Packing for holiday travel is akin, I would imagine, to packing for placement by the Witness Protection Program. When you don't know where you'll wind up, you have to prepare for everything. Will we wind up in a boondocks motel hours away from our destination? Mars? Better pack that water purifier in case we get a flat tire in the desert and have to slurp from the last puddle of stagnant liquid.
My SUV is already packed to the brim. Sure, there's the to-be-expected necessities for a full day of travel. We have movies, toys, snacks. But it gets more absurd than that. It's not just movies; it's the type of movies. Yes, there are the favorites, but mustn't we also prepare for the sudden toddler tantrum that could turn those miles into hours of questioning our life's choices? What if she suddenly decides she doesn't want to watch anything other than "Peppa Pig" episodes? What if she suddenly decides Peppa is demon spawn and terrifies her? What if all she wants are Christmas movies? What if she decides she's agnostic and Christmas has become too capitalistic and yearns for the artistic purity of "Citizen Kane"? I can't listen to her screaming for Rosebud for 13 straight hours. I just can't. So we take all the movies, from "Pulp Fiction" to "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," because who knows.
I know it's ludicrous. Obviously, my toddler and kindergartner will not be watching "Pulp Fiction," but somehow it's comforting just knowing that it's there, that a solution is in the SUV. We're gonna make it!
The snacks are no different. Yes, Goldfish and juice boxes abound. But we can't rely on those. What if my son decides he is a vegetarian and the resemblance of Goldfish crackers to animals makes his stomach churn? Perhaps my daughter will become an orthodox fruitarian somewhere around Virginia and question whether Apple & Eve juice boxes only use apples that fell off the tree naturally rather than be plucked before their time.
Road travel does something weird to kids. Not that you can blame them; I don't think I'd be too sane being held in a five-point harness for endless hours, either. Perhaps it's a type of illness that affects their minds from lack of motion and decreased blood flow. On New Year's Eve a couple of years ago, I had a fever of 103 and kept hallucinating a vampire lying next to me in bed. It seemed perfectly natural that the vampire would be there. I presume the car tantrums feel similar for my kids. Why wouldn't I have thought to bring along the monsters from under their beds for a game of "I spy" while we inch down the highway? Duh, Mom!
The car is filled with pool noodles and blowup rafts. Sure, we're going to snow-covered Washington, D.C., and no, my parents don't have a pool, nor do they belong to a pool. But hey, you never know. There was that one Thanksgiving when my cousin stayed at a nearby hotel with an indoor pool, and man, was it a disaster that my kids didn't have the same floating unicorn that their cousins did.
In general, my kids are pretty remarkable little beings. They are thoughtful and grateful and just very willingly gave away half their toys to a charity. But there is something about travel that brings out the beast in all of us. Driving under a full moon or not, we all become like werewolves.
Most of the crazy comes from me. Packed in the back of my car is a Pack 'n Play for my toddler — despite the fact that she sleeps in a big-girl bed now. But who knows what travel will bring? Maybe she will become a sleepwalker and take herself on a sleepy stroll down the block as I used to as a kid. Better keep her locked up in breathable netting!
Something frenetic takes hold of me, causing me to want to make the trip as joyous as possible by planning for every possible disaster — an impossible feat.
I think back to when I used to be an adventure tour guide in the Outback, long before kids or marriage. I used to pack my water bottle, my sleeping bag, an extra pair of contacts, a flint and a big knife. I figured that was all I needed to survive whatever would come my way.
Now I have pool noodles in November. Safe travels, everyone.
Katiedid Langrock is author of the book "Stop Farting in the Pyramids," available at http://www.creators.com/books/stop-farting-in-the-pyramids. Like Katiedid Langrock on Facebook, at http://www.facebook.com/katiedidhumor. To find out more about her and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.