Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Home for the Holidays

This is my get my life together day before I head off for Christmas (and, depending on the weather, it may turn into frantically packing day for an earlier than planned departure). I'm doing laundry and need to wash dishes, pack and get to the bank.

My Christmases tend to be pretty quiet, but then I'm not a big fan of all the hype. I don't go anywhere exotic, just my parents' house that's a couple of hours away from where I live. I drive the back roads -- the old US highway that was the main route before they built the Interstate. It takes me a bit longer because the speed limit drops within the towns that are spaced every seven miles along the road (since the road parallels the railroad, and they set up towns every seven miles to serve the steam engines back in the day -- not all of these towns still exist) and there are red lights. However, there's a lot less traffic, almost no semi trucks and no casino buses heading to Shreveport. I actually kind of like having to slow down and even stop every so often because that keeps me focused. I've been traveling the same stretch of Interstate 20 since I was a small child, and there's a sameness to it that's almost hypnotic. I started driving the back way after the time when I realized I'd zoned out and wasn't entirely sure where I was on the road. Having to slow down, change gears, stop, then change gears again as I speed up means my mind has to stay on my driving.

I really like taking the back roads at Christmas because every little town along the way dresses up for the holiday. These are old railroad towns from the late 1800s/early 1900s, and some of them almost look like a movie set for an Old West film. In most of these towns, the road I'm on is Main Street, and it's lined with old shops, restaurants, usually a bank, sometimes a movie theater (and one is even still in operation). The towns string lights in colored garlands and hang decorations from the light poles. The shops also decorate, and there's usually a town Christmas tree. It will likely be darkish and cloudy when I travel this year, which means the lights will really show up.

There's also a "cut your own" Christmas tree farm along the way, set up to look like Santa's workshop at the North Pole, with hay rides and other fun stuff. I don't know how busy it will be this late in the season, but they may still be open Christmas week.

And then there are the homes along the route that will be decorated, the trees that still have fall colors, the horses and cattle. I suppose I'm a small-town girl at heart because I feel a sense of relief when I get off the freeway onto the back road and out into the country (though that could be from leaving the city traffic behind). Once I'm at my parents' house, we pretty much stay there. We read, we eat, we watch the birds at my dad's feeders. I like to watch the horses in the pasture behind my parents' backyard. It may not be exciting, but it's the kind of holiday that's renewing instead of exhausting.

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