Christmas time makes for some interesting struggles because I usually end up riding to Mississippi to be with my family.
On the one hand, I really enjoy my folks and seeing my kids happy to visit Granny and Pawpaw and Uncle Scooter. My dad and brother really get into the gift giving of it all, taking extra time and care to wrap gifts and hide things and create suspense. My grandmother goes all out with the cooking as my mom, aunt, and uncle fuss at her doing too much. My grandpa gets in the way, and they ALL fuss at him. Cousins come around, games come out, presents are exchanged–good times had by all.
But then there is the inevitable trip back to wherever I am traveling from.
Now, this would NOT be an issue if I were wealthy and could simply ship stuff back to my destination and take a leisurely drive back. Unfortunately for all involved, this is not the case. I have ONE car. I have two kids and an impossibly tall husband. And I have a family who unloads Every. Single. Item. That they think I can use. On me. On top of the gifts.
Please know that I appreciate every single item. I really do. In a time where we are barely making ends (let alone making them meet), every single things my family gives me keeps money in my pocket. Soap, tissue, paper towels, socks, shoes, work pants, dish detergent, scrub brushes, bath towels, kitchen towels, snacks, food…every little thing makes my life easier.
Until I have to put it in the car to take back.
This year, there was so much stuff that I wept in secret. I am not going to be able to take it all, I kept saying to myself. I had enough toiletries to fill 2 office-sized boxes. Enough clothes and shoes to fill 2 large moving boxes. Enough toys and snacks to fill two trunks. And 2 awesome kids sized bean bags. I gnashed my teeth in despair.
For 24 hours, I pondered and considered the problem. My forehead knotted in perpetual distress all night Christmas night. What was I going to do?!? If I took the bean bags, there would be no more room for the clothes. If I took the clothes, I may not be able to get the toys all in. If I took the toys, the toiletries would not fit.
Friday night came, and I could no longer stand the pressure–I had to pack now, or I would not sleep. So I packed. And I rearranged. And I considered. And I wept some more. Something would have to remain. Someone would be disappointed. I would fail.
YOU MUST UNDERSTAND. This is a horrible game that I must play-not unlike Hunger Games. I am set up to fail every time, my family digging into my spirit with commentary like, “Well, why didn’t you rent a bigger car?” knowing full well that I am going to be leaning and depending on Jesus to have enough gas money to get back.
The other part of the game? The day I LEAVE, my dad produces at least another 3 bags of stuff that I MUST TAKE BACK for the girls–this after he has watched me struggle to squish every other thing in every other possible space available. This time was no different…except that he went to the store the night before with stuff, too. And then hit me with the morning stuff.
In the end, I got everything–EVERYTHING except the beanbags in the car. And for the first time EVER, nobody made me feel like a failure. They very lovingly said, “Oh, well! We will see if we can send them by UPS. No worries.” I secretly wept for joy inside my head. There would be no shame this year, no guilt trips laid thick like biscuits and syrup. I would make it through this trip this time without cursing somebody out.
As we scrunched up in the car to on the way back, my dad leaned over and said, “You got room for one more thing?”