I am a holiday traditionalist, I admit. My Christmas preparations involve a living tree, a medley of meaningful ornaments gathered over several decades and four straight weeks of non-strop Christmas music. I still think of myself as the kind of person who does Thanksgiving with the family and the pies and the sitting around telling stories about how Seattle used to be. There’s only one problem with this bit of identity… yeah. I have done that exactly once in the last, oh, sixteen years? (The year Grey was born I went home for Thanksgiving.)
You see, it’s like this. I don’t have any family in the area, nor does my husband. I don’t really want to travel on Thanksgiving. And I host 30+ people for Thanksgiving dinner a scant 10 days before Turkey Day itself, so I don’t want to make the meal and find people to come eat it because, well, I already did. The other day someone asked my son what we were doing for Thanksgiving and Grey responded, “We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving.” Gah! We do! We just do so in a weird way! Now often I have gotten very gracious and lovely invitations to friends’ houses to celebrate. Heck, two years in a row I cadged invitations to one of my college friends’ parents’ houses. So we have suffered no lack of welcome or turkey. But the obligation of Thanksgiving, the feeling that there is a particular thing we have to do, that is entirely lacking.
And if you think about it for a moment, that is tremendously freeing. I have a four day period where there is no where we have be and nothing we have to do. Liberty!
A few weeks ago, one of my Scooby-addled children informed me that he wanted to see “a real live mummy”. This seemed like a reasonable request. At first I considered which museums in Boston might contain said Egyptian relic. Then I thought that the really good mummies were in New York. Except I hate New York. Then I thought that the really great museums are in Washington DC. And you know, I’ve been meaning to go to Washington DC for like five years now.
Then it dawned on me that I have four uncommitted days.
We left at about 11 am on Thanksgiving morning. I remember in college, when I had no where to go on Thanksgiving and all the placed to eat on campus were closed, I felt very very sorry for myself on Thanksgiving. However, I felt not a lick of remorse as we dined at McDonalds for lunch, or Denny’s for dinner. (What? I’m traveling with 3 and 6 year old boys on Thanksgiving. You think I’m going to stop anyplace that has cloth tablecloths?!?!) There was some nasty and tiring traffic on the Mass Pike, but after that we zooooomed! This was our first extended road trip – our previous adventures having topped out at two or three hours. The boys were complete troopers, and honestly did better than I expected. We came in late, lost and tired to DC at 10 pm that night.
Yesterday was a sublime day, weather wise, here in the District of Columbia. Although my intention had been to hie immediately to the Museum of Natural History (hellooo Mummies and Dinosaurs!) the lure of the Washington Monument was too strong and instead we hied ourselves the length of the Mall, explaining the various wars, conflicts and heroes in mostly age-appropriate ways as we wandered. Then we went to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, where Thane bounced like a pinball between mummy exhibits. By midafternoon, someone was in desperate need of a nap, and the kids seemed tired too, so we came back and had an all family snooze. Indeed, as I write I am surrounded on all sides by sleeping menfolk. We spent the evening dining with some friends in the area, our kids playing with theirs.
Today the morning was the Museum of Air and Space. It was pretty fun, but Thane is woefully underslept and it is starting to show. Also, he has no respect for barriers/fences/ribbons. Also, he plops down on the ground all the time and declares, “I’m not going to _____”. My cajoling muscles are weary beyond belief. But he was fascinated by the astronauts and costumes, and demanded that he be permitted to wear the moon gear. We all thoroughly enjoyed the planetarium before making good our escape.
By the way, since all of you are far more worldly and experienced than I am, you already know this. But were you aware that admission to all Smithsonian Museums is totally free? My Bostonian expectations included $20/head/museum. But with free… well heck. You can go in for 30 minutes and it’s awesome and you can leave and not worry about how much it cost! Parking, on the other hand, is $40 a day….
In half an hour I’ll wake everyone up, and we’ll go to the American Indian Museum. Thane is trying to figure out what his next obsession is. Mummies, astronauts and Native Americans are all strong candidates. Tonight, I think we’ll take the boys to see the Muppet Movie. Tomorrow, we do the 11 hour trip in reverse.
In my worse moments, I wonder what the heck I’m thinking and why didn’t I just stay at home and have the kids watch tv all weekend like a sane parent. But most of the time, I watch the wide-eyed wonder, insightful questions and bouncy kids and think that this was a fantastic idea.