During columnist’s youth, the holidays were synonymous with travel

The shortest Christmas road trip was just shy of a couple hundred miles, the distance to Seymour

Knowing Christmas is just around the corner awakens the wandering spirit in me.

Holiday time was synonymous with travel time for most of my early years. I’m pretty sure it was a gene on mom’s side of the family that had my siblings and me believing “Christmas” was spelled “r-o-a-d t-r-i-p.”

Many Christmases until I left home, we were going somewhere or someone was coming to our house for the holidays.

That somewhere was to visit mom’s family. The someone was her sisters and her brother if we weren’t already headed to one of their homes — something that required a road trip.

The shortest Christmas road trip was just shy of a couple hundred miles, the distance between our house in Seymour, west of Wichita Falls, to my mom’s sister’s house in Kress, a wide spot in the road north of Plainview in the Texas panhandle. I use the term “wide spot” with fondness in my heart, and in the strictest of interpretation.

I have many wonderful memories of family gatherings in Kress, although it must have experienced a population explosion in recent decades. The latest reported census I found for the small farming community says it’s all the way up to 715 now.

We used to joke about missing Kress if you blinked. Before the completion of I-37 through the center of the Texas Panhandle, traveling U.S. 87 took travelers right through Kress passing Lawson’s Cafe and the Phillips 66 full service station on the way. The joke took on new meaning one night when mom must have blinked going to Kress for a holiday visit. Despite having been there many times, in the dark of night, she drove right through Kress — yep, flat missed it. Being the eldest child who was riding in the front seat at about age 10 or so, I asked her where she was going. In her delayed reaction style (bless mom’ s heart), she replied a minute or so later, “To Kress … where do you think we’re going?”

Breaking the news to her that the street she passed a ways back, directly across the road from the huge grain elevators, was the turn to her sister’s house evoked a typical response.

She uttered one of her go-to terms of frustration that she always denied using, then turned her ‘54 Chevrolet around and headed back to Aunt Amy’s house.

Another family Christmas designated to be in Mount Pleasant saw her youngest sibling and only brother, Bill, made the trek from California with his wife and three kids in a ‘62 Chevrolet Corvair, the early 60s compact car.

He accomplished this feat in the usual style for mom’s family, driving 24 hours — non-stop. This was no ordinary American compact car however. It was the turbocharged Corsa (a highly collectible model today), which set the stage for one my fondest holiday memories.

The year was 1965 and my driver’s license still had its new luster about it. The first night, as mom and dad congregated around the eggnog and fruitcake with her brother and sisters, Uncle Bill tossed me the keys to his car and told me to go have fun. No need to offer a second time.

Good friend Ronald Rust who lived two houses down Redbud Street and I cruised the streets of Mount Pleasant that night in a hot rod Corvair from California — a big deal at 16, almost 17. The memory of wearing out the drag between the Dairy Queen on the north end of town and the Dairy Mart on the south end that mid-60s summer is still a top-10 Christmas memory. Then there was the time we hit the road going to another of her sister’s house for Christmas. In Sweetwater. Five hours away. Just in time for breakfast.

But that’s another story. You get the idea. We traveled a lot at Christmas, making holiday memories with family.

Time has changed that some, as time has a way of doing. Christmas at home these days sounds a little more attractive to me ... until someone says, “Road trip.” Then I’m all in.

If your holiday plans call for travel to small towns, possibly heading home for Christmas to make memories with family and friends, travel safely … and make sure you don’t blink at Kress, you’ll miss your turn.

—Leon Aldridge can be contacted at leonaldridge@gmail.com. Other Aldridge columns appear on his blog site at leonaldridge.com

“At Christmas, all roads lead home.”

—Marjorie Holmes, columnist & best-selling Christian author

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