Anderson Chronicles: Step Aside Griswolds

By Gena Anderson

As we anticipate a new year, I can’t help but look back. My family completed what I realize is our seventh year of Christmas vacation. To others it might seem cliche: a suburban family going on their annual ski trip. To us, it’s memories in the making and legends of a lifetime. For whatever reason, we tend to run into travel woes on these trips, and I thought it would be fun to recount them. The following is the account of our adventures.

We started going on a Christmas ski vacation in 2014. That first trip was healing to our little family after a rough season. Riding on The Polar Express to “The North Pole” and waking up to a white Christmas felt truly magical and I’ll always cherish those memories. I should’ve known it was about to get interesting when we hit a deer, giving my husband and I palpitations but leaving our suburban and the deer seemingly uninjured. This was also the time my eight-year-old failed to get off the lift with her Dad. I watched my baby go around the circle all by herself, so high in the air, and head back to the unloading area. The lift operator rescued her unscathed but I’m sure my life was shortened.

2015 brought a record-breaking blizzard to New Mexico, and one of the most interesting drives. Anticipating the storm, we changed our plans and drove further to Santa Rosa, just off I-40, thinking interstate access was necessary. We were wrong, as the interstate shut down the next morning and we couldn’t leave Santa Rosa. We managed a slippery trip to the local grocery store, but could venture no further. Preparing to hunker down another night, we were informed at 11:30 a.m. that we had to leave by noon due to prior reservations. We reasoned those people surely weren’t going to travel on the closed highway but the clerk was insistent, we had to go. My husband and his aunt and uncle traveling with us packed up while I called to get another room somewhere in town. Nothing was available. As I buckled my son in his car seat and wondered where we were going, the phone rang. It was the same clerk, now telling us we could stay. Can you say fire drill? The next morning my determined husband loaded us up to get out of that town and we ventured north, never to stop in Santa Rosa again.

In 2016 we made our reservation for the mid-drive overnight stay a little further, in Albuquerque. We awoke on Christmas Eve and found a busted window over my son’s seat in our suburban and several stolen bags. My husband cleaned the huge mess and put a trash bag in the window so he could drop the kids and I off at Target to buy clothes to replace those that were stolen, while he went to the glass shop that was thankfully open. I’ll never forget driving, trash bag blowing in the wind, and my kids laughing and yelling “it’s gonna pop!” Though we lost some valuables, we were reminded of the value of life, family, and laughter. 

2017 was uneventful on the way up and amazing times at the mountain for the first few days until Jocelyn came down with a stomach bug. She was sick the whole way home and for the following week. After two trips to the pediatrician she was finally diagnosed with strep, which put an end to that miserable week.

2018 started with a lovely visit to family in North Texas, who we don’t get to see often enough. On the road between there and Durango our suburban died, in Idalou, TX. We found a tow truck driver to tow and hopefully fix our car. The rest of the story played out like a movie. As the mechanic checked our car his wife pulled up in a Lincoln sedan wearing a fur coat and big Texas hair. She kindly offered to take my children and I to the shop, and though I accepted I also said a little prayer asking God to not let this be a serial killer couple plotting to separate us in a murderous scheme. As it turns out, it wasn’t and this woman let us into her home and gave us a tour of the interesting commercial building turned homestead. Once informed the suburban motor was not repairable, we called the airport in nearby Lubbock to arrange a rental SUV. The mechanic’s wife kindly loaded us back in her sedan to take us to the airport, and took a wrong turn enroute. As we headed down a dirt road clearly not leading to an airport, I began to wonder if this was the part where we all got the axe. She seemed genuinely lost and my husband started offering directions from his phone navigation, leading to several more turns down backroads. Airport now in sight but seemingly unreachable, the roads turned muddy. I commented that she could turn around, fearing at best her sedan would get filthy, and at worst we would get stuck in the backroads of a rural airport. In true southern lady form, she threw caution to the wind and put the hammer down, splashing and bouncing her way to pavement and delivering us to the airport. She got a hug and twenty bucks, we got a luxury SUV for the week, and our vacation resumed.

Only having one flat tire and getting to put the snow chains on mid-climb up the mountain, 2019 was pretty tame. And 2020’s travels were also merciful, though I did get transported via ski patrol toboggan down the ski mountain after a sudden onset of altitude sickness.

As I chronicle all these travel memories, one thing is clear: like the beloved Clark Griswold, we are determined to have our family fun, come hell or high snow drifts. The reason this vacation is so important goes back to the first year we took it. This week in winter wonderland is our time together. Over the years it has included family board games, snow angels, snowboard and ski crashes and triumphs, watching our kids overcome fears and tackle the harder runs, and laughs, lots of laughs. The journey, though hard at times, is more than worth the road trip woes. Actually, the road trips make some of the best memories of all, as we all learn to roll with the punches and carry on. 

Moving into 2021, these memories are my cue to remember how far we’ve come, and how remarkable the journey has been. Sometimes it’s necessary to set aside the bad times, make room for better, and keep pursuing what’s best.

In this new year, ask yourself:

What do you need to remember, and what do you need to set aside?

Where have you been? And where is God leading you now?

Your answers may differ from mine, just as your journey has. Like us, God didn’t bring you this far to abandon you on the side of the road. Good times will be had, along with some hard ones. What happens in this life isn’t always up to us, but our response is. 

I’m hoping to live, love, laugh, and be well every chance I get, and wishing the same for you. Happy New Year!

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