Tomorrow morning we leave on our annual Thanksgiving trek to beautiful Black Mountain, North Carolina. This trip is a family favorite for a thousand reasons. So what’s the problem?
In an attempt to come to grips with this mountain, I have categorized the process into definitive stages.
Stage One: Sky’s The Limit! Two weeks from departure. Sample thoughts: “I will bring a pan of bread pudding with rum sauce, and gifts for Bertha and Anna. I will have my nails done and will buy a new shirt.” None of these things happen.
Stage Two: Procrastination. The week before departure. Sample thoughts: “I will think about list-making and packing after the church supper is behind me and school is out.” I don’t.
Stage Three: Fool’s Paradise. Morning, one day before departure. Sample thoughts: “I’ll do it all tonight. I have plenty of time.”
Stage Four: Guilt. Afternoon, one day before departure. The luxurious feeling of plenty of time is gone, but things aren’t desperate yet. Sample thoughts: “I’ll at least get the laundry done. That’s progress, isn’t it?” Also on my mind is the wide variety of events this trip includes, from hiking, to a formal lunch on Thanksgiving Day, to Sunday church. Mud clothes and dress clothes for all of us. And the question of ironing? Do it here? Or the rigamarole of doing it there? This leads to the next stage.
Stage Five: Denial. 6:00 p.m. the evening before departure. The ironing question breaks me, and I hit denial. Sample thoughts: “Isn’t tonight vacation, too? Why can’t I just watch a movie?” Even in denial I can’t justify a movie, but I do convince myself that now is the time to dig out the gold votive candles that flicker so enchantingly. And I spend a good hour rearranging the table centerpiece because even though we won’t be here it’s important to make one’s personal space beautiful and affirming. And so on.
Stage Six: Rejection. 7:00 p.m. Sample thoughts: “I can’t do it.” This is a low moment. The mountain is simply too big.
Stage Seven: Defeat. 8:00 p.m. Sample thoughts: “Could I possibly get it all done tomorrow morning before Andrew’s 7:00 a.m. goal?” The suitcase on the bed, wide open and empty, says, “You’re kidding, right?” So I pop a bowl of popcorn and think of Andrew’s Aunt Stella who, on the eve of a major trip, went into the front room, stretched out on the couch, and read a biography of Eudora Welty. Impeccable decision.
Stage Eight: Despair. 9:00 p.m. By now the odds and ends have risen to the surface and a very random load of laundry needs to be done consisting of one white t-shirt and two pairs of very dark jeans. Clearly they must be washed separately, so I will be up ‘til midnight doing two more one-item loads. But that’s OK because I still have two stages to work through. Also, the bizarre laundry shows me the certainty of a bizarre combination of clothes that will end up in the suitcase resulting in me standing in North Carolina dumbfounded at what I have brought with me.
Every room that I walk through reveals items that it is important not to forget – the medicine cabinet in the kitchen, the ipod and charger junk, the front hall coat closet, the laundry room. Hundreds of critical little items. A deep thought of the impracticality of travel begins to form, but I don’t have it in me to explore it right now. I only know the impossibility of knowing ahead of time what I will need and the certainty of getting it wrong. This is an important step; naming the problem usually is.
Stage Nine: Resignation. 10:00 p.m. Here I begin to grow philosophical and rationalize that, like childbirth, I have no choice. Morning will come and the car will pull out of the driveway and I will be in it. I try to go warm and fuzzy and convince myself that packing doesn’t matter, and this is about family and togetherness and blessing. About 27% of me is convinced.
Stage Ten: Clarity. 11:00 p.m. Not much is finished, but tomorrow we are going to one of the most beautiful places on earth. So who cares what is in my suitcase! Happy Thanksgiving.