With half of our family living in another state, long distance road trips followed by marathon family visits are the norm. When we only make the trips about twice a year, there is a desire to try to fill up a half a year’s worth of family interaction in just a week. When it comes time to leave again, it’s never quite enough, but it’s certainly better than nothing.
This Thanksgiving, we made the trip to Montana. Like many other trips, when we first saw our teenage nieces and nephews, I had a few moments of disbelief at how much all of them have grown. In my head, I sometimes still picture them in their preschool size, but the reality is, almost all of them are now taller than me. That really can’t be, and I have no idea how it happened. We all exchange a few “I can’t believe how tall you are/how long your hair is/how long those legs are,” and settle into getting to know again the new versions of the family we love.
On our big family trips, the specific people gathered and the events vary, but every trip involves multiple big gatherings for family meals, plenty of sitting around together, and kids running through all of it. After a week or so, we head home. At the end, it’s all a busy blur, and the days and meals run together, but it’s just enough to get us through until the next time we can see our family in person. As I write this, we are wrapping up our trip and preparing to make the drive back to Minnesota. It’s always bittersweet to leave. There’s the excitement of knowing we’ll soon sleep in our own beds again, but there’s the sadness in knowing that pulling away from Grandma’s house means we won’t get to see our family in Montana again for several months.
In that time, we’ll miss countless daily events in their lives, but we’ll have all sorts of stories to tell the next time we see each other again. And in the middle while we wait, phone calls, text messages, and facebook help fill the gaps.
As I gather up our things to leave for MN, I took stock of our Thanksgiving trip in a few numbers…
1,000–Miles to drive each way.
24–Family members gathered together on Thanksgiving day.
5–(At least) meals of turkey dinners over the days. Yum.
4–Month-old niece, with adorably thick hair and blue eyes, that we all finally got to see and hold for the first time.
3.1–Miles that I ran in Billings, Montana during the Run, Turkey, Run! race on Thanksgiving morning before the big feast.
2–Nieces baptized on Sunday, through a series of clever last-minute arrangements.
1–Snowfall, making my kids very happy for their first time playing in snow for this winter season.
Add to that countless smiles and laughs, a few tears, a couple of kid tantrums, and a great glass of wine with my mother-in-law.
It all adds up to great memories of this year’s Thanksgiving with our family in Montana.