Bright and early Friday morning, the three of us reluctantly left the hotel in Oklahoma to head for Wichita, Ks and the family reunion. The red dirt of Oklahoma fading into the brown dirt of Kansas. The drive up I-35 was more of the same for our Grandson, happy for a while, then rapidly deteriorating into crying.
I can’t really blame him. I used to be the same way about visiting the in-laws. (kidding) (not really)
The last time my mother-in-law and I met it ended in a shouting match with her declaring that, “I had ruined her family by marrying into it.” To be fair, it was hot that day and by standing up to her, I had ruined her vision of how the family should behave. But, four years later, it was time to see her and we were bringing the GreatGrandson. If I could just lob him into the living room ahead of me everything should work out.
Thanks to TomTom we found the house. A ranch style home in an older part of the city.
My sister-in-law, followed closely by my mother-in-law, approached the car. I had taken the Grandson out of his car seat and held him a little like a shield until I could determine how everyone was going to behave.
The worrying was for naught. Hugs were everywhere. Bringing a cute infant really makes a difference. Everyone wants to hold him. The next level of spoiling is underway.
One of the things we had to re-learn as grandparents was how to baby-proof a room. Block the wall sockets. Move the breakables to a higher ground.
My mother-in-law had not really thought of that.
Her place, as with every place she has ever owned, was full of breakables. Picture frames. Tea cup sets. Glass miniatures. Lots of bric-a-brac. (That last one was a test to see who is reading this. It will be an exercise in restraint for one of you to refrain from commenting.)
It would have been impossible to hide everything, so the game turned into “No, Honey, Don’t Touch That.” For the next few days. Fortunately, we were staying at a hotel, so there was some time to let him roam and not be constantly worried about the favorite thing being shattered beyond repair.
After lunch at Braum’s…hmmm..I bet most of you don’t know what that is. Ok, Braum’s is a restaurant in that area of the country which has the best hamburgers and shakes found anywhere. They are regional so the quality is kept at a high level. And they also have a small bakery/grocery area in which you can buy their milk and incredible cinnamon rolls. If there is one food I know very well, it is the cheeseburger. Trust me on this if you find yourself traveling around OK or KS, please try a Braum’s cheeseburger. They are Bellbottom Blog approved.
So, after lunch, we took our stuff to the hotel and unloaded the car. Cleaning out two days of thrown snacks. Futile searches for missing pacifiers. Just as we got finished, the call came that the Great-Great Grandma and her daughter had arrived at the house.
So off we went. Back to the House of Breakables. ( HOB from here on.)
The weather in Kansas over our stay ranged from hot to very hot. As a native of Indiana, we have a different type of heat. It can be a little humid, but the worst part is when the wind doesn’t blow. It is like wearing a tracksuit through a carwash. The heat clings to you. In Kansas, there is always a constant breeze, not as persistent as in Oklahoma, but a breeze nonetheless.
We arrived back at the HOB and got the same type of greeting as before. A lot of teasing about who is a Great as opposed to the Great Great . The reality of our aging being dealt with through humor. We are ages ranging from 49 to 90 with a fifteen month old child in our midst.
Sometime during this round, the subject of what to do tomorrow comes up. It is decided that the zoo would be fun.
You have to understand that these folks always like to go somewhere. Nevermind that we all just drove hundreds of miles to get where we were. They wanted to see a zoo with the Grandson.
My wife had come up with a strategy before we got there. We were going to just agree with everything possible and take things as they came. So with that in mind, we agreed to the zoo and went back to the hotel for the night.
In the hotel, there was a partition in the room separating the living room area from the bedroom. We set up the crib in the living area and put him in it with his monkey and blanket.
Moving quickly, we slid into bed and heard from the other area, “Ahhh”. We looked at each other and shrugged, “Ahhh,” we replied. He started laughing. After catching his breath, he said,”Ahhh” again, this time giggling in anticipation of our response. This went on for about five minutes or so, until sleep overtook him. We did this every night. It is safe to say we will never forget those moments with him. So simple. So memorable. So funny. So sweet.
Next day finds us back at the HOB, half an hour late, expecting a group of impatient people waiting for us.
One glimpse at the driveway relieved us of any worry. The visitors from SW Oklahoma were getting around a little late.
I will spare you the agony of wondering about what happened. We never made it to the zoo. Making the plan was more important than implementing it. So my wife’s strategy paid off. Go along and see what happens.
The next day found us driving out of Wichita to find a Mexican restaurant. The Wichita City Guide says their fair city has 1000 restaurants. My mother-in-law insisted none of them had good Mexican food and since Great-Great Grandma had requested Mexican food, off we went. You can’t say no to a Great Great. It just isn’t done. We put the Grandson next to the Great Great and they had a blast. She wasn’t able to hold him at the HOB, but in a high chair things went swimmingly.
My mother-in-law and her sister have a shopping problem. They like it. A lot. Especially at Goodwill. The Goodwill store just happened to be next to the Mexican restaurant. On the theory that one can never have enough knick knacks, we found ourselves wandering through the store. Many more breakables were bought along with a few things for the Grandson, mainly clothes but some toys as well.
Later that day it was time to say goodbye to the visitors from SW Oklahoma. Leaving just my mother-in-law and sister-in-law plus the three of us.
The smaller numbers made it possible for us to go to the finished basement which was about 60 degrees cooler than the upstairs. There were still a rather large amount of breakables, but it was manageable.
We spent the remainder of our trip looking over old photos, playing with the Grandson, going to yet another Goodwill store, watching Duck Dynasty. Lord, is that funny. (That is not an official Bellbottom Blog endorsement. We have a high standard here. But it was funny.)
Finally, the day to leave was upon us. Many tears were shed. It had been four years since we were all together. No definite plan for the next time. Our grandson had found his way into a few more hearts.
In front of was a long drive back to Indiana with a child who wasn’t ready for long drives yet, but we had no choice. The routine remained the same. Two hours driving intervals interrupted by Grandson breaks. We were hoping to get past St. Louis that day and then we would see how he was doing. Well, he made it to the middle of Illinois when we had to stop one last time. We filled the tank, gave him a bottle and, miracle of miracles, he fell asleep for the rest of the ride.
This is where the Blues Brothers reference from the first part of the story comes in. No stopping for anything as long as he stayed asleep
Our little road warrior made it from Wichita to Indy in one day.
We are glad to have had the experience with him and there will be a day when his Grandma and I bore him with our tale of the big road trip he took with us.
Thanks for reading.