Traveling with a large family over the holidays can bring lots of stresses. For most of the last 23 years we have lived 300 miles from the grandparents, so that meant making the trip for either Thanksgiving or Christmas every year. Packing kids, luggage, and gifts into the car and heading into who knows what kind of weather on the East Coast that time of year was always a gamble. But one Christmas will live in the memories of our older kids forever as The Bowen Barf-a-Rama.
That year Christmas hit a mild season. No snow or ice, and not really too cold. The trip was uneventful and we were ensconced at my mother-in-law’s house. Neither set of grandparents really had enough room for us to stay with them. They both owned small row homes with only three bedrooms. So we would make beds on the floor for the kids and they were fine with that. Kids handle “camping out” better than adults. And they were only in there for sleeping, so we could do anything for a couple of days. Christmas was good, they were enjoying their presents and we were catching up on all the news in both families. We planned to drive home the day after Christmas. But Christmas night came the call that my husband’s grandmother had passed away in Colorado. That necessitated a change in plans, and we would have to stay another four days in order to attend the funeral after they brought her body back east.
Since we hadn’t planned to stay over that weekend, we hadn’t packed any church clothes. Outfitting the whole crew with new clothes for the funeral would probably be too costly, so we decided we would go the next day to a local thrift store and see what we could find for everyone to wear. But we were awakened during the night to the sounds of groans. A gastrointestinal bug had hit the Bowen clan. Fortunately it wasn’t all that vicious of a bug, no fever or chills, just sudden stomach cramps and vomiting. So it would hit you with little warning. Just about the time someone would start to say, “Oh, my stomach hurts” you knew it was coming. Towels and sheets were brought to clean up and promptly taken to the washer so there would be clean ones for the next wave. Taking care of one child is bad enough, but this hit multiples. Fortunately, it missed me, so I could tend the sick and do cleanup. But I don’t do well at that kind of cleanup. The sight or smell makes me start adding to it.
We left the sick kids at Grandma’s and made our way to the thrift store in search of clothes. We all needed a little fresh air. We found a parking space and as I opened the side door on the minivan, the bug hit another child. So that meant not only cleanup detail with whatever we could find (as a result of this experience, we now travel with a roll of paper towels under the seat for such emergencies) and someone had to stay in the car with the sick one while the other of us shopped with the kids who weren’t sick. So we traded off shopping and tending the sick in the car. The shopping felt like it took FOREVER. But ultimately we found some very nice clothes at very affordable prices and everyone was over the bug and suitably dressed for the funeral that week. Nobody remembers much about that Christmas, but the whole family remembers the Barf-a-Rama at Grandma’s.