A couple of weeks ago Krista, the amigos, and I traveled to North Carolina for a six-day visit with my oldest sister and her husband. We hit the road again this past Friday and headed to western Kentucky to attend the wedding of my nephew, Matthew.
I wondered how another 14 hours in the van (seven to get there, seven—in theory—to return) and a couple of nights in motel rooms was going to go down, particularly after so brief a “homestand” since our last road trip. I feared that somewhere between Leitchfield and Paducah I might begin to resemble Jack Nicholson in the denouement of “The Shining.”
It turned out to be a fun and enlightening two days. For starters, Abby, Daniel, and Luke produced a prodigious number of (unintentional) laugh-out-loud bon mots over the weekend. Krista and I welcome these moments and record them mentally when we can. Example 1: When we pulled into the motel parking lot in Shepherdsville for our first night’s stay, Abby announced “OK, guys, we’re in Kentucky now. It’s all about butter and mayonnaise for these people.” After guffawing at this curious assertion we asked how she’d acquired such an idea. “Duh,” she replied. “From watching ‘Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo’”! This struck me as plausible; I’ve learned since that the aforementioned reality show actually takes place in Georgia, but in any event Kentucky will forever be known in our circle as the “Butter and Mayonnaise State.” [Note to self: Monitor Abby’s TV-watching habits more closely in the future.] Daniel provided a little levity the next day, as we entered the back of the church building for the wedding. He walked in, scanned the impressive accoutrements, furniture and books in his immediate line of vision, and muttered “Wowwww. This place has lots of holy…umm…stuff.” An hour or so later, Luke offered his contribution. The bride’s mother was being escorted to her seat by a groomsman when our youngest pulled my ear to his mouth and whispered, “Hey, Dad, you know how in some movies about weddings it’s, umm, right about now when some dude with a rifle starts sniping people?” Well, no, Luke, I wasn’t aware of that particular genre. [Note #2 to self: HYPER monitor Luke’s TV, Movie, and You-Tube watching habits in the future.]
It was also illuminating—and satisfying—that the amigos were pretty well-behaved on this trip. It was the boys’ first experience with a wedding ceremony and reception, and they were extraordinarily attentive. Daniel in particular was fascinated by certain elements of the ceremony. As the bride and groom placed their wedding rings on each other, for example, Daniel turned to Krista and asked quietly, “Hey. Do you have one of those?” She replied in the affirmative and he inspected it, wide-eyed, with a level of interest and fascination he might award a viewing of, say, Luke Skywalker’s light saber.
At the reception the amigos demonstrated poise under mild duress. It was in the early evening, but still quite hot and humid. It was in a rural setting, so the grass was high and the bugs were plentiful. As is typical in such situations, they had to wait a while before the buffet line was opened up and then endured with admirable equanimity a long queue before they could actually sit down and consume their meal. They encountered lots of relatives, some of them wholly unknown to them, and were for the most part quite winsome and engaging. For four hours or so they waited patiently, interacted appropriately, and were generally helpful and pleasant. Who are these guys??? I wondered with gratitude. The only person who emitted a melt-down that evening was me, but since I’m the one writing this column I get to be the gate-keeper of the narrative. Perhaps we’ll examine that one another day. Or not.
The following morning we headed out early, eager to get our long drive started. It went smoothly until we hit a stretch of I-65 in southern Indiana, where we became part of a several-miles-long impromptu parking lot. We waited for five minutes or so and then crawled a few car lengths forward. Over and over and over. I exhaled deeply and repeatedly, trying to maintain more composure than I’d exhibited at the reception the evening before. Again, to my amazement, the kids were calm and content as they watched “Where the Red Fern Grows” on the van’s video screen. An hour later we came to a complete standstill with the right hip of the van resting next to an off-ramp for Indiana State Route 256. Krista looked behind us and noticed several cars zipping onto that ramp to escape the jam. A semi was so desperate to avert the gridlock that he drove over an orange caution barrel in order to enter the off-ramp.
“Tim,” Krista advised, “we could be sitting here for hours. Just pull onto the ramp and let’s get out of here. We’ve got lots of options for getting where we need to go, and at least we’d be moving.”
I was worried we might be choosing a devil we didn’t know over one we did, but finally relented. Two turns and five minutes later we were back on the interstate, sailing clear and free while thousands of our traveling brethren were cooling their heels for who-knows-how-long on that cursed stretch south of us. [Notes #3 and #4 to self: Indiana will henceforth be referred to as the “Parking Lot State.” And remember to listen to—and heed—wife more often.]
Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at email@example.com. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.