(Not) Home for the holidays

Posted by on Dec 2nd, 2010 and filed under Viewpoints. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

I’ve written before about our two younger sons who left at the end of summer for different colleges – one to the south of here in San Diego and the other far to the north in Missoula, Montana. The difference in their respective choice of colleges and environments mirrors perfectly the distinction in the two boys’ personalities, preferences and lifestyles. The consequences of those choices, however, have never been so pronounced as they were this past holiday weekend  with one son being able to return home for Thanksgiving and the other not.

It’s a relatively short and inexpensive trip from San Diego to the Crescenta Valley. A round trip ticket on Amtrak (SD to Glendale) can be purchased for less than the cost of gas to drive only one way.

Getting home to the 818 from Montana is a different, much more costly animal. The drive from Missoula is something like 20 hours in good weather – longer if you succumb to the need for food or sleep or gas. Double that amount of time for the return trip back to school and you can say goodbye to most of the holiday weekend.

“Welcome home, son, good to see you. Here’s some turkey and yams. Drive safely on the way back!”

Clearly, driving home was not an option for our son. Since there are no passenger trains that go anywhere near Missoula, Montana, that left air travel as the only possibility. There is a small airport in Missoula, although only a few carriers fly there. During non-holiday travel periods, round trip airfare from Los Angeles can be had for under $300. Not too bad. Unfortunately, the cheapest flight I could find to get our son home anytime during Thanksgiving week would have cost nearly $900 – triple the non-holiday rate. (Today’s word is “gouging,” boys and girls.)

Even so, I felt like the biggest turkey of all for not coughing up the sky-high airfare. But the economy around our house, at least, is still painfully tight and I have to live by some semblance of a budget. I’m not a California legislator, after all.

So, our far-flung son was not able to come home for Thanksgiving. In hindsight, I admit that the premium-price airfare seemed like a bargain many times over during the holiday as I thought about the empty seat at the dinner table, and the empty place in our family over the long holiday weekend. Sigh.

The good Lord works in wondrous ways, however, and our U of M student snagged a last-minute invitation to spend Thanksgiving weekend at a beautiful, 90 acre snow-covered ranch in Northern Montana with a couple of his classmates. From the daily calls home with running accounts of his many backwoods adventures and of heartfelt Montana-hospitality, I needn’t have heaped nearly as much guilt on my head, nor worried nearly as much about his first holiday weekend away from home. He had a blast.

I’m likely more sensitive than usual this year, but I noticed more families around town whose own students had come home for Thanksgiving. Between services at church last Sunday, squeals of excitement could be heard across the campus as former high-school-BFF’s-turned-college-freshmen reunited to breathlessly share the pertinent life events that had taken place since last summer.

I saw these wonderful impromptu reunions in places like the supermarket and post office. Even our son (the one from San Diego) was surprised by a former CV classmate last week while we waited for a table at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Montrose. She was home in the Crescenta Valley, having flown in from New York, and full of news to tell.

It’s exciting to see how far and wide many of the kids of our community have traveled in search of their education and future. It’s even more gratifying that they still seem to appreciate coming home – at least for a few days – although I’m sure the home-cooked meals have something to do with it.

I’ll see you ‘round town.

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