The air was crisp, the skies a dull gray, and leaves scattered across roads in colorful waves of orange, red, and brown. Thanksgiving had always been a warm and comforting event in our lives. With a belly that indicated the soon arrival of our third child and two eager toddlers in the backseat, we set out on what should’ve been a short 20-minute drive to my parents’ home in our trusty 2005 Ford Taurus wagon.
Little did we know, this Thanksgiving was about to serve us a side of adventure we hadn’t ordered.
My husband, Will, manned the wheel, humming along to a tune on the radio. Sarah, our three-year-old, peered curiously out the window, captivated by the blustery weather outside. Tom, the younger one with a perpetually runny nose, was engrossed in a picture book, occasionally wiping his nose with the back of his sleeve.
Not more than ten minutes into our drive, there was a troubling noise beneath the hood of the Taurus. Will glanced at me, concern evident in his eyes. “It’s probably nothing,” I tried to reassure him, although the knot in my stomach suggested otherwise.
The car’s performance dwindled, and the AC faltered. We were soon greeted by an alarming squeal. “That doesn’t sound right,” Will murmured, pulling over to the side of the road.
Both of us stepped out, the wind instantly tugging at my coat. Under the hood, we quickly identified the culprit – a snapped serpentine belt. “Of all the days,” Will sighed.
I glanced back at the kids. Sarah was now wide-eyed, sensing the change in plans. Tom, completely oblivious, was still battling with his runny nose. I remembered the gelatin pretzel salad I had so carefully prepared, sitting in the back. It wouldn’t survive the wait.
Just as panic began to set in, a familiar car pulled over behind us. It was Jack, my brother-in-law. “Thought I saw this old wagon on the side,” he grinned. “Need a hand?”
Two hours, several tools, and one new serpentine belt later, we were back on the road, with Jack following close behind just in case. The children, now restless and cranky, were a symphony of whines and sniffles. Our once warm gelatin pretzel salad had turned into a sad, soggy mess.
Upon our belated arrival, the joyous family gathering had mellowed down a tad, but the warmth remained. Tired, with cranky kids in tow, we recounted our unexpected detour. Embraces were exchanged, and gentle teasing ensued. “Always an adventure with you two,” my father chuckled.
Given our exhaustion, we decided, or rather it was firmly suggested by my mother, to stay overnight. An impromptu slumber party ensued, with the kids cuddling up with their grandparents.
The aroma of fresh coffee and pancakes greeted us the next morning. We all gathered around the breakfast table, a sense of gratitude enveloping us. Later, we teamed up with the grandparents, the kids gleefully helping to decorate the Christmas tree.
By lunch, it was time to pack up our little caravan and make our way home. As the Taurus hummed smoothly along the road, I looked out at the scattering leaves and thought, “Sometimes, it’s the detours that make the journey worthwhile.”
A concluding thought: After the start of the year, we said goodbye to our Taurus wagon and upgraded to a more fitting family car, a Toyota Sienna minivan. From then on, we resolved not to rely on a vehicle that had seen 13 years of wear. We aimed to ensure our primary transportation was recent and in top-notch condition. Experience is a great teacher, and even if it took a tough Thanksgiving incident, it did lead to some enjoyable Friday moments.