So, the thing is... we're taking the family on the road. 

Actually, we're going on the road via an airplane and then REALLY on the road, some two and half hours further to our destination.  We're going to my husband's grandmother's 90th birthday party.  It's the first time we've taken a trip with the two girls, other than a weekend trip from Austin to Dallas to see my parents.  Trips to see my parents are always really easy since my mom gets so excited that she shops in advance for our trip and then has the washing machine standing by for the non-stop laundry we do all day.  We have a crib there and a high chair.  We can bring the dog --assuming we can find room in the car. 

This trip is requiring a wholly different level of preparation.  We're going to a small town in Alabama.  A REALLY small town.  For one thing, there's not so much as a hotel we can depend on so we're staying in the unoccupied garage apartment of a friend of the family's.  No room service.  No swimming pool.  No honor bar. 

So, I'm making a list of all the stuff I need to take.  Car seats, pack-n-play, everyone's blankies.  Bottles, rice cereal, baby food, spoons, sippy cups, Cheerios, formula, bibs, pacifiers, diapers, wipes, baby monitors (we now travel with two), umbrella stroller, front carrier, Easter basket stuff, trip games, books. 

We are now officially veterans of traveling with small children because the two years of Ana's life, when she still could fly for free, we went EVERYWHERE.  We even took her to Hawaii!  (That is a long time on an airplane with a toddler, but she is really a good sport.)  We took her to see as many great grandparents as she had, we took her for weeks on the beach, we took her to out of town weddings.  We took her across the country to an Alabama beach and guess what? Grandma, who was then 88, made a huge effort to come see us there.  I won't ever forget it, because there she was, waiting up for us when we drove up some time after midnight.  "I wanted to see the pretty baby," she said.  I know, in her eighty-eight years, she'd probably see a lot of pretty babies.  But she was so excited to see MINE that I fell madly in love with her. 

Cell phones, pants, shoes, pajamas, sheets, towels, Big Girl Pants, the little bell that plays the Brahms lullaby that Ana goes to sleep by, insurance cards. Camera.  Video camera. Imitrex, synthroid, antihistamines, vitamins.  

When I was growing up, there was no higher praise than to say that someone was a "good traveler."  My mom is German and we spent most summers in her hometown with her parents, so we were fairly accustomed to the transatlantic flight.  My mom is truly a stellar traveler.  I mean, she was one by profession (practically) as a military wife --but she's also great at ferreting out the places that will be the Next Big Thing before they are spoiled and commercialized.  I don't know how she does it, but then I don't know how she managed to move our whole family to the States when I was merely six weeks old --that's four little kids, an entire household and no disposable diapers and a husband with a hernia.  Mind boggling.  (She says she walked three steps behind him, carrying as many children as she could, shepherding the luggage and wearing a cowed expression, just to embarrass him. The women in my family are like that --heh heh.) 

Baby shampoo, washcloths, bath toys, toothbrushes, lotion, baby towel, plastic bags for disposing of dirty diapers and any soiled clothing from our Potty Training Efforts, changing mat, snacks, pajamas, clothes (including Easter dresses), plastic tablecloth to put under high chair to protect floor, baby soap and shampoo, nightlight, sewing kit, electric outlet covers, stain stick, first aid kit, insect repellant, sunscreen, phone number of pediatrician, baby acetaminophen, adult acetaminophen, cabinet locks or bungee cords. 

So far, my favorite part of the trip was when my husband suggested we go. I fought the urge to fall on the floor and strike myself repeatedly.  He looked at me seriously for a minute.  "But," he said.  "I donít want to go if itís not FUN.  It has to be fun." 

I stared at him.  Fun was not the first thing that came to mind.  Nor the second thing.  Fun was about 600th on my list, right after bungee cords.  But then I realized that he was right (gosh, I hate that!)  We needed to make up our minds to treat this as an adventure --like Ana will see it.  (Jane, naturally, will be perfectly happy as long as no one makes her lie down for any length of time.  She just wants to sit up, that one.) 

So anyway, it's an enormous amount of stuff to bring with us and it's a lot of trouble.  But then again, this chance might not come again. And somehow, seeing the four generations together will more than make up for the fact that after we're done packing the essentials for the kids, we should have room for exactly one toothbrush between us.  

It'll be worth it just to look at Grandma's face when she's there, surrounded by her children and her children's children and her children's childrenís children, all of us singing Happy Birthday to her and recognizing what a tremendous life she's lived and how full of love it's been.  Ninety years --wow.  It's going to be a great time.   

And plus, you know, it's a Karma thing.  

And we'll need a big Karma to haul all this stuff around.


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(c) Barbara Cooper 2001 

Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (3) and Jane (six months).  She lives in Austin, Texas and her diaper bag has more things in it than she can actually list.