Home for the Holiday

When we cancelled our annual Thanksgiving trip to visit Jon’s family in Illinois, we promised his mom that if we all were vaccinated, we would visit instead on Mother’s Day weekend. We kept our promise. We started our trip to the St. Louis area on Thursday morning, arriving at Joplin, Missouri, our overnight destination, after a harrowing drive across Oklahoma. If there was ever a state in our union that could serve as the poster child for needed infrastructure improvement, it would be Oklahoma. We vowed we would never again take that route.

At the Joplin KOA, we enjoyed our typical Date Night dinner of grilled steak and veggies, but having forgotten the baked potato in the microwave at home (Chef Cliff always pre-cooks the spud before giving it a crispy skin on the grill), we went starchless for supper.

Next morning, we were packed up and ready to hit the highway by 7 a.m. Unfortunately, a quick trip through the McDonald’s drive-through added 40 minutes to our start-time, thanks to an understaffed crew. Another casualty of the pandemic: not enough fast-food workers to get food fast. The trip through the Missouri Ozarks was enchanting. Rather than the bare trees and brown landscape we typically experience in November, we were dazzled by vibrant wildflowers and lush foliage.

After arriving at Jon’s hometown just after noon, we unhitched and made our way to Alton, about a 40-minute drive from Belleville, to finally have our in-person visit with Jon’s mom. She had prepared beef stew, so we were glad to bring our appetites. Jon’s younger sister, who was in town to get her windshield wiper motor replaced, soon joined us for dinner, and we spent the rest of the afternoon and evening visiting and making new discoveries on Ancestry.com.

On Saturday morning, we welcomed Jon’s older sister to Cloud 9 for coffee and pastries and conversation. After a delightful visit, we made our way back to Alton to taxi Jon’s mom and sister to his nephew’s new house for an afternoon and evening of maskless visiting. Jon’s nephew Adam and his partner, Gene, are fostering Adam’s nephew Karson, so we were accompanied by toddler talk and gleeful giggles a we prepared dinner. Chef Cliff made his pasta Bolognese, while sous chef Jon did all the slicing and dicing (except for Cliff’s finger, which Cliff did quite a number on). After taxiing Mom and Jayme back to Alton, Jon returned to Cloud 9 and Cliff to unwind with port wine.

Sunday morning found Jon working for a few hours, while Cliff read recipes in The New York Times and CBS Sunday Morning played on TV. Eventually, we packed up and headed back to Alton so Chef Cliff could treat Jon’s mom and sister to a Mother’s Day brunch of eggs Benedict and steamed asparagus. Around mid-afternoon, we left town and headed for our new overnight destination in Little Rock (after the Oklahoma experience, we changed reservations and routes home).

The weekend was a whirlwind, but we managed to avoid the unsettled spring weather as it moved across several states, and we suffered only a single casualty: a broken martini glass. It was a memorable Mother’s Day, and the first sign that, one day, we will get to the other side of this pandemic and life will once again have some semblance of normal.