Leaving the house is never easy. If all of us are included, it’s a fuss whether we are going to the grocery store or Edinburgh. Five people working toward a common goal. Seems like we would be harmonious, doesn’t it? But we all work in a different order, at different speeds, and with what appears to be differing values and priorities. In short, minor chaos.
This morning was no different, though we did have the added details that always surround a family holiday trip. Did somebody remember the school pictures to give out? What about the recipe for the food to be made? Somebody doesn’t feel well. The car has to be jigsaw puzzle packed. Did the cat-sitter get the key? The hard-and-fast departure deadline came and went, but not by much, and finally we made it on the road.
I always feel as though I am forgetting something, no matter how extensive my lists and how diligent my packing. Of course, the lists have changed over the years. It used to be all the parts and pieces of a Pack-and-Play, diaper bags, baby food and clothes, plus about a zillion small toys and books because my kids liked to play fetch. They would toss, we would fetch. Now it is more a matter of making sure everybody has books and possibly homework and all the cords and requisite pieces to their phones and computers. My daughters pack for themselves these days, so I’m just required to see the big picture. That, and to remind myself that if something actually does get forgotten there is a store on practically every corner.
Joining up with the extended family only compounds the problem; now we have not only individuals with competing interests, but groups with differing agendas. Sometimes we fall prey to progress paralysis and can’t seem to make any decisions at all. When I see a large group with a family resemblance milling around a lobby or meeting place, I tend to steer clear. I am all too sympathetic with the phenomenon.
No matter how stressful family travel is, I’m not looking forward to the altered state soon coming – that of a smaller family and a familiar “visitor” popping in when she can fit it into her schedule. Who will sing Disney show tunes from the back seat while listening to an iPod? Who will giggle over planet names with her sister while doing astronomy homework? Who will drag one of us on missions to obtain tea or hot chocolate from the dining room? Maybe that “visitor” still will, but I can’t help observing the proceedings this week from a new viewpoint. I’ll find many things to be thankful for as I sit quietly by the fire and watch my family ebb and flow.