Star Wars, Hobbits and Holiday Road Trips


     Our family has settled into what seems to be a new holiday tradition.

     Actually, it’s sort of a hybrid-holiday tradition. And, it’s not really new – we’ve been doing it for the past several years. It just occurs to me that it’s becoming an annual thing – like paying income taxes, only more pleasurable.

     We call it Thanksmas.

     That’s not a terribly original name, but smashing Thanksgiving and Christmas together seems to work pretty well for us.

     We celebrate our hybrid-holiday with my wife’s side of the family, and it makes sense. We don’t live near each other, so getting everybody together can be tough. Celebrating both holidays at once is our solution.

     For us, the holiday goes something like this: having already made arrangements for the care and feeding of our energetic dog, Rodney and our fat, ornery cat, Skitty, we get up early on Thanksgiving morning, load up the car with bags packed for an overnight trip and top them off with Thanksmas gifts. Then we hustle the kids into the car and hit the road for the five-hour drive to my brother-in-law’s house in northern Pennsylvania.

     Not long after we arrive, we sit down to a very nice Thanksmas meal prepared by my sister-in-law. In the evening, we exchange gifts, and one-by-one slip off to bed while the kids stay up watching movies.

     The next morning is spent re-packing the car for the five-hour trip back home.

     It’s a long way to go just for one night, but the promise of a good meal cooked by someone else makes the road-trip worth it. Plus, all that driving has spawned a tradition-within-a-tradition.

     I take on the responsibility for choosing the in-car entertainment, and on the past couple of trips, we’ve thrilled to the sound of dueling light sabers. Since my car is not equipped with video screens, I’m not talking about the “Star Wars” movies but about the audio dramas.

     They are based on the original three films and were produced for public radio back in the day.

     This year, though, I was in a bit of a quandary. We’ve finished the “Star Wars” dramas, so I was at a loss and casting about for something to keep the kids (me?) occupied.

     Then I saw an ad for “The Hobbit” movie.

     Peter Jackson’s latest film based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic book is due out in the U.S. in a couple of weeks. Since our kids have yet to read the printed version, I thought downloading the audiobook would be the quickest way to introduce them to Middle Earth before the theater lights dim.

     It didn’t turn out that way.

     When I hooked my iPhone to my car’s stereo system and hit play, I looked around and noticed my wife adjusting her ear buds and fiddling with her iPod. And then I looked in the rear view mirror. Our teenaged son and his younger sister were doing the same thing.

     I was crestfallen. And matters were made worse when I realized they had the same dismissive reaction to “Star Wars.”

     I don’t know why I’m just now figuring this out. Perhaps my zeal for the nerdy adventure stories of my youth blinded me. In any case, the Force isn’t with me this holiday season and apparently hasn’t been for a few years.

     One of the more familiar quotes from the “The Hobbit” concerns the hair that sprouts from big hobbit feet. It’s a toast that goes like this: “May the hair on your toes never fall out.”

     I fear mine will if our kids’ Thanksmas memories focus on how much their Dad bored them.

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