“Victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”
— Winston Churchill
By now, Christmas is but a distant memory in many minds, but my head is still spinning. And the lone question I keep asking myself is, “What was I thinking?”
About a month prior to the crux of our story, Mary – the Felkins family matriarch and glue that holds this operation together – emailed me the itinerary for her weekend trip to Austin…Texas, that is. I read it with great interest. From Thursday morning through Sunday night, she would be hundreds of miles away with no more control over potentially local chaos than a stern warning via Facetime. Even worse, Facetime without WiFi – say, in a car, for instance – would be nothing more than a voice coming through a cellphone. It was a scary thought to know I would be the one – the only one – in charge of discipline. I was the last line of defense.
Now, I believe it’s important to preface this story by admitting my skills in the use of a personal calendar are subpar at best. That excludes my work calendar. As we speak, I’m planning out days, weeks and even months of newspapers in my head. There are dozens of important events on schedule to be covered.
But when it comes to the upcoming happenings involving the Felkins family, I’m as lost as a possum in tall grass at noon on a sunny day.
Three weeks into this little excursion came the first surprise. It was revealed my stepfather’s (that’s dad No. 3 for those playing the home version) family decided to move the annual Christmas gathering back a week. Due to my inept personal calendar skills, it took me a solid week to put two and two together. That was the same weekend Mary would be hundreds of miles away in Texas.
“I got this,” I kept telling myself. It was a bit of self-encouragement that paled in comparison after the fact.
Then came trip-eve, the night before I was to take Mary to the airport. That’s when she decided to drop the second surprise of this venture. It seemed my son’s iPod needed to be replaced, and a trip to the Apple Store in the Mall at Green Hills – Nashville, that is – was in order.
“Sure, I got this,” I told her.
So here we go. We take the children to school, I get Mary to the airport and I return home for a couple of hours of alone time. Shoot, this is a piece of cake. Then 3 p.m. arrives like the train to Clarksville. All three children barrel off the bus and into the house like wild banshees.
I made a scrumptious dinner [trip through the McDonald’s drive through] before settling in for a good night’s sleep. Most of the children were even in bed before midnight, but not before a whirlwind all-out fight over what to pack for our weekend trip to Alabama.
Friday morning, I awoke to the sound of my 6:45 a.m. wake-up call from hundreds of miles away in Austin…Texas, that is. We rushed to find shoes and brush hair before heading out the door for the children’s two-hour learning opportunity at school. It gave me just enough time to put my check in the bank and grab some breakfast before I faced the car-rider line.
I arrive at the school to find my kindergartener mistakenly got on the bus instead of going to the car-rider line. Luckily a radio to the bus driver had her waiting on me at my son’s school.
We load the car and head out for what lies ahead in our journey. Remember that little stop we had to make in Nashville? Well let me just give you a tip about visiting the Apple Store. An appointment is needed, and the geniuses there can’t take them over the phone on the way.
Luckily, I talked myself into one about the time we hit Hermitage – for two hours later than our anticipated arrival. Oh well, maybe we could grab some lunch.
Now, let me just say no civilized faction should allow that many people to be gathered at one place, all in foreign cars, and not working. It took us 45 minutes to drive the 1.36 miles from the interstate exit to the mall and another 45 minutes to find a parking space. Needless to say, we arrived just in time for our appointment.
Borrowing from the store’s WiFi to update the new iPod, we were in and out of the mall $99 plus tax poorer and in a shade under three hours. Thankfully my children are so purposefully sheltered, a few dozen trips up and down the escalator served as entertainment enough.
Finally we settled into our four-hour drive to my parents’ house in Pelham, Ala., but not before another scrumptious lunch I unpacked [after we picked it up at the McDonald’s drive through].
We made a well-deserved stop-off in Jasper to visit dad No. 2 for a few hours of Christmas fun before arriving at our overnight destination to find my 4-year-old niece, Addison, was spending the night. What a wonderful surprise.
In unpacking the car, I accidently dropped my son’s brand new iPod onto the concrete driveway. Upon brief inspection in the dark, I breathed a sigh of relief it still worked and wasn’t damaged.
Saturday morning came much too early, and with it a 9 a.m. brunch appointment at the family gathering and purpose for our trip. We arrived at 9:30, but were pleased to find weren’t the last to get there.
Following family time, which was fortunately uneventful, the plan was to make a quick stop at Walmart to pick up my parents’ presents before our third planned family Christmas event in less than 24 hours. Two hours later, we arrived, but not before a misjudgment in Christmas bag. It seems the children picked up a bag big enough to wrap a bicycle. Well all the presents fit inside – with room to spare – and we had just the right tool for all the wrapping paper.
I prepared a lovely dinner [by ordering it at Appleby’s], and we settled in for the trip back to Tennessee. But not before retrieving that iPod from the car at my son’s request. It was then my heart sank when the daylight revealed a huge crack. Surprise.
That prompted another trip to Walmart prior to the journey home for a case to conceal the crack and avoid a cut finger.
The trip back to Lebanon consisted of a well-deserved scolding from my wife hundreds of miles away in Austin…Texas, that is.
The moral of this trip, I discovered, was that no matter how far away, any needed discipline could be accomplished via cellphone. I just hate I was the one who got into trouble.
Jared Felkins is The Democrat’s director of content. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @paperboyfelkins.