Travel can be hazardous to lofty holiday spirits

November 27, 2012

Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go…”  It’s that time of year. Some of us remember that refrain from the songs of yesteryear. But this Thanksgiving, it isn’t so much over the river but circling the beltway listening to an annoying, condescending GPS voice that keeps telling you to make a U-turn, dodging a locust-like invasion of other drivers with painful hemorrhoids, muscle cramps, bladder-control issues, impotence and personality disorders. And through the woods is more like racing through the instant yellow-to-red-light cameras that are fixed to go off quicker than you can pull the plug on a piece of burning toast, E-ZPass lanes at mach speed, stops with overburdened toll workers who have enlarged prostates and careening into the nearest fast food emporium or what some might call a restaurant.

Certainly, traveling during a major holiday was a lot different years ago, way back when this song was written. The most that could happen was a broken something or other on the sleigh, which was joyfully fixed by the driver; men knew how to fix anything and always with a slap on the back and a wet sloppy kiss, even if it was for old Rusty the horse, which is really creepy.

But anyway, today we are more likely to face the fact that after traveling what seems like the time frame it would take to cross Lake Erie in a canoe, we find out that grandmother is not home. And she probably hasn’t been in months.

Yes, she loves her children and grandchildren, but with all her loyalty and care, grandmothers have found something else to take their place that has far more complexities and deep-seated meaning: a community in a warm place, with titles like Phase Three of Whispering Pines and So On and So Forth and a Homes Association, where she can live with all the structure and rules without actually joining the Army.

You can always fly if driving is inconvenient. OK, try to maintain some sense of reason after you pick yourself up off the floor and change your wet pants; a lot of people lose control when they laugh so hard they give themselves an aneurysm.  Long lines, lost luggage, arrogant cart drivers and canceled flights are not at the top of anyone’s list. Still, the airlines do claim to offer friendly skies; you just have to get on a plane that takes off for them sometime in this century. Too many people book flights for Thanksgiving only to arrive the following year.

Perhaps the most traditional Thanksgiving many folks experienced this season was to just stay home. Why not have the gang come to your house? Seriously, at times, especially after a few sherrys, the family conversation does resemble a sit-down between the Crips and the Bloods in a part of South Central LA you wouldn’t be caught dead driving through or else you would be just that. I’m not picking on LA, just saying.

The home-style Thanksgiving, with the gang in the kitchen whipping up a storm is right out of the television series, “Mad Men.” Moms wore aprons and heels, hopefully with something else.

And Aunt Betty always had a cigarette lit, which is very dangerous and unhealthy, especially when the ashtray came out with the stuffing. Ceilings were splattered with cranberry sauce, and by dinnertime, you had a gin and tonic headache the size of Lake Huron.

In any case, I hope this season you found your over the river and through the woods Thanksgiving. Believe me, the sun came up in the morning and set at night.

  • Nancy Katz has a degree in creative writing and is the author of the book, "Notes from the Beach." She has written the column Around Town for the Cape Gazette for twenty years. Her style is satirical and deals with all aspects of living in a resort area on Delmarva.

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