“At Christmas, all roads lead home.” —Marjorie Holmes, columnist and best-selling Christian author
Knowing Christmas is just around the corner awakens the wandering spirit in me. Holiday time was synonymous with travel time for most of my early years. I’m pretty sure it was a gene on mom’s side of the family that had my siblings and me believing “Christmas” was spelled “r-o-a-d t-r-i-p.” Many Christmases until I left home, we were going somewhere or someone was coming to our house for the holidays. That somewhere was to visit mom’s family. The someone was her siblings, if we weren’t already headed to one of their homes—something that was always a road trip.
The shortest Christmas road trip was just shy of a couple hundred miles, the distance between our house in Seymour, west of Wichita Falls, to mom’s sister’s house in Kress, a wide spot in the road north of Plainview in the Texas panhandle. I use the term “wide spot” with great fondness in my heart, and in the strictest of interpretation. I have many wonderful memories of family gatherings in Kress, although it must have experienced a population explosion in recent decades. The latest reported census I found for the small farming community says it’s all the way up to 715 now.
We used to joke about missing Kress if you blinked. Before the completion of I-37 through the center of the Texas Panhandle bypassed it, US 87 went right through Kress passing Lawson’s Cafe and the Phillips 66 full service station on the way. The joke took on new meaning one night when mom must have blinked. Despite having been there many times, in the dark of night, she drove right through Kress—yep, flat missed it. Being the eldest child riding shotgun in the front seat at about age 10 or so, I asked her where she was going. In her delayed reaction style (bless mom’ s heart), she replied a minute or so later, “To Kress…where do you think we’re going?”
Breaking the news to her that the street she passed a ways back, directly across the road from the huge grain elevators, was the turn to her sister’s house evoked a typical response. She uttered one of her go-to terms of frustration that she always denied using, then turned her ’54 Chevrolet around and headed back to Aunt Amy’s house.
Another family Christmas gathering, this time in Mount Pleasant, saw her youngest sibling and only brother, Bill, making the trek from Southern California with his wife and three kids in a ’62 Chevrolet Corvair, the early 60s compact car. He accomplished this feat in typical style for someone on mom’s side of family—driving 24 hours non-stop. This was no ordinary American compact car, however. It was the turbocharged Corsa (a highly collectible car today), which is noteworthy because it set the stage for one my fondest holiday memories.
The year was 1964 and my driver’s license still had that new luster about it. The first night, as mom and dad congregated around the eggnog and fruitcake with her brother and sisters, Uncle Bill tossed me the keys to his car and told me to go have fun. Didn’t have to tell me a second time. Good friend Ronald Rust, who lived two houses down Redbud Lane, and I cruised the streets of Mount Pleasant that night in a hot-rod Corvair from California—a big deal at 16. The memory of keeping “the drag” warm between the Dairy Queen on the north end of town and the Dairy Mart on the south end that mid-60s winter night is still a top-ten Christmas memory.
Then there was the time we hit the road around midnight going to another of mom’s siblings for Christmas. In Sweetwater. Six hours away. We arrived just in time for breakfast.
But, that’s another story. You get the idea. We traveled a lot at Christmas making holiday memories with family. Time has changed that some, as time has a way of doing. Christmas at home these days sounds a little more attractive to me … until someone says, “Road trip.” Then I’m all in.
If your holiday plans call for travel to small town U.S.A, possibly heading home for Christmas to make memories with family and friends, travel safely … and make sure you don’t blink at Kress, you’ll miss your turn.