This Thanksgiving, my family drove up to Ventura, CA from Orange County to visit with my mother’s family for the day. The drive is only about two hours if you make good time, but with a two year old in the back seat, you never know how long it may FEEL to drive those two otherwise short hours. We arrived on time (by some unprecedented miracle) and enjoyed catching up with family we had not spent much time with since last year during the winter holidays. After several hours of enjoying mashed potatoes, cream corn, cranberry sauce, and gumbo (in honor of our Louisiana French ancestry on my mother’s side), we parted company until Christmas.
After staying up late to pack for the journey north the night before (it is AMAZING how much junk you have to haul around to entertain a two year old) and spending all day socializing, I was feeling pretty tuckered out. I’m an introvert at heart and while I enjoy chatting with family and friends, I tend to recharge by vegging out in front of a football game or taking a rare nap.
While driving home that night, tired, jealous of my two year old relaxing and watching a movie in the back seat, I started thinking about when I was the kid in the back seat. There were so many nights my dad drove our family home from the same Thanksgiving dinners, Christmas gatherings, and family road trips. I don’t think I ever really appreciated what my dad was doing at the time.
I remember wishing I could drive. I remember wondering what he and my mother could possibly be talking about for so many hours at a time (I credit my wife for turning me into the at least average conversationalist that I’ve become). I remember playing my Game Boy (the original green screen , heavier than a Macbook, handheld brick console ) for hours on end, ignoring my surroundings.
What I don’t remember is my dad ever complaining about being tired. I think that may be the thing that stands out most to me. I really don’t recall him being negative very often. There were plenty of opportunities for him to bemoan our finances at times, lament the traffic we might be stuck in, or grumble about working late nights as a janitor while completing his degree and working toward his eventual successful career as an educator.
What I remember from these times is that he was a rock. He found ways to make working nights sound exciting and mysterious. I would occasionally visit him at work and always had fun “helping” him with his duties. I remember on the late night family drives that he never seemed tired. I always felt secure and trusted that he would get us home safely.
When my son looks at me when we drive home late at night, I hope that he sees the same strength in me. I hope he feels secure enough to sleep peacefully. I hope he trusts that his daddy will always get him home safely. And personally, I hope that California goes the way of Arizona and eliminates Daylight Savings Time so I don’t have to drive home in the dark at 5:00 pm. I’m just saying…