The Longest Thirty Miles…

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011 | Family, Travel

…in which I talk about our most recent family trip, with details that will probably embarrass Ansel some day in the future.

So, it didn’t even occur to me that I had missed a week of blogging until yesterday when I realized that today would be blogging day, at which point, something felt a little off. In my defense, however, I was a little busy last Wednesday, packing up and driving to West Memphis for our bi-annual Simpson family Thanksgiving. It’s a bit of a drive, the visit seems short, and the accommodations are cramped, but all in all, it’s always a good trip.

Cousins at play.

Every two years, we have Thanksgiving in West Memphis with my family, and being that it is fairly close to the middle of the country, it affords a lot of family to come to celebrate together. Most of all, it’s the midpoint between Denton and Muncie, where my brother lives with his family, so it’s pretty convenient for both of us to come down and meet up. My parents also come in, even if it’s a bit further of a drive. The gathering point is my grandparents house, which happens to be one half of a duplex that is shared with my Aunt, so all of her family is usually there, as well. And additionally, there are the odd collection of cousins, nephews, aunts and uncles who are either already in the area or make the trip in to visit for the weekend.

While the official gathering point was my grandparent’s house, we and my brother’s family all stayed at a nearby hotel, so we spent the majority of the weekend either at the house or in the hotel. In years past, we were expected to be at the house for breakfast every morning, but we have learned that preparing breakfast, lunch, and dinner for that many people was causing much unnecessary stress. So much so, that even my mother suggested that we just eat breakfast at the hotel every day. I mean, they provided a full breakfast every day… even if there was the constant battle for biscuits.

So with that in mind, we would usually spend a leisurely morning in the hotel, eat a big breakfast and roll over to the house around ten or so. Then we would really just lounge around the house until dinner, letting the cousins play together. Honestly, that’s the biggest benefit of getting together. Ansel and Isaac love to play together so we try to give them the opportunity as often as possible. It turns out that it’s really only about twice a year, but they have become really good friends and play pretty well. I hope that the two of them remain as close as they are as the family gets bigger and bigger. Isaac’s new brother Alex was there, but since he’s mostly a smooshy marshmallow at this point, he didn’t really play along. And it turns out that one of my cousins is starting his own family as well, so even though we won’t see them but once every two years, there’s more kids joining the mix. In fact, we realized, shockingly, that when we go back in two years, there will be five kids all racing around from age one up to Ansel at age six. It’s going to be bottled chaos.

Playground telephone
“Hello?” “Hello!”

We did manage to get out of the house a couple times, visiting a nearby park on Friday, and then heading to the Children’s Museum of Memphis on Saturday. That allowed some people to unwind at the house, while letting the kids burn off some cabin fever in a heavy play zone. We’d been to the park before, and it’s a nice one for being so small, but this was the first time that we’d gone to the CMOM. Some of the folks around the house had some mediocre things to say about it, but I have to say, it’s one of the better children’s museums I’ve been to. It had a really nice variety of activities and exhibits, and was spaced out very openly. The play grocery store was definitely the best I’d ever seen with working cash registers and everything. It’s the first time I’ve seen a play bank or auto shop, either. The bank even had an ATM that would spit out play money. It really was top notch.

But all told, I have to say the most stressful, and ultimately most rewarding moment was on the drive back. We were just south of Texarkana, a little over half way home. As we were really getting into some open land, Ansel says “I have to go potty.” At almost that exact minute, we pass one of those signs that tells you what towns are coming up and the top one is Mt. Pleasant in thirty miles. I looked at Heather and we both agreed that surely there would be something else before Mt. Pleasant. I told Ansel that I was looking for a place to potty, and asked if he could hold it for a little while. Well, the miles rolled by and we passed exit after exit with no restaurants, service stations, rest areas, or anything along the side of the road. I was starting to get really worried about Ansel and asked him if he’d would rather just pee on the side of the road. He said “What does that mean?” and I explained that we would pull over and he would pee in the grass. “I want a potty,” he said, so on we drove.

It turns out that the Big Tex Fuel Stop is the first thing you’ll come across in your race from Texarkana to Mt. Pleasant, and the lines for the bathrooms were proof of that. The place wasn’t the cleanest or the nicest, but it was the only stop, so everyone just piles out and waits their turn to use the bathrooms that can’t even handle the flushing of toilet paper. But to Ansel’s credit, after all of his holding, waiting, and heavy breathing, he was still bone dry. He did a great job and proved that he really is potty trained. I was proud of him and, if I had to guess, he was pretty proud of himself, too.

So, yeah. We had a great time with family, we ate some good food, but the most memorable thing, for me, for the whole trip, was Ansel waiting 30 minutes to use the potty in the barren wastelands of North Texas. I’m sure, someday, I’ll embarrass him with this story, but I’m just so proud of my boy. Every day he gets bigger, smarter, and more mature. I miss the baby that he was, and have a hard time remembering how we handled him, but I wouldn’t give up today for any other day I’ve had with him. Every day is different, and every day is the best it’s ever been. Yes, even the bad ones.

How is it possible that I could forget these moments?
Take photos. Memories fade.

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November 2011