BACKTRACKING

 

Don't Marry a Hometown Girl

 

by Terry Hogan

 

My advise to any young man who might, by mistake, be reading this article, is simple.  Do not marry anyone from your hometown.  It is a mistake that may haunt you for decades.  Let me explain.  In fact, I have to explain. My wife edits the drafts and she is a hometown girl.

 

First, there is nothing wrong with hometown girls, per se.  They are attractive, bright, and share a common culture. Also, Galesburg has more than its fair share of natural blondes with blue eyes - the Swede genes live on.  So understand I am only being critical of the geography and logistics, not the hometown girls. 

 

Second, my point is that you may move away from Galesburg. Perhaps you leave to find a job.  As years pass, you may find yourself to be a parent.  (This falls under the category of "It seemed like a good idea at the time").  An unintended effect (one of many) of becoming a parent is that your own parents now want you to come for the holidays.  There are several possibilities to explain this.  Did you win the lottery?  Did you become successful and well-known?  Did you make your parents grandparents?

 

Alas, if you failed the first two questions, make your own conclusion. Grandparents and grandchildren are magnets with different poles.  They just naturally attract.  They differ in that magnets exert less attraction with increasing distance.  Grandparents and grandchildren exhibit the opposite phenomenon.  It is my current hypothesis that grandparent-grandchild attraction increases at the rate of the square of the distance that separates them.

 

Now this observation may seem to be irrelevant to marrying a hometown girl. It isn't.  It is the key to the struggle.  If you marry a girl from a different town, or better yet, a different state, you can tell each set of grandparents that you are committed to going to the other set for the particular holiday. Of course, it is a lie.  Of course you will rot in eternal hell, chest high in dirty diapers and digitally reproduced crying and fighting. But this is a small price to pay.

 

If both sets of grandparents live near one another, as often happens when you marry a hometown girl, that story won't work.  You gotta pack up the kids, farm out the pets, have someone pickup the mail and keep an eye on the house.  You gotta pack up the 2,000 pounds of child support gear. For the most critical Christmas holidays, you gotta load up all the gifts, including the "some assembly required" Holly Hobby cardboard house that stands 6 feet tall, once (if) it is put together.  Of course, Santa knows all. Because he knows you won't be at home, sleeping peacefully in your own bed, he sends you the kids gifts early so you can add them to the load to haul back to the grandparents, and then back home again.  (Is it time for the first Ho, Ho, Ho" yet?)

 

Assuming the car starts in the sub-zero weather; assuming the slick roads don't drop you in the ditch, or worse, you arrive "back home."  Note that I glossed over the first real decision - which set of grandparents to stay at.  (Did I mention that my wife reads and edits my drafts?).  You arrive at Grandparents' "A" house.  The unloading begins.  It never ends. But then it does.  Then you discover you forgot (Choose one or more) diapers, pacifiers, children aspirins, and/or baby powder. Off to the nearest store to add to the pile of stuff you will have to haul back home. You are in a bad mood, not realizing that this will be the last quiet moment you will have for days. After three delays for trains, you get to the store - "closed for the holiday".  Now it is clearly time for "Ho, Ho, Ho".  Several stores later, and six more train delays, you find a Scrooge that is still open for business. Blessed be the Scrooge.

 

You return to Grandparents' A house (three more train delays).  The kids are wound tight - long drive, missed naps, Grandparents, and too much sugar have sent them into a whole new orbit of higher energy. Parents fret.  This is not the behavior they had hoped for.  Grandparents are amused, as long as the critical household items survive.

 

You furtively remove the calendar of events as negotiated.  You are still on Day 1. Dinner and bed at Grandparents As.  Day 2- breakfast at Grandparents As; followed by repacking of critical items for the day trip to Grandparents Bs house for lunch and dinner before repacking and returning and unloading at Grandparents As house for bed.  By end of Day 2, the kids are not only cranky, but are beginning to show signs of ear infections, fever, and perhaps demonic possession.  Neither set of grandparents feel that naps should occur "on their time" with the grandkids.  The grandkids agree.  Grandparents and grandkids have a common enemy.

 

Into Day 3, you start working the family tree to find a doctor who will, on short notice, over the holidays, take cranky, sick, out-of-state kids appointments.  Miracles can occur at Christmas time. Blessed be the understanding (or blackmailed) doctor who agrees and provides remedies in the form of shots and pills.  He treats the kids too.

 

The holiday comes to its end.  The car is reloaded with about 150% more than what it had when it started.  Grandparents use two criteria for buying gifts for the distant grandchildren.  First, all gifts must make ungodly loud noises.  Second, they can be no smaller than a VW bug.  Grandfathers particularly seem to enjoy watching sons/son-in-laws trying to fit it all into the car.  The son prevails; the car is fully loaded with essentials, gifts, and the debris of the holiday.  Except, there is no room for the children.  Fate has spoken.  We'll get the kids on the next trip.  Nope. No deal.  Neither Mom nor the grandparents buy into the scenario. Go figure. Seemed like a perfectly sound solution to me.

 

Next - a little squeezing; a little disassembly; and a little left behind. The return trip home has begun.  Grandparents are sad to see the grandkids leave.  Grandkids are sad to leave the grandparents - sources of all sweet things in unlimited amounts.

 

With a little luck, the kids drop off to sleep. The rock of the car; the bump of the shocks "bottoming out," and the drug-induced drowsiness prevail.  The kids are "out" for hours.  Silence is golden.  Memories have been made.  Children begin to understand that family extends beyond the home. 

 

Grandparents sit in the warmth of quietness returned.  They recollect grandchildren's comments and actions. It gives them a touch of immortality.  Life goes on.  Youth is still strong in the young. They are amused with the parenting efforts -what goes around, comes around. 

 

Parents drive home - brain dead and sleep-deprived. By the time the photos are developed, the good memories prevail.   Another Christmas has come.  Another Christmas has gone.

 

Don't marry a hometown girl. Well, maybe.

 

11/28/05