"Honey...about the big reunion this summer...what's our plan?"
"Well, Utah IS a looong drive away."
"And it's a lot of gas away."
"Remember how stinky the van got the last time we took a hot summer road trip?"
"Do you think any of the kids would get car sick this time?"
"How would MaryAnn handle the 'all day and all night in your carseat' concept?"
"Hmmm. Staying home might feel more like a vacation for all of us..."
Bottom Line: Is a family-reunion-based road trip worth the effort it would take to get there?
"We hope so," Brent and I concluded during both random and structured discussions about what family memories we should make the effort to create this summer.
And now that we have gone, seen, and conquered, I can boldly declare, "Yes. Yes! YES! Cramming our lives into our 8-passenger mini-van to spend nearly 70 hours traversing over 4500 miles of our nation’s highways and mountainous roadways on a journey that took us through IL, MO, OK, TX, NM, AZ, NV, UT, WY, SD, MN, and WI was absolutely worth the face-to-face family and friend time we received in return."
Less than a week before our planned departure to Utah, we realized we wouldn't see 87-year-old GG (Great-Grandma Louise--Brent's maternal grandmother) during our westerly trip to Utah because she needed to stay in Arizona for health reasons. It had been 2 1/2 years since we'd last seen her in person and we don't know when we'll be headed out west again...so it became obvious that we should change our route and take a special southern jaunt to AZ on GG's behalf.
The following pictures show a hint of how happy I am that we added 12 hours and another thousand miles to our agenda just so we could sit face to face with our GG again and experience life in a way that simply can't be done via Skype.
<After driving for 27 hours straight through to Mesa, AZ, we all soaked in GG's special spirit for 3 whole days. Our only regret is that Kenny was already in Utah and therefore missed this portion of the trip.>
<In person Tablet 101 instruction provides such perfect generational bonding moments. I wonder what my grandchildren will teach me when I'm 87...how to fly? how to read brainwaves?>
<I have many pictures of my children alongside great-grandparents who are gazing at them instead of at the camera...and they are some of my all time favorite pictures because I sense wisdom, appreciation, and compassion in the eyes of the elderly as they seem naturally compelled to admire the youthful energy of children. If I could remember to ditto that same serene expression when my children our bounding through the kitchen at dinner time each night, I would do well as a mother. Thank you G.G.>
The majority of our family memories of GG revolve around visiting "GG's Pool" which is located at the retired folks' trailer park close to Brent's parents' home in Mesa. Though she no longer lives there, she still owns her trailer in the park, so we simply had to take a nostalgic dip while we were in town. After watching us from the sidelines for over an hour, Brent carefully and genuinely insisted on helping GG "swim with us"...something her very active body used to do all the time.
<Our special AZ detour allowed these two to finally meet for the first time and gave MaryAnn the privilege of making memories with such an amazing lady.>
<Cliche or not...I've decided that I would walk a thousand miles...and I would walk a thousand more...and I would sit in a crammed van for 27 hours again...just to see my husband care so tenderly for his dear Grandma King during these fragile years. The experience made my love for both of them grow deeper and stronger.>
Besides our extra-special GG time, we of course enjoyed many other bonus AZ memories: we got to help Nana blow out her birthday candles, hang with all the Smith-side cousins in their home town, visit with friends, cook in Nana's kitchen, and create using the infamous and enormous bucket of Nana 'n Papa Legos.
Yes. The Arizona deviation was very worthwhile.
(more trip installments to come...)