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From Grandpa's Ford Country Squire wagon


The family Thanksgiving road trip may still take us over the river and through the woods, or over the overpass and through the strip malls, but crossovers like my Ford Edge have replaced station wagons as the vehicles of choice.

When I was a kid, we traveled 90 miles one way on Thanksgiving Day in a Ford Country Squire that had all the charm of Chevy Chase’s Wally World-bound wagon in “National Lampoon’s Vacation,” fishtailing the whole way.

And we had NO cup holders.

That’s right. We had to hold our drinks on our laps and hope we didn’t ruin our new holiday outfits. And the chances of spilling were pretty good — station wagons weren’t known for having a terribly smooth ride.

My crossover has six cup holders. I could have two more kids, and not one of them would go without a cup holder. And four of the holders are big enough for supersized cups. Perfect for the modern drink: the Big Gulp.

I remember fighting with my siblings out of boredom. In my defense, you can listen to your brother drone on about the Lone Ranger for only so many miles before you can no longer resist the urge to punch him in the leg to shut him up. My parents tried in vain to curb the bloodshed with a rousing game they called “Count the Gas Stations.”

My kids sit back and watch movies on the DVD entertainment center. With a screen on the back of each headrest, the kids can put on their headphones so I don’t have to listen to “The Little Mermaid” for the millionth time. When peace breaks in the backseat, I can plug my MP3 player into the auxiliary jacks and listen to Prince’s “Purple Rain” for the billionth time. We still play the traditional game of “I Spy,” but they might choose to pop in an “I Spy” DVD instead.

Stuffing an 8-foot Christmas tree into the back of the old station wagon meant that the end of the tree was always hanging a few feet out the back. Getting it into the car wasn’t easy, and I watched in horror as branches were severed with each push. We turned a beautiful, full tree into something out of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”

Now, we just fold down the backseats and front passenger seat, pop the tree in the back and vacuum needles out of the crossover for six months. Some things never change.

All that extra interior space comes in handy when we’ve stuffed ourselves full of turkey and trimmings. I haven’t had a carb since last Thanksgiving, and I blow up like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade float after a serving of stuffing. There’s still room in the Edge for the bags of leftovers.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, and 37.3 million travelers are expected to hit the road on or around Nov. 23, according to AAA, let’s re-examine an old favorite and see how times have changed:

Over the river and through the wood,

To Grandfather’s house we go;

He probably doesn’t answer to “Grandfather” or “Grandpa.” “Grandpa” was the cranky old fool on the “The Real McCoys.” She probably doesn’t answer to “Grandmother,” or even “Grandma.” She might be “Mimi” or “Nana.” Baby boomers don’t want to grow old, and “Grandma” conjures up images of granny glasses and buns, and all the other Rockwellian clichés.

Maybe you’re not heading to Grandfather’s house but his condo or apartment, or even a restaurant for the “traditional” Thanksgiving dinner.

And he might not be “Grandpa.” Maybe he’s Step-Grandpa. Or stepmom’s sister’s boyfriend.

The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh,

The horse may have known the way, but my dad sure didn’t. I remember my mom unfolding a huge paper map. And once my dad knew the way, she spent the rest of the trip trying to get the map back to its original size(-ish).

Today, we just program Mimi’s address into the Edge’s available navigation system, and it tells us exactly how to get there. And it does a good job navigating the newfangled interstate system we’ve been using for half a century. I’d like to see a horse do that.

Through the white and drifted snow.

Snow isn’t a problem with Edge’s intelligent all-wheel drive. Remember the dreaded sound of tires spinning as you sat in Grandma’s driveway, thinking you’d never be able to leave? Those days are gone. At the end of Thanksgiving Day now, I happily hug my mother-in-law, knowing that I can just throw the Edge in reverse to get the heck out of there.

OK, let’s skip a verse here.

Over the river and thru the wood,

Oh, how the wind does blow!

The wind might blow, but we don’t hear it. The inside of our crossover is so quiet, all you can hear are the kids in the back, fighting over which movie to watch and begging me to turn off Prince.

It stings the toes and bites the nose,

As over the ground we go.

Thankfully, we now have full climate control. I remember the freezing-cold trips in the station wagon with heat that never managed to actually get hot. Or, for Floridians, sweltering hot trips that make you sweat in your velvet dress because the car has no air conditioning.

Skipping more verses …

Over the river and through the wood,

Trot fast my dapple gray!

(My Edge isn’t dapple gray, it’s Blazing Copper.)

Spring over the ground like a hunting hound!

My dog doesn’t hunt, but she does spend the whole trip with her head stuck out the gigantic VistaRoof. She no longer sits in the back and drools all over the kids; her slobber is blown onto the car behind us.

For ’tis Thanksgiving Day.



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