Visiting Family is a Pain In The Neck
Thanksgiving has grown in significance and scope over the course of my life. Despite corporate America’s decision to jump directly from Halloween to Christmas, the dedication to thankfulness seems to have taken hold of families. Even if only for a clever string of Facebook statuses, tweets, or Instragrams, the wave of thankfulness seems to have grown from one single day to the entire month of November.
As a child, it was one day where we crammed into a too-small car to travel over the river and through the woods to visit distant relations I didn’t know, living in towns I could never remember, and was forced to play with second/third/millionth cousins I’d never met while my parents spent all day talking. Other than the semi-gluttonous run through the food line, these Thanksgivings didn’t hold much thankfulness for the young me.
Several decades later, and now the person organizing, funding, and executing the holiday treks to Grandmother’s house, I have a greater appreciation for what my parents did every holiday. The drive is always too long, the visits are always too short, and everyone back home feels like they didn’t get to see enough of us before we have to head back. My sleepy and agitated family is now the one crammed into the family truckster, complete with luggage to sustain six people, two 20 lb. terriers, and a few obligatory pies that we’re terrified to smash. Although the drive is always hard and everyone’s crabby before we’re even a quarter of the way there, there’s a Griswold-like satisfaction in knowing the destination is a welcoming family we haven’t seen in months, some not in years.
It’s easy on Thanksgiving to say that we’re most thankful for our families. Easy, because it’s true. Our family defines who we are, and where our futures are heading. Sometime in the raising of our children, typically right about the time when life gets really busy with our work and complicated by our children’s activities, we realize all of the unknown sacrifices our parents and grandparents made on our behalf. All of the times they made the same decisions to spend money they had saved for lunch next week to replace the window you broke, or the sports equipment you lost, or to fund this holiday trip so you could meet your mom’s 85 year old Aunt before she dies.
So as odd as it sounds, I’m thankful not only for family but for the general pain in the neck it is to go see them. That pain reminds me that dragging my children halfway across the country is always worth it, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time. The time, the expense, and the frustration are reminders that we’ve chosen this as a priority instead of the easy, cheap, and lazy decision to just stay at home and not grow the relationships with the people that made me who I am.