Holiday travel an oddity for PK

Toby Uecker

Toby Uecker

This Christmas, my family is doing something we’ve never really done for the holidays before. We’re taking a full-on vacation.

You see, my dad’s a pastor. The guy’s got some important stuff to do in the days surrounding one of the major Christian celebrations of the year. He can’t so much do that important stuff from a Carribbean island or a family cabin in the Hills.

So Christmas in the Uecker household has always been all about spending quality time enjoying the company not of aunts, uncles and dozens of cousins, but of our three closest relatives in the world.

When we moved to South Dakota quite a few years ago, we were close enough to my dad’s parents in Custer that a post-church trip to the Hills on Christmas Day was usually part of the deal, but even that trip was limited to a couple of days, depending on when the next regular Sunday morning service fell.

I feel it necessary to clarify. In no way am I complaining about my past holidays. Really, keeping close to home is a pretty good way to spend Christmas.

And spending the majority of Christmas Day in a motor vehicle certainly has its unique memories.

For example, who else do you know whose stockings were hung on the back of a pair of bucket seats in a minivan instead of on a cozy mantle in the center of the living room?

Who else can claim that Santa Claus went a couple hundred miles out of his way to deliver presents to a small ranch in the northern Black Hills instead of to a simple ranch-style house in Madison?

Who else was able to build up the anticipation of playing with newly unwrapped toys and games over the course of a six-hour scenic drive across our beautiful state?

Plus, who else got three — that’s right, three — Christmas gift exchanges?

Still, the idea of spending the holiday in a different way is pretty exciting. For the first time I’m aware of, Dad’s finding a replacement for the Christmas services and my family’s headed to Chicago to celebrate with my mom’s family the way she remembers.

Instead of a quiet ranch home in South Dakota, we’ll all be in a suburban Chicago two-story alive with the sound of excited relatives.

Instead of a six-hour trip to see the glory of the Black Hills, we’ll take a hour-long train ride downtown to check out Marshall Fields.

Instead of calling my mom’s family to wish them Merry Christmas, we’ll do it live and in person.

Better than my typical holiday? Not really. Just different.