, laughter, games, and quality time.
The spirit of the holidays has been lost in the translation of traveling. And by stopping that, we were able to breathe new life into it. Christmas mornings weren’t rushed because we were expected to be somewhere. We savored those moments of seeing our children play with their new gifts. As parents, we spent an insane amount of time planning, saving, buying, and wrapping, and no one was able to enjoy the aftermath. Our families adjusted and found a new rhythm that benefited everyone. Now, these celebrations are encapsulating the beauty of traditions.