It runs deep.
Home is where the heart is. My heart securely lies in two places. The home I share with Brian and Alex here, and on a large overgrown lot in Belton, TX.
Christmas always brings up the happiest of memories. While I now have many new Christmas traditions with my little family, my favorite Christmas tradition is, was, and always will be driving the 12 or more hours south to Texas.
It was always the same. We would wait until the night we had our elementary Christmas program. Go home after, open our stockings which usually contained things for our long night ahead. One of my favs was the soundtrack to Footloose on cassette tape. We would load up and hit the road. We drove through the night. Nine times out of 10 I threw up the entire way down and back. Either car sick or flu sick. But, I never remember hating or dreading that trip. I remember how quiet it was. How peaceful as I leaned my forehead on the cool window watching the lights as we sailed our way to the happiest place on earth. We would hit a place in Oklahoma where they had a Christmas Village right along I-35. Christmas lights galore. Then the truck, you knew that you were really on your way when you saw the "upside down" truck. Once you got past OKC, you waited with baited breath for the Texas State Line. Just over the Red River and you could feel everything shift. Excitement, anxiety and knowing you were in the same state as Grandma and Grandpa. Fort Worth came, and you looked for the crazy overpasses and bridges that you would have to drive under as you made your way through town. It made me a little uneasy; now it terrifies me.
Further down you start hitting city, after city, after city. Grand view, Waco, and finally there it is. Temple. Home of the first Sonic I ever encountered where Grandpa would let me get the #1 and not the little kid hamburger. Home of the Scott and White Hospital, and the V.A. Hospital where grandma worked. It was home to the two-story carousel in the mall and just a few miles down the road past the Color Tile you found yourself on a curve. As you came across that curve, you could see 'the overpass' that would take you right to grandma and grampa's house. Out of the car, the first thing you notice is that it smells different than Nebraska and it wasn't as cold. You hopped out, ran up the steps into the little trailer that seemed larger than life. Two weenie dogs, and one Spunky greeting you tails wagging. The tree sat at the back of the house just through the living room, in front of the windows. The days passed with lots of laughter and play. MTV was usually on when Grandma wasn't at work. Diet Pepsi and Milk were the drinks of choice. We could do anything we wanted.
Tic-Tic and Sugar were Grandma and Grandpa.
Grandpa Bill would fill the entire house with his infectious laughter. Grandma would say and do things that always kept us laughing. They called me Nikki-Tic. My mom would always call her parents Mama and Daddy, something I never thought twice of until I grew a bit older. Up here, your parents are mom and dad. Down south, it's mama and daddy, and I love that. Mom, Aunt Claudette & Grandma would take us to the mall to ride the two story carousel.
It was the most famous attraction in Texas to Cori and I. When I got to be about six or seven, I was allowed to ride on the top all by myself. That's a pretty big moment for a little girl! We would then make our way out of the mall. I always begged Grandma or Aunt Claudette to buy me some Tinkerbell Makeup. I always won. (remember that stuff?)
Sometimes goofy Aunt Philomene was there. She was many ways like my grandma in looks but slightly goofier. She took out her teeth, made crazy faces and introduced us to the classic song "Elvira" Sometimes Aunt Claudette was there.
She gave me my very first Caboodle with makeup, and a burned CD full of classics, like "You took the words right out of my mouth" By Meatloaf. Awesome.
Christmas morning was magical in every. Single. way.
There were gifts EVERYWHERE. For some reason, Santa was always much more generous when we were in Texas. I was convinced that Texas must have their own Santa that liked us better than Nebraska Santa. Now that I think about it, how in the world did our parents get all of those toys, our stuff, and us girls back to Nebraska in one car?
One year stands out for me. I got a Nurse Barbie. I wanted to be a nurse just like grandma. And I got a Matchbox car garage. It was all just so good. I barely remember anything else we did while there or the drive home. But, I remember the smell, Grandpa's voice and laugh, the smell of the house, Grandma's goofiness and being in almost a euphoric state of happiness.
My happiest Christmas memories live there. Grandpa passed away the summer before my 15th birthday. Alex and Lucy both have some of his mannerisms. Whether it be the way Alex points, sits with his legs crossed or talks or the way Lucy stands with her hands on her back, it still brings a smile and comfort to mom, Cori, and I. When I found out Alex was a boy I wanted him to be named after Grandpa Alexander.
Grandma moved to Minnesota. If I ever had a girl, I think I would include Grandma Charlotte's name. I get to see her every year, or at least every other year. Alex loves to go and see her. I know his memories of the drive, the beautiful Minnesota lakes and Grandma's goofy laugh and grin will be something he treasures. I miss them both terribly.
Sometimes Uncle Danny and Aunt Karla would make their long drive from Lamesa, TX to join in the fun. Those days were the best of the best. This meant, my cousins would join the fun.
Now as an adult I long for those days. I long for the car trip, the laughter and most of all my grandpa. I feel like Christmas now, just isn't as special. My grandparents moved to Nebraska when I was about ten years old. The trips slowed down, then trickled off. No more excitement in seeing that "Welcome To Texas, The Lone Star State." But, grandma and grandpa were closer, and this made me happier. No long and very tearful goodbyes. And, while I didn't spend every single Christmas of my childhood in the trailer house in Belton, the years I did were the very best.
Alex gets to travel on Christmas, but it's between houses for a total of maybe 80 miles. When I think of the magic, I had of traveling through the night like we were sneaking out of Nebraska, and how much I treasure those memories, I feel like Alex is missing out. I know his Christmas memories will be magical for him in their own way, but sometimes I feel like my memories are just so wonderful, I could never top anything like that for him. I will keep trying, and one year very soon I will take him to Texas for Christmas. Driving through the night, watching the lights, and listening to Christmas music.
Every Christmas my heart is in Texas, and I think it always will be.