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Whirlwind trip worthwhile

When my husband proposed a 500-mile round-trip to his hometown of Walla Walla last weekend, my answer came easily. Nope.

To ease the blow, I suggested we wait until we had a long weekend we could use. But with two new jobs between us, that’s a long way out.

I was winning the debate until he said: “Even if it’s just for a day, that’s one day the boys get to spend with their grandparents.” He raised his eyebrows as if to say, “Top that!”

Of course, I couldn’t. So that’s how I found myself at the bottom of Rex Hill, five minutes into our five-hour drive, answering the “are we there yet” question.

My annoyance softened when I called my mother-in-law to let her know we’d just left town and would be arriving around midnight. She said she knew how Matt gets hungry late at night, so would have a roast waiting for us.

Suddenly, it dawned on me that in what will feel like a blink, I’ll be hoping my boys come home with their families. I say it’ll feel like a blink, because my baby, Sam, is a week away from turning 5, and is already saying things like: “Mama, when I’m older, I’m going to play football. And I’m going to drive. And I’m going to get a hot rod.” After recovering from my panic attack, I wonder why we can’t just stick to playing catch and Hot Wheels.

My little guy, Jake, is suddenly all about motorcycles. And he’s referring to his beloved stuffed Zebra by the much cooler name “Zebes,” though it’s not lost on me that the mangy animal is still always in sight, even if the little fingers around its neck have loosened their grip.

I looked at the boys, finally passed out in their car seats just beyond The Dalles, and smiled at Jake clutching Zebes in one hand and his Matchbox car in the other. I remember taking this same drive when he was 8 months old and seeing his much smaller fingers wrapped around Zebra’s neck.

It doesn’t seem that long ago. Yet the way we traveled then was with a loaded minivan full of all the baby gear I could jam in there: play pen, high chair, stroller, extra food, favorite bedding, bedtime music and, heck, even a little bottle of lavender oil. Those of you with “problem sleepers” will understand the lengths I went to in hopes of catching a few hours of sleep while traveling.

Now, one suitcase holds all we need. How long will it take, I wonder, before “are we there yet” becomes a memory that makes me smile instead of cringe?

Once there, we did simple things like going to my nieces’ soccer games, playing with cousins and listening to old family stories. The boys got to ride Nana’s horses, cruise in Papa’s hot rod and play with “cool cars.”

The highlight was getting to spend hours playing in the gravel pile.

I’m afraid we left little piles of rocks throughout the house to be remembered by.

Proving my point that time changes one’s perspective, my father-in-law told me those little piles of rocks made him smile. And even after just a day and a half of having the boys there, it suddenly seemed very quiet without them.

The best way to get my boys to have memories with their extended family is to use the means we have available to cultivate those relationships, be it through the post office, the Internet or the highway.

All that aside, I must admit my change of heart was self-serving. I believe in a “pay it forward” kind of world. I’m counting on my kids marrying women willing to make the trip back home, too.

I’m even up for making a midnight roast, provided they don’t show up on a motorcycle.

Nathalie Hardy invites your feedback at nathalie@nathaliesnotes.com or at her website, www.nathaliesnotes.com.

Whirlwind trip worthwhile

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