Since you haven't had the firsthand pleasure of sharing a three by seven space with six Dolins and their thirty-seven favorite bags, I thought I'd give you a taste of the experience. Let me begin by introducing The Cast of Characters who routinely show up for these jaunts.
1. Commando Man
Commando Man has not voluntarily donned an undergarment since mastering potty training around age three. No matter the length of trip, no matter the climate we expect, commando man will pack no undies. His dedicated mother will dutifully slip a few pairs into the suitcase. There they will remain until they are unpacked upon arrival home.
Call me a sexist, but there is no Commando Girl. No, if Ainsley leaves town for three days, she is sure to tuck away about seven flowered panties. No plain panties. They remain in the drawer, thank you very much.
Ainsley is, however, very much like her brothers in one respect: No matter the season or destination, she will pack shorts. Detroit in December? Shorts. Toss in a few summer dresses and summer jammies, and she's good.
3. Oscar Madison
This person will remain unidentified outside of the pseudonym. That Oscar, he's a faithful soul who dutifully packs every last item on his list and nearly every article of clothing is positively filthy. This frustrates Oscar's mother to no end as she discovers the grisly evidence long after she has patted herself on the back for finishing the last load of laundry. Time and experience have taught her there is no last load. There is no last load. There's always one more nasty sock, one more sweaty t-shirt.
4. Marian the Librarian
We have several of these and, in the interest of full disclosure, I should name myself among them. With a fifteen hour drive looming ahead, Marian begins dreaming of all the reading she hasn't been able to accomplish in the hurly burly leading up to the trip. Always the dreamer and something of an optimist, Marian will pack a veritable library of which she will actually read approximately seven pages of a single volume.
Ignoramus' mother will scratch her head unsure of whether she should praise Ignoramus for at least being obedient (a trait usually in short supply as the family is packing up) or soundly deride him for missing the whole point of the book packing thing, namely, to have something to alleviate the boredom.
5. Techno Man
Techno Man may lack both books and underwear, but he will have a laptop, a charger, earplugs, various and sundry games and movies. He can be counted on to find the GPS, locate phone chargers, in short, to handle all jobs related to keeping the family wired. Techno Man knows full well that we don't want to waste a single minute of that fifteen hour drive just thinking or talking or praying. Oh, no, no, no. This guy's motto is Be Prepared. When the going gets rough (and the going always gets rough at some point), everyone's glad to have Techno around.
6. The Galloping Gourmet
Galloping, too, lacks both books and undies, but he is sure to lay in a healthy store of provisions. And by healthy I mean generous not, well, healthy. Food is to Galloping what gadgets are to Techno Man. Cheez-its are his love language and, again, when the going gets rough, everyone's happy someone remembered chocolate milk and sunflower seeds.
7. Johnny Carson
Several family members vie for this coveted title that captures the person who keeps Mom laughing, a critical job indeed. Tim probably clinched this on our most recent trip went he climbed into the van -- still parked in our driveway -- and quipped, "This would be a great time to go into a short coma."
Indeed it would.
8. The Holy Spirit
I swear we couldn't do this without the grace of God. Or we'd do it and leave someone at a rest stop. Intentionally. Or we'd do it and require marriage counselling. God is good, all the time. Even when I-40 narrows to a single lane and there's sleet on the horizon and a pre-schooler moaning,"I need to go potty."
And it's so very, very good to be home again, home again.