Anyone that has ever traveled with small children probably wrote it off immediately afterwards. Last year I flew alone with my young ones and after that, I swore up and down, No More Travel Until Everyone Walks, Talks and Pees In the Potty.
Yet here we are. Gluttons for punishment. 2 planes and 2 hours worth of car rides in one day.
Two out of three ain’t bad. The baby walks and talks. The kids were troopers on our 10-day tour of small town Kansas where my husband and I grew up. And here we are, all smiles on the first leg of the tour.
You’ll find that there are no pictures of the return trip home. (And to anyone on Flight 1476 to Dallas, and/or Flight 2464 to Nashville on 7/21/14, I offer my sincerest apologies.)
So why in the world do we torture ourselves like this?
Because we live 14 hours away and we just plain old miss our hometowns, families and friends. My husband also had a 15 year class reunion in Eureka, KS. We made several stops along the way.
We started out where I grew up. Here are a few observations and what I dearly love about little ‘ol St. John, Kansas (not Saint John, St. John)
That water tower you may or may not have climbed once suddenly doesn’t seem so tall.
The fountain in the middle of the tiny town square never gets old.
And what happens at the fountain, still stays at the fountain!
The skating rink at the recreation center also doesn’t seem so big anymore. But it’s every bit as fun!
And if your uncle runs the rec center, the lights and disco ball can be turned on for a few minutes for your kids in the middle of the day. (I know people.)
Some things change, and some things stay the same. Especially people.
At one time, I was into expensive clothes and mall hair, but I don’t remember anything about what I wore.
I remember everything about rec center softball games as a kid. The “smell of money” always present from the nearby feed lot.
And night swims at the pool next door.
And the teeter totters at Brown’s Park.
I remember all of the “old guys” hanging out and talking shop at the gas station over coffee early in the morning. They still do it, and they are on to something.
Smartphones are great, but they will never replace face to face conversation over coffee at the table.
Sometimes you don’t see or talk to people for months at a time, but you can always count on them. And you don’t need the legal bonds of family to keep on loving each other long after things change.
People still really do use phone books.
You can see for miles while driving through Kansas, and catching the wind with your hand never gets old.
Wounded family relationships can heal.
Homemade cinnamon rolls bigger than your head are worth it.
Homemade enchiladas are good all day. And the next.
It is inevitable that the people in your life will get older.
Visit them and take them big baskets of goodies and love them all you can.
When you’re 1, it doesn’t get any better than riding on a lawn mower with grandpa.
4-wheelers and horses are perfectly acceptable forms of transportation in town.
All cousins really need are a garden hose, slip and slide, or water balloons. No shoes required.
Watermelon will cover the length of a toddler’s body, but it makes them happy and buys you time to eat. They’ll wash.
Deer, cows and snakes are common creatures to share the road with.
The usual initial awkwardness of a class reunion can quickly turn into a hilarious pick-up game of slop volleyball.
People will remember all the crazy stuff you did. And if you have a good heart, they’ll remember that too.
Farm kids swapping barbed wire scar stories around a bonfire is a fun way to spend a Saturday night.
And seeing your husband through his classmates eyes will go a long way in your continued admiration of him.
It’s okay to trust the biscuits and gravy from a small town bowling alley-turned Chinese buffet sometimes.
It’s good to take the long way home.
Unless you’re 1. Then you’ve absolutely had it and you throw a huge tantrum at the airport and on both airplanes home.
It was probably only a few minutes each time, but it felt like an eternity. I tried everything. But we had asked a lot of him at that point, and we just had to let it roll.
On the last plane, he crawled up into daddy’s lap across the aisle and slept most of the way.
I sat there and the tears started rolling. Not from the stress or the scratches and rug burns on my legs from his little velcro shoes. The memories of the trip just really hit me.
Watching them run around barefoot with cousins and new friends, laughing. The swimming, the trampoline, the crawdads, the water balloons, the 4 wheeler rides, playing in the town fountain. Real life hugs and cuddles from aunts and uncles and grandparents.
I felt like I was robbing them of that by living so far away. We moved for new jobs and adventure. We came and we saw. And all of the money and opportunities in the world didn’t replace family. So now we evaluate life.
And as it turns out, despite all of the lengthy travels with the kids on our trip, the biggest crybaby of all… was me.