Our summer plans started back March, while there was still snow on the ground. My niece and I decided that in order for our kids to know their cousins they would need to spend more time together. We decided that the West Virginia folk would travel to Houston, Texas in early summer and the kids would get together for a few days. I thought this a great idea and spent several weeks searching for flights. Over the course of our discussions, we decided that the kids would need to go to camps during the day. We settled on a Robot camp and a Tennis camp. Our few days to visit snowballed into 14 fun-filled days of camps, water parks, swimming, and computer games.
Somewhere in the middle of our discussions, my niece informed me that I would be the driver of the week. She had to work each day and could not – in the Houston traffic – possibly drop the kids off. I didn’t mind the thought of dropping kids off and picking them up. This is what I have done for years. BUT, never on the parkways, toll ways, flyovers, and Interstates that constitute travel in Houston, Texas. I was nervous to say the least but the tickets had been purchased and so I would be the driver on the Houston streets. AND the four year old would stay with me all day. I would be responsible for her safety as well.
Finally, travel day arrived. We loaded the car, took some pictures, kissed dad goodbye and the four of us were on our way. We had to drive to the airport. The morning was cloudy and overcast. We pulled out of our drive about 10 minutes later than I wanted but we were on the way! We made it through the first tunnel and in all my wisdom I decided that I needed to pass a big truck. No sooner did I get around the truck than I saw the policeman on the side of the road. I wasn’t just speeding for the sake of speeding. I WAS passing a truck. Acceleration is necessary to pass a truck. I WAS going to slow down as soon as I got far enough in front of him. Nothing like getting a ticket with all the kids in back watching. We made it in time anyways.
Upon entering the airport complex, I found out that the long term parking lot I preferred was closed and I nearly wrecked trying to get over into another one. We shuttled over to the terminal, made it through security, and found our gate. The kids are great travelers and take it all in stride. I am the one who gets a little itchy. Once in our seats, I look over at the eight year old and he is intently studying the safety card from the seat in front of him. He listens closely to the flight attendant describe the process for securing the Oxygen mask and looks over at me with wide eyes. I give a thumbs up and he smiles.
Our first morning in Houston we leave the house two hours early in order to make it to all of the drop-offs on time. My wonderful niece rides along and helps me with the maps and GPS – at first. We drop the kids at their places, I take her to work, she hops out, gives me a thumbs up and walks away from the car! She does NOT even look back. I am supposed to mentally reverse all of the morning travel instructions and pick up four different kids and get them safely back home in time to cook supper.
“Help me Lord Jesus, I am stuck in downtown Houston, Texas all by myself with a four year old.” I decide to wait in town rather than go back and forth through all of those exits and switchbacks. The four year old tells me to look at the maps and find McDonalds. I am thinking that we will be lucky if we find our way back home before midnight.
It was a long day, but we made it back to the house. No kids left behind. Vacations are fun but they are also a lot of stress. Sometimes they challenge us intellectually as well as physically, and sometimes we have to take a deep breath and face the very thing that scares us most – like superhighways in very large Texas cities.
If you get a chance to travel this summer – or even if you don’t – try to take on at least one challenge. Make yourself try something new or crazy or even risky. New experiences are what makes life interesting.
Who knows, I might even get up the courage to get off the access roads and try the flyover.