It’s come to that time of year when the Curtis household starts booking travel plans for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now you’re thinking, “Isn’t it a bit late for that? You should have booked your airfare back in September if you wanted to fly for less than a fortune and a headache!” Yeah, yeah, but these holidays are sculpted with a heavy layer of planning, and then waiting to be told what to do by my older sister, the Master Strategist. The Plan actually involves six households, spread out across four states, with annual reciprocal visiting arrangements, no repetition of the previous year, and a large amount of whimsy. Holiday travel season is chess and Boggle, with an intermission dance called the Holiday Shuffle.
If we lived two centuries ago, there would be a higher likelihood that the holidays would look like this: Pack the plucked pheasant into a gunny sack, make the kids carry two baskets of fresh-baked bread, have grandma carry the plum pie, and make a procession to the other side of town where Julie’s family and in-laws all reside under one roof. No aneurysm over plane ticket pricing, no car rental grief, just dodging puddles and trying to keep the kids clean while traversing from one thatched-roof home to another. The feast will have have succeeded in gathering two sets of grandparents, two sets of parents, and their offspring, all without Expedia, plane de-icing, and long car rides. Six units under one roof in less than 20 minutes.
So, why is gathering for the holidays so much more strategic and mindboggling nowadays? Well, there was a very entertaining and informative thread that appeared on the Highlands Facebook page the other month that touched on this topic tangentially. The initial prompt was a question phrased about why there are so many nanny requests posted on Facebook. The question was posed in a very neutral tone of “hey, let’s discuss, because I’m seeing an increasing trend in people asking for babysitters”. Despite the way the question was phrased, everyone knew it was a hot-button topic and piled onto the thread, got popcorn and a 6-pack, and let the flurry of emotion begin. Eighty-five comments later the thread eventually wore down, but nestled in that thread were some gems of reality.
Let’s bridge these two topics together: the increase in childcare requests, and managing holiday travel. They’re very much related. Remember our pheasant-carrying family that dodged puddles and walked across the village to have a feast with Aunt Julie’s family? Well, they benefitted from proximity – something that most of us lack in the Highlands. Having three generations, and six family units within walking distance is about as rare as winning the lottery on a full moon. In the olden golden days we benefitted from having aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents and in-laws all within a stone’s throw of each other (from a trebuchet…and perhaps that family strife did occur too, but that’s another Facebook topic). One of the thread contributors pointed out that since the fall of the agrarian society and the rise of industrialism, the multigenerational households have diminished, nuclear families have moved away to follow jobs, single-parent families are on the rise, and these small family groups are now spread out all across the world. It’s hard to call up grandma in Perth and have her come over and pick up Johnny from Grand Ridge. Making childcare arrangements occupies a significant amount of time throughout the Highlands because we all don’t have our extended family available at the drop of a hat. For many of us, making holiday arrangements takes the same amount diligence and forethought as childcare.
Thankfully, the Curtis household has three family units living within 20 miles of one another, but there’s still my father in California to make arrangements for, and my sister’s family in Texas who is dependent on her husband’s family plans in Wisconsin. That’s where the Boggle game begins with a loud shake of the pieces within and a random shuffling of the family contents each year. Dad to Houston for Thanksgiving, Curtis Jr. & Sr. households to Bludworths in Snoqualmie, Curtis Jr. and Cerveny Sr. family to Houston for Christmas, which means California Dobel has to go to Houston…wait, that won’t work, he’s already gone to Houston for Thanksgiving… And so goes the Holiday Shuffle!