One of my most fondest memories over the holidays is the Christmas Eve ride we would go on as a family. Not just my siblings and mother, but my extended family as well. My late Uncle would rent a large van (it fit 15 but we challenged its capacity with more of us, no seatbelts, and small kids sat on laps if they had to) and we drove around the city and neighboring cities on the greatest adventure of our lives. At least that’s what I believed as a child. We had a large canister of hot chocolate, sang Christmas music as loudly as we could and “ooh’ed” and “ahh’ed” as we seen the amazingly decorated houses. We also “boo’ed” and the wack ones. My place on the ride was the lap of one of my older cousins. I was the oldest young child who had to lap up. I tried to calculate in my head how many of us fit inside the van and I think there were 20-21 of us. My mother reminded me that laws weren’t as strict back then. Our last ride was when I was 12 or 13, as a collective at least. Let me take you on the last trip I can remember.
Once we returned home from a Christmas Eve party hosted by my mother’s best friend (we call her our Aunt), we rushed to change for the ride. Our Uncle drove to our house to pick us up around 8 pm and we would gather those who traveled to our Grandma’s house to be picked up as a group (sometimes he would come to our house last). Then we played musical chairs to find a comfortable place to sit. We were the Home Alone family, except black. The back of the van was the party section. It was the most fun because it was where the kids were and the games started there. The front was for the adults and those who got in trouble. It was the time out section. The middle was where the older cousins and young adults would sit. It was still fun, but not too rowdy. Once situated, hot chocolate was passed out to all who wanted some and donuts, then off we went. The traditional carols and Motown Christmas blared through the speakers and our voices out shined them all (if it was a competition of who sang worse). We started in the places nearby who would always go all out with their decorations and then venture out from there. By the time 2hrs passed, it was our one and only chance for a restroom break. We’d stop at a gas station, God knows where, and those who had brought money would buy a snack. Not that I was spoiled or anything, but someone usually would buy me something. I self-proclaimed myself as everyone’s favorite. Some admittedly so. Then the van would crank again for the trip to continue.
As far as some of the games we would play, there was the infamous eye spy (that I sucked at) and my favorite, riddles! I can remember guessing a few right, though they were the easy ones. Initially, I want to say that was the highlight of the ride but it gets better and more dangerous. At the time, my mother worked 3rd shift and it began at midnight, my Uncle would drop her off before the ride ended (we hit a few more places as we traveled back home). On the way to her work, we traveled through the nature park. There were steep hills, a few cliffs, the road was windy and there were no lights except where cars could park. It was huge and if you didn’t know where you were going, you could get lost for a short while. I certainly can’t navigate it, though I never tried. So where’s the danger? My Uncle would turn off the headlights! It was a blast. We would scream and shout the entire time. If he saw headlights in the distance only then would he turn them back on. Mind you, he did know the park backwards and forwards and each of the natural and unnatural curves. I still don’t know how we lived through that. It was crazy and amazing. He was pretty great, my uncle. Anyway, we eventually dropped off my mother and after another hour, we all would go to our homes and sleep until “Santa” would arrive hours later. Sadly, the rides stopped and my mother tried to keep the tradition alive with my siblings and I (she still tries in fact). Though it’s not the same, nor will it ever be – as some of my family has passed, it is forever implanted in my memories and I’m sharing it with you.
If you read all of that let me know with a like or a comment. I hope you are having a great holiday season!