Krista and I decided to take the amigos with us out West over Christmas this year. We thought it might be a fun and unique way to spend the holiday and provide Krista a much needed splash or two of sunshine at the beginning of the long, gray, winter slog.
The kids protested a little, of course. They missed a few fun activities with friends and didn’t experience the rush of seeing presents under the tree. But these disappointments were mitigated, at least a little, by the sight of their first Saguaro cactus in the Sonoran desert, Santa riding a Harley on Speedway Avenue, and pizza at Little Anthony’s Diner in Krista’s former home of Tucson, Arizona.
It was a busy week. We saw prairie dogs, Harris hawks, and javelinas at the incomparable Sonoran Desert Museum west of town. We took a tram ride into Sabino Canyon and hiked at the foot of the Catalina mountains; we trekked down to Tombstone and watched a recreation of the gunfight that made Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp famous and ate at a saloon where—judging by the “art” on the walls—must have also served as a sort of store front for the world’s oldest occupation, old west style. We drove still further down to Bisbee and ventured a thousand feet into the belly of the reddish-brown earth on a miners’ cart and learned how hundreds of brave men over the decades chiseled out billions (yes, billions) of tons of copper from the Queen mine. We hiked some more in the cold winds of the Saguaro National Park. We marveled at the giraffes and lemurs and snakes and otters at the Reid Park Zoo. We played tennis and swam in the unusually frigid pool and basked like overfed seals in the hot tub. We shopped some and we ate a lot and we laughed even more. And, yeah, we even bickered from time to time. It was a very, very full week.
As I write it is the day of our return. The dirty laundry is piled high in two suitcases designated expressly for that purpose. There are a couple of other dirty items dotting various spots in the kids’ hotel room, and various foodstuffs (cereal, crackers, and trail mix) splayed across their desk. They’re still asleep, exhausted from the pace of this week, a pace which didn’t include 12 hours daily for sleep and another eight for video games.
I believe if you asked them they’d grudgingly admit they had fun and that they’ll take with them several lasting memories. One would surely include their mother’s grave (and loud. And insistent) admonition to “follow the semis!!” when we were stuck in a ginormous back-up on Interstate 10 on our return from Bisbee. A few semi trucks veered right off the highway and onto an off ramp to circle down south before turning west again, then north to catch the Interstate 20 miles or so further up the road and presumably beyond the starting point of the backup. I wanted to wait it out, thinking we’d be past the point of the bottleneck in a few minutes—twenty or thirty at the most. Krista wanted to follow the lead of the all-knowing truck drivers despite the fact that it meant an additional 50 miles and an hour of driving time. At that moment I found her command supremely annoying (and communicated my dissatisfaction), but happily it struck the amigos’ funny bones quite sharply. The exchange will no doubt supply the kids a lasting little nugget when they need a touch of comic relief long into the future: “Remember that time when mom went mental in Arizona during that traffic jam and hollered ‘follow the semis!’?!? That was hilarious!”
In short, it was a vacation like all family vacations: Fun. Exhilarating. Frustrating. Exhausting.
I put the children to bed last night and informed them we had a long trip back ahead of us. We’re taking a quasi-red eye, departing late this afternoon and arriving in Indianapolis around midnight. Then the two-hour drive home. “Get a lot of rest,” I told/begged them. “You’re going to need it.” I think I was really saying this to myself.
We went around the room to review the week and highlight certain favorite activities. I leaned down to kiss each of them, one by one, as I turned out the lights. As I bent toward Daniel’s silently smiling face he turned and kissed me—his eyes still shut—and whispered, “Dad? I’m ready now. It’s time to go home.”