On Road Trips and Family Traditions

This past week we took a road trip up to Amarillo, Texas. It’s about a six-hour drive from Dallas, with stops, angling up the 287. The road is dotted with small towns, lots of fields with various crops, wind farms, cattle, and not much else.

My husband and I quite enjoy a good road trip. Usually we listen to a book, but the CD player got stuck, so we chatted about what we were seeing as we drove through the sprawl of Dallas and environs (which takes a good hour) out into the sometimes rolling but mostly flat vistas of western Texas. Or enjoyed the long, comfortable silences you can experience when you’re with someone you love.

You don’t realize you miss seeing horizons until you see them again after a long time. Growing up in Kansas, I had quick and easy access to vistas. Big skies with amazing cloud formations and below it, the stretch of land literally as far as your eye can see.

Color becomes important too, even as we descend (finally!) into colder weather here in Texas. The shadings of brown, the occasional pop of green. Of course, the ever-changing sky. It was mostly cloudy for our drive out, raining the entire way back, but even then the differentiation in grey tone was a marvel.

We saw tall grain silos, long trains, and fields of cotton. No, I didn’t know they grew cotton here, either. The fields look like a giant upended a popcorn bowl after their team scored a touchdown. I saw antelope too, a first for me. And tumbleweeds. Long, long trains, too. Double stacked with shipping containers, with three engines to pull it. Or, passing the other way, open cars filled with what we guessed was coal, but turns out is coke, a by-product of the oil industry.

The purpose for our road trip was to spend Thanksgiving with a bunch of folks who are pretty new to us. This is the gift your children give you as they grow up and have serious relationships. I love it, especially since we got to spend the day with 25 or so people. I say this as an only child. Most of my memories about Thanksgiving include having to dress up and then sit with just my parents and me at the dining room table, having stilted conversation or none at all. It didn’t generate warm feelings for the holiday. There, I’ve said it. Although I have always liked the pie.

This Thanksgiving changed all that. Our hosts could not have been friendlier or more accommodating. They went out of their way to welcome us, to fold us right in. And man, the food was great. Mac and cheese, green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed potatoes, and corn casserole on the island. Relish trays, Jell-O salad (a fave for me), deviled eggs, bread and rolls, cranberry sauce. Beef stew, ham, and turkey. The kitchen table was stacked with desserts. Pumpkin, pecan, and chocolate pies, cookies, strawberry cake, pumpkin and chocolate cheesecakes, a rice Krispie thing with chocolate and caramel, and more.

The meal started with a prayer from the oldest person there, the great grandpa to most of them, a wonderful man who’s seen a thing or two. And then the eating and talking. Four hours passed by in a flash. We weren’t in a big house, but somehow those lovely people rolled us up and included us in conversation and friendship. It made me truly thankful and blessed, and something else, too. It made me enjoy Thanksgiving.

It was like the vistas we saw on the drive. Sometimes you just don’t know what you’re missing until you see it.

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