Traveling with kids is too easy these days. Our recent spring break trip to New York with the kids is Exhibit A. Does anyone else remember the god-awful trips we took as kids in the 70s/80s? There were valuable grit-building lessons on the miles of road in a hot, sticky, boring van. Is all the technology really helping or hurting us?Read More
Have you flown recently? Getting on the plane is such a pain. There has to be a better way, right? Here are 6 different ways we could try to try to board that would make the process a lot more interesting-- though probably not any better.Read More
Recently, my little middle, Baya, and I took a trip to Mobile, Alabama. We went with a two-fold purpose: see my cousin Rachel walk down the aisle and hang out with my grandfather- more commonly known as Pawpaw. This was not the kind of trip that’s exciting because you’re exploring someplace new. Instead, it was about reconnecting with something familiar.
Pawpaw lives alone in the big, old, old house he’s called home for more than 60 years. Nine of his ten children live within his same city limits. Proximity makes most of his nearly 100 family members day visitors. They come by to chat over a cup of coffee. They bring left-over chicken and rice in carefully labeled, microwavable plastic containers. They bring birthday cake at the right time and shuttle him to numerous eye doctor appointments.
My dad is the only one who moved away from this big family in a small city. That makes my parents, sisters and brother, and our families the few overnight visitors at Pawpaw’s house. And over the years, we’ve collectively spent hundreds of nights upstairs in the big, old, old house.
It’s a place where little ever changes.
Tires on the white gravel driveway sounded the same this weekend as they did when I was ten years old. Coffee, biscuits, and aftershave mix to create a distinct smell. The furniture, the phone, the mail, the trinkets, and the mementos haven’t moved. There are always a few new family pictures on the giant collage that are his kitchen walls but that's about it.
It’s no surprise that his stuff doesn’t move. Old people don’t need or want new stuff. They’re creatures of habit and know what works for them after 90+ years of living.
What’s surprising is that our stuff- leave-behinds from us few overnight visitors- doesn’t move either.
Because Pawpaw’s bedroom is on the first floor, the second-floor guest bedrooms are rarely disturbed. Going upstairs is like going back in time- but not in a fun, retro “Back to the Future” kind of way. It’d be fascinating to see the stuff leftover from a time when my aunts and uncles were teenagers in the house.
No, the three upstairs rooms were redone in florals and stripes after they left. Anything personal (and really interesting) was taken away in boxes a long time ago. Instead, it’s going back in time to trips my siblings and I made to this house in more recent years. Pawpaw has a lovely woman come to help clean and dust every other week but clearly doesn’t know what to throw out. So, stuff left behind stays put.
What happens at Pawpaw’s house, stays at Pawpaw’s house. Literally, for like, forever.
Here are just a handful of examples I came across on our recent weekend trip…
Here’s a gossip magazine. Oh no! Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert broke up?! Sorry that was breaking celebrity news back in 2015. Just look a Blake’s sweet, sorta sad, sorta happy face. I look into those eyes and want to tell him, “Don’t worry, Blake. You’re having a baby with Gwen Stefani now.” Figuring out the owner of this leave-behind was too easy. It’s Anna’s. You can tell by the address block.
The rest weren’t as obvious, but I think I figured them out.
Here’s an old stick of deodorant. It’s called Canoe. Yes, Canoe. I mean, really? I had to read it twice. What kind of name is that for a hygiene product? There are a lot of great things about boats. The smell is not one that comes to mind. Either way, this has to be my brother’s. I guess CVS was all out of “Oil Rig.”
While we were there, I had a runny nose and got tired of leaving a trail of tissues. What luck! I found a box of DayQuil! It was a bit dusty so I flipped it over to check the date. Damn. It expired in January 2007. January 2007 was BEFORE MY WEDDING and that was 10 years ago! This has to be Molly’s. She must have had a cold sometime during the second Clinton administration. I'm guessing this was about when her passion for universal healthcare started.
Alas, moments before leaving for the wedding, I realized I needed a razor quick, or there wouldn’t be any Y-M-C-A-ing for me. No problem. This Daisy was in the medicine cabinet. Only one of the two blades rusted and it did the job. Thanks, Kelly. You always plan for contingencies like that. This had to have been yours.
