We heard the tell-tale screech of my father’s car pulling into the drive. Five O’ clock had rolled around, and having the whole day for laundry, we were expected to be ready. We three kids scrambled to finish our packing, cramming the last bits of road-tripping essentials into our already bursting book-bags. All the while, our mother was frantically trying to herd the three housecats into the car. After about a dozen other distractions, we were finally set. Minivan stocked with luggage, presents, cats, and people. We hunkered down for the six-hour drive to Mitchell, South Dakota.
Around Neligh, Nebraska we’d stop for gas, and to stretch our legs. I was groggy from falling asleep in the car and, therefore, cranky. My kid brother, James, complained about his Gameboy’s dead batteries depriving him of Pokémon Red. And Jessica, the oldest, was frankly tired of listening to my brother and I squabble. One more quick check that all eight passengers were secure, and we were back on track. My father, in his infinite wisdom, had a secret weapon meant for exactly this part of the trip. The “Listening Library” intro music stopped all bickering and shifted focus away from cabin fever. Jim Dale reciting the latest Harry Potter novel on cassette tape was the perfect distraction for three weary kids.
Somewhere between midnight and one a.m. we all stumbled into the warm, familiar, kitchen of our grandparents’ house. Fresh baked bread filled my nostrils, and I felt at home. Grandma Barb was there to greet us. Tired, yet somehow still kind, she would always wait up. She knew that December roads could be rough, and even though my dad drove like a pro, she worried all the same. Grandma ran a bo...
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...rried inside and discover that Erica, the Queen of Couch Forts, had made us beds in the living room. I fell back asleep to the noise of Gramma watching TV in the next room, and the glow of the tacky, multi-colored tree lighting the window.
Both houses, though wildly different in nature, had important lessons to teach. Grandma Barb showed us that it was okay to simply relax with the family, that preparation saves trouble for later, and that creating a warming environment for the people you care about makes them more comfortable. While the laid back Gillis brood revealed that medical skills are super useful and fantastic to have. That sometimes you’ve just got to roll with the punches and that happiness shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of keeping to a schedule. None of us would’ve turned out the same if moving to Nebraska meant we would never come home again.
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