Dan and I took the kids on a long road trip to visit my relatives back East. We left home on July 2 and drove 12.5 hours to West Virginia to visit my Uncle Bob and Aunt Florence (Bob is my mom’s brother).
Let me stop the story right there. Do you have ANY idea how fantastical that statement was? I am a mother who has NEVER driven longer than three hours with Jackson. It just didn’t happen. But I surprised myself and quite a few relatives by agreeing to drive to West Virginia. And it turned out to be halfway pleasant! Dan drove, I hooked the kids into their own portable DVD players (thank you, God, for technology!), and I read THREE books in the car. Woo!
So we arrived in West Virginia, in this little town called Great CaCapon – which is on the CaCapon River. We stayed in a hotel the first night, then went to Uncle Bob and Aunt Florence’s cabin (they call it the CaCabin on the CaCapon). We floated down the CaCapon River, then hung out on the front lawn of the CaCabin with relatives I haven’t seen in more than 15 years. I think there was a total of 41 people staying at the CaCabin.
Stop the story again… did you hear that? I camped with my kid? Katie has done it, but it was another first for Jackson. (And a LAST one too. He cried a bit that first night and kept a few people awake, so I took him back to the hotel for the second night.)
Dan caught a flight home to Missouri, and I picked up one more passenger – my cousin’s daughter, Hope. We drove one of the most harrowing roads I have ever been on (Interstate 95) and made it to Camp Grandma with my nerves frazzled after four hours in awful traffic.
Camp Grandma is at my Uncle John and Aunt Lucy’s house, near Williamsburg Virginia. (Uncle John is my dad’s brother.) Mama Lucy invites her grandkids to her house for a week of no rules, junk food, and fun day trips. It’s like a week-long slumber party on crack. Last year, Lucy invited my kids (and my sister’s kids), since there are no grandparents on our side of the family.
This year, there were six girls (three almost-12-year-olds, one 10-year-old, one 7-year-old, and one almost-6-year-old) plus my one 3-year-old boy. Oh, it was a mess. Jackson surprised me with how well he fit in with the girls. They liked him and thought he was so cute. And when he got annoying, they just sent him to play with another set of girls.
We went to see Toy Story 3 that night instead, and that wrapped up our week at Camp Grandma.
We also stopped to visit the graves of my dad, my brother, my grandmother and my grandfathers. It was the closest my son has ever been to his namesake, Uncle Jackson. (And that brought on quite a few tears for me.)
We ended the night in Kentucky at my sister-in-law’s house. Bonnie is my brother’s widow. Her son Jude is about to turn two, and he was so darn adorable. The kids played together in Jude’s inflatable pool, then we went inside for bath and bedtime.
We got up yesterday and drove the last five hours home.
It was an epic trip. In all, my kids met 58 living relatives from my side of the family – plus five dead ones, if you count the stop in the cemetery. Now we are home. My body is weary, my patience is almost non-existent, and I am beyond thrilled to have naptime to myself so I can blog (Katie is plugged into the desktop computer – can you blame me?). I NEED time to myself as badly as I need air to breathe.
So what’s the bottom line from our trip? Besides the educational aspect of visiting nine states with my kids (Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky), I learned: I am capable of traveling with my kids, even by myself. I really miss mountains and tall trees. Jackson can survive without a nap (although he isn’t at peak performance level, of course). I am blessed to have extended family who include me and my kids in their traditions. I thrive on routine. So do my kids. I miss my parents with a deep ache. My tires need a good rotation and balance. Junk food makes me feel gross. I take uninterrupted sleep for granted. Life is lonely without Dan by my side.
And there truly IS no place like home.