The owner of the last leave-behind had me a bit puzzled, but I figured it out by process of elimination. This bottle of LA Looks conditioner couldn’t possibly be from one of my siblings. We’re more of a Finesse kind of family. That leaves the brothers-in-law. Since two out of the three are entirely bald (not to mention Republicans from New Jersey), there’s only one man left. Mike! Mike, your 1980s-era investment in hair care is holding up well. It’ll be exactly where you found it on your next trip…ready to give you that yes-I-might-just-be-Matthew-McConaughey shine-enhancing look.
In addition to these things, there are dozens of little hotel soaps, travel toothbrushes, one lonely gold bangle bracelet, and ponytail holders. There’s a travel hairdryer, a boarding pass, and a fresh copy of 50 Shades of Gray. (Kidding. Dad put that one right back in Anna’s carry-on after realizing what all the hype was about.)
I love that a trip to Pawpaw’s house is so predictable. You know precisely what to expect. All the little, value-less items upstairs peacefully coexist with the heaps of kindness, laughs, and memories in this big, old, old house. The leave-behinds will eventually be thrown away while we cling to the rest.
To my brother and sisters: There might just be a few new leave-behinds for you from Baya and me to discover on your next visit.
At 94, Pawpaw reminds me life is a marathon. We put one foot in front of the other each day for something. Our unique combination of dreams and obligations propel us forward. For my grandfather, he’s driven to do the right thing. His life has always been focused on the basics: love, work, and just being. While those things aren’t unique, his style is. Everything he does is done in the gentlest, most kind way possible. He’s simply the sweetest person I know.
I took this picture while we ate dinner from Panera and shared a bottle of wine. I had 7 glasses, he had 1, and only 1/3 of the bottle was gone! The next morning, I had 6 cups of coffee... with no jitters! In addition to being the sweetest person, he has the smallest glasses I've ever seen.
And while I'm at it... have you ever noticed how flirty old ladies are? My goodness!
It’s only been six months since this happened. And like childbirth itself, memories of the pain have faded and I’m ready to do it again. I’m taking my kids on a plane. This is something only slightly less frightening than...you know.
We’re off to visit family in Alabama and to celebrate my cousin’s wedding.
Unfortunately, there are no direct flights to where we’re going. This means connecting. I’d rather do just about anything else. I know you would too. It’s just terrible, terrible, terrible. Let’s take a quick moment and pray that I don’t lose it in front of thousands at the Atlanta airport. Ommmm.
Unlike last time, there’s no worry about tickets. I won’t have to sneak my 2-year-old onto the plane in a Baby Bjorn while pretending to nurse his hefty, walking, talking body. Thankfully, everyone has a seat.
This time, my worries are more of the garden-variety. What am I going to wear?
Black floral pants?
I've never pined so hard for something so hideous. Normally, this is just not my style. However, I now see the flaw in my thinking. And, it's a little too late- even for Amazon Prime. These pants offer a distracting pattern with enough splotches of color to conceal any smears, spills, or potty accidents that might- scratch that- will happen. Bring on the gummies and goldfish!
Yes, yes, yes! And yes, I plan to look exactly this miserable the whole trip. I firmly believe that the key to traveling with small children is avoiding eye-contact with others. I wanted to write "with strangers" but, really, I don’t plan to look at my husband either. We need to focus- and my focus will be on my feet. What other people think of my traveling circus is none of my business.
Yes again. Most people dress for comfort when travelling. Flats and leggings are the norm. Not me. I figure if I’m going to feel cranky and put-out I might as well go all the way. These look perfect- super high, super complicated. And the zippers convey that "don't mess with me little people" attitude I'll be carrying-on.
Well, anything metallic will stay behind. I don’t need anything extra to remove when going through security. Dealing with my complicated shoes will be enough. Anything shiny will be left at home, as well. Kids are like raccoons. When bored, they become fascinated with any sparkling objects- especially those hanging around your neck. If you’re not vigilant, they will strangle you. Of course depending on how much time you have left on your flight, you might not care. I often reach a point mid-air when I wonder if lying unconscious on the floor might be a better way to pass the time.
Wish me luck. I’m sure it’s going to be a great trip… once we get there.