Ninety-nine thousand two hundred eighty-three bottles of beer on the wall, 99,283 bottles of beer. If one of those bottles should happen to fall, 99,282 bottles of beer on the wall.
Holiday traffic blows (the car horn). Holiday traffic with two young children, well, this is how Santa Claus got the idea for giving coal. It's how elves got the idea for spiking the eggnog with some Yuletide cheer. And it's why this mama chose to spend the 13-hour car ride singing about beer on a wall in the most melodic voice possible to lull her children to sleep — or at least attempt to.
I now live a mere eight-hour drive from family. It's the first time in over a decade that I've lived within driving distance of the people I love most. Eight hours is not nothing, but it's also not terrible. An eight-hour drive that extends to a 13-hour drive is most certainly something. Something painful. The kind of something that leaves a scar and traumatizes the driver into rethinking every road trip for the rest of his or her life. Should I drive to the grocery 3 miles away? What if there's an accident and it takes four hours to get there? There must be Cheetos crushed into the couch cushions we could eat. And I've heard some cultures eat ants, ya know, if we're really starving.
I blame my children. Not just because the 1-year-old's incessant screaming necessitated stopping every 12 minutes to rock, feed and pray the cold-front gods would make her chill out. Not even because my 4-year-old, who enjoyed his first life-altering experience of relieving himself on a roadside oak, brought our attention to every other shrub and tree we passed in hopes of a repeat performance. Urination dedication at its finest — and loudest. No, I blame my kids because they were perfect on our cross-country road trip a few months ago. It made us cocky. Oh, you're packing four iPads, two televisions, a DVD player, 30 Books on Tape, 100 light-up toys and a new puppy to entertain your child on a 40-minute car ride? Adorable. My kids could rock a car trip 100 times that distance with nothing but the clothes on their backs. And no shoes. Uphill. Both ways. My kids don't whine or cry or pout while road-tripping. They say, "Thank you, ma'am, may I have another?" Surely, my kids would be fine on an eight-hour car ride — or, rather, a car ride that should have been eight hours.
Holiday traffic feels karmic — as if somehow every one of the thousands of us sitting in gridlock has something to atone for. Conveniently, the purgatory that is the highway-turned-parking-lot provides plenty of time to think about every one of your life's failures.
There was that summer I tried to dye my hair blond with copious lemon juice and wound up with a dozen bee stings. And why did I insist on taking violin when I have a weird hang-up about anything touching my chin. I still owe my parents $300 for that instrument. And why did I break up with my sixth-grade boyfriend? Rumor has it he is a millionaire bodybuilder. Sure, he rocked a rattail way after it stopped being cool, but we could have made it work. And there was the time I ate an onion before the homecoming dance. And the time I decided to go to business school because surely a writing career was out of reach. And there's that fish I bought to keep my goldfish company, only to find that my goldfish had become dinner to his new roommate. And, of course, that time I decided to drive to see family Thanksgiving weekend — perhaps my biggest life failure to date.
We arrived at 3:30 a.m. The kids had been sleeping for two hours. We picked them up, carried them into the house, carefully removed their shoes and put them into bed. We clicked off the light just in time for them both to wake up and, excited to be with their cousins, want to get up and play.
Oh, the holidays. On the plus side, we get to do this drive all over again Sunday night. Ninety-nine thousand bottles of beer on the wall...
Happy holiday 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.