Technology, boss, allow for joyous Christmas at home
Last month, I circled the globe like Santa Claus. In 27 days, I drove 2,960 miles through nine states visiting family for Christmas. It was a gift of our modern age, when technology can link us thousands of miles away.
The idea began quietly with an email invitation to my cousin’s 50th wedding anniversary party in suburban Indianapolis Dec. 10, a Friday. On Dec. 11, my niece’s husband Andre would star as Scrooge in “A Christmas Carol” at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. And on Dec. 12, my twin sister Martha and I could celebrate our birthday together one day early. She is Andre’s mother-in-law, and she’d be in Muncie, too.
The idea tugged at me. I said no, then yes. Then no, then yes. But life is short, and good times are too sweet to miss, so I shoved worries of snow aside and decided to make the 1,600 round-trip long-weekend drive to Muncie.
The only caveat: just 10 days later, on Dec. 23, I would turn around and head east again, flying home to Cleveland for Christmas. I would then rent a car and drive 325 miles to my daughter’s home in Aldie, Virginia. I’d fly back to Kearney on Jan. 2.
Sounds perfect, right? But wait. My daughter Sara had a suggestion: “Why don’t you drive on to Cleveland from Muncie and work remotely there instead of driving back to Kearney and flying back east to Cleveland?”
A light bulb went off. I raised a genius.
Timidly, I asked my boss for permission. He said yes. “As long as you turn your stories in, I don’t care if you write from Saturn,” he said. On Dec. 9, I packed my sleigh and set out like Santa for Christmas.
I won’t bore you with my minute-by-minute doings over the next 27 days, but it was a joy. I discovered a charming little toy store in Muncie. I loved seeing brilliant Andre as the cranky, sneering Scrooge.
As we did as children decades ago, my twin and I blew out the candles on our shared birthday cake.
I had dinner with my cousin Julie and her friend Doug at the 219-year-old Golden Lamb Inn in Lebanon, Ohio. That inn opened in 1803 and has hosted 12 presidents, along with Charles Dickens, Mark Twain and Annie Oakley, among others.
Next, I drove 300 miles to my twin sister’s house on the shores of Lake Erie in Ashtabula, Ohio, and worked remotely for the next 10 days. In the evenings, we wrapped gifts and hauled in her fresh Christmas tree.
On Dec. 23, I drove 65 miles west to my brother Bob’s house in Shaker Heights, a Cleveland suburb, for Christmas. My son Matt flew in from Los Angeles. On Christmas Eve, we went to church, then sipped eggnog around the tree until we heard Rudolph prancing on the roof.
On ensuing days, we took the dog to the park and smirked through Hallmark movies. I lunched with friends. On Dec. 27, the family reunited — my sister, nieces, their kids and more — to celebrate Bob’s 70th birthday. My only disappointment was missing a Cleveland Orchestra Christmas concert. It was canceled because an orchestra member tested positive for COVID.
On Dec. 28, Matt and I got back in my car and drove to Sara’s home in Aldie. More gifts, more food. We did a jigsaw puzzle and browsed through antique shops in Lucketts, Virginia. We explored historic Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. I met a man there whose uncle had lived in Ogallala.
Finally, on Jan. 2, I began the two-day, 1,374-mile drive back to Kearney. A wet sock of fog devoured the western Maryland mountain tops, but when the fog dissipated, the land flattened as if it had been pressed by an iron. On I drove, listening to the Cincinnati Bengals edge the Kansas City Chiefs. It was a grand adventure. Best of all, I dodged the snow.
Santa’s best gift this Christmas wasn’t wrapped. It was my longest visit home since I moved to Nebraska in 2012, and the computer wizards that let me work far away and savor the people I love.
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