We are home again after being gone for almost a month. Traveling with seven children is an adventure all by itself.
We left home at 5:00 a.m. on December 17. The kids did pretty well. For the most part, they didn’t require too many extra potty stops. They didn’t get car sick, although we were prepared for that with buckets, plastic bags, paper towels, and Dramamine. (Once, back in the days when we only had five kids, four of them got car sick within five minutes of one another. We learned our lesson about being prepared that time.) We brought our significant collection of Focus on the Family Radio Theatre recordings, so we had plenty of audio entertainment. Jon scheduled stops every four hours or so, and we got nice little breaks from the car. Gilead was very impatient with the car seat by the time we got to our hotel the first night, but all seemed to have gone well.
Just as we pulled into the parking lot, Jon noticed we had no oil pressure. My heart sank. I envisioned being stuck in this hotel for several days while our engine was rebuilt. It wasn’t the stuck part that was worrying me. It was the money part. But amazingly, the oil pressure had dropped at the very minute we pulled up to the hotel, so no damage had been done. Although Jon wasn’t sure why or how we were losing oil, he managed that problem by checking the oil at every stop . We arrived in Greenville late the next evening after taking a lengthy detour to avoid a winter storm.
Our stay there was good – the first time we’ve been back for Christmas with our families since 1996. The kids think it would have been better if I’d left their school books at home.
I knew the trip home would seem long. We left Greenville at 6 a.m. this past Friday. We’d gotten all the suitcases closed somehow, Jon squeezed all the extra stuff in, and we were off right on schedule. Late in the morning, we were zipping through Knoxville, Tennessee at 70 miles per hour, when we suddenly noticed a very harsh and unsettling vibration from the back of the Suburban. Jon immediately maneuvered across four lanes of traffic and into the emergency lane. He stopped briefly, then began to inch forward. We rolled less than ten feet, when the back, passenger-side corner dropped to the ground. In the side mirror, I could see the back wheel had flopped onto the grass. The thought of the accident we had barely avoided just about choked me. We immediately thanked the Lord for safety. I can’t imagine that we could have survived if that wheel had come off while we were on the interstate. I still have visions of what could have happened.
A Chevy dealership was right beside the interstate, so that’s where the Suburban was towed. Even though we could see the dealership from where we were, it still took more than an hour to get there. Of course, we had to wait for the tow truck. But then, no one seemed to know how to get our (large) family from the side of the road to the dealership to wait for the repairs to be done. The dealership offered courtesy transportation, but only had one too-small car available. Jon had to accompany the Suburban, so that left only one adult with seven kids, and we had to be divided up somehow in order to fit into the car the dealership sent for us. I wasn’t eager to send the kids anywhere without one of us, and I definitely wasn’t going to leave four of them waiting beside the road for someone to come back for them, in spite of the fact they were having a great time getting semis to honk at them. They would all cheer, clap, and jump up and down whenever a truck driver blasted his horn. I hope they entertained some bored truck drivers.
A kind lady named Mary came to our rescue. She stopped because she thought she recognized our family. Of course, we weren’t who she thought we were, but she still offered to give half of us a ride, and the other half rode in the dealership’s car. So we all got to where we needed to be together.
Our family always attracts attention. You would almost think our last name was Duggar. Now all we need is a camera crew following us around (and thirteen more children, I suppose). Anyway, one of the dealership employees walked into the waiting room, stopped, stared, counted, then started laughing – almost cheering. He asked, “These all yours?” Then he ran into the customer service area and shouted to the desk lady to “Come out here!” I think everyone in the waiting room was laughing by now. He said to the customer service lady, “I told you there were other big families. Now here’s one that has more kids than I do!” Turns out, he has six children. When he met Jon, he pumped his arm, and said “You da man! You da man!!”
We sat there for more than four hours, but eventually the wheel was repaired. Six of its eight lug nuts had mysteriously broken, but no other damaged was done. Finding the right lug nuts was evidently the hard part, but finally the job was done, all the wheels were checked for safety, and we were on our way again. Now, I was not only gasping when another vehicle came too close for my comfort, and using my “assistant break pedal” when Jon was too close to someone else (I still haven’t gotten over the other four wrecks), I was also jumping every time I felt a little vibration. All that adrenaline has got to be good for something. Maybe it helped burn off some of those Christmas calories.
We made it to Paducah, Kentucky that night, and after a solid night’s sleep, we traveled twenty hours yesterday – all the way home. We arrived, bleary eyed and dizzy, at 3:00 this morning. We fell into bed, thanking the Lord again for safety, and slept until 10:00 this morning. And slept again this afternoon. Now I’m ready to go to bed again, so good night, all.