Yesterday, while the sky was still black, I sat having breakfast, cereal and coffee. Arden ran past, his arms up in his new runner's form, toothbrush and paste in hand. He put them in a gallon ziploc bag, announced we could all share with him, and was visibly upset that we wouldn't. While pink stained the eastern horizon, we set off on I-40. The Ozark mountains stood purple with a veil of fog. Arden rode with his toothbrush on his lap for two hours.
In Tulsa our interchange was closed, for the second year in a row. There are no detour signs for erstwhile interstate travelers, we wound our way through the back roads. If your house burns, make do by putting the trailer in the front yard. Need a cheap house? New, used and repo available. If I had traveled the Trail of Tears I also would have sat beside the Arkansas River, which yesterday was only pools of water in a mighty sand river bed, and wept. We passed miles of brown hills, dead cows and wildcats, and casinos in gas stations.
At I-35 we made our way north to Kansas. Salina advertises for the "Second friendliest yarn shop in the universe." Across the wide open expanses of the prairie, you can spot the spires of a church and the grain towers in every town. The fields of windmills were still that sunny afternoon. Without ever noticing a hill, you find you've climbed 3000 feet and cross into Colorado.
The past couple years I like to dream of taking the billboard's offer for free land and living a radically different life. I tell Bryan we could buy a yurt (and sadly, priced them on the internet) and live on the plains. Bryan is always quick to point out that he'd have no job. We suspect the land might come without any water rights. In the semi-arid west the water in the ditch isn't just free for the taking, and it would be problematic. We're well established city folk, and couldn't live that life, but a few hours of daydreaming help pass the time.
In the dark we bump down the driveway into a little valley in the foothills of the Rockies. If there had been snow we'd have needed the four wheel drive taxi service. Our cell phones won't work here. We see Grandpa's silhouette in the doorway as we cross the dry river bed. Then the kids woke this morning to a cold sunshine and blue sky and went hunting for grasses, yucca and pine cones for the Christmas tree.
This is Christmas. Hours of interstate and fast food. Bad Starbucks purchased beside fake palm trees in Kansas. Laughter and yelling in the van. Coming home and the love of family. Yesterday I wished I was a photographer and could take photos, "This Is America." You see the ugly, old and worn, but with patience and eyes to see there's beauty just down the road. Just like Christmas.