Two suburbans rumble toward New York. One shivers its way down out of the Cascade Mountains. My sister is at the wheel. Four kids play “Cows in the Cemetary” and “Scavenger Hunt” in the back seat. The fifth rides shotgun with an atlas and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in her lap. They sing along to Willie Nelson and Taj Mahal as they drive among the western pines and out into the fields of brown grass under the wide open prarie sky.
My sister tossed a few changes of clothes, a cooler and some dishes behind the back seat. The kids grabbed a handful of books and toys to keep themselves on their forty hour trip eastward. They press across the country. Each night, for three nights, after the sun sets, nine-year-old Maddie thumbs through the Hitchhiker’s Guide in search of somewhere to lay six sleepy heads.
The second suburban is ours. We head north from Smallville through nearly empty countryside in an autumn just past it’s prime. Gold and red leaves, bare branches and evergreens brush against the blue, blue heavens. Our vehicle is not big enough for all the claptrap we might need so we haul along a trailer full of boots and winter coats. Five bikes are chained to the trailer in the event that our soft southern children want to brave the frosty New York air and peddle around in the grandparents’ driveways. The albuterol, heating pad and nebulizer are packed "just in case." The kids put together a laundry basket of library books and filled another with toys and the cross stitch samplers they are working on. The Lost Years of Merlin and The Prarie Home Companion take turns in the CD player. I read the directions Stuart printed out from Google Maps. We pull into the hotel in Cincinnati where we have had reservations for a week.
We’re so different, my sister and I, but best friends anyway. Tomorrow, in Cleveland, our children will greet each other as if only a day or two have passed since the last time they rode bikes and played Barbies together. In reality, it’s been two years. We’ll caravan to New York, the children all mixed up together between our two vehicles.
And then the brothers will come, all seven of them, from near and far and farther, with wives and girlfriends and children. We will delight in meeting the newest additions to the family. We siblings will laugh at the memories of who we were when we all lived together under one roof and we will share bits of the people that we have become and the lives that we live now amidst the chaos that comes when a family of eleven burgeons into a family of forty-one.
I hope you all have a happy Thanksgiving with your families.
(I'll post a few pictures of the crew sometime next week when I have a few minutes.)