My oldest son, older than my other two children, was on the road for the most part this Thanksgiving. He spent five days in Tuscaloosa, Ala., visiting with family there, then flew to Louisville, Ky., where he visited his college buddies. After that, he flew to Seattle and Los Angeles, where he visited family, before eventually landing back in Atlanta.
So what was my worst Thanksgiving? It was 1991, and both of my sons were in college. My oldest son was a junior at Salisbury University and living in Salisbury, Md., (more than a year before we made it here, thankfully), and my youngest son was a sophomore at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
Both sons were aware of how busy life could be, so a lot of their Thanksgiving plans fell into place early in the week. They left home on Saturday morning to visit with family in Vermont for Thanksgiving dinner and then drove to Harvard. They boarded a plane in Burlington and flew to New York City, where they went to work at their respective schools (my son was a Freshman in Journalism and my son was an Student in Mathematics) and then drove to Des Moines, Iowa, for the weekend, and then visited family in Missouri. The rest of the weekend followed a similar pattern.
Was it a busy Thanksgiving? Of course. My older son often noted that it was a busy Thanksgiving in Vermont, and because he’d had a few years at Bowdoin, the homecoming game was his favorite family event. His final day at school ended at 9 a.m. on Saturday. The following day, he flew to Nashville, Tenn., and flew from Nashville to Seattle. Over the course of a five-day stretch, my older son spent 10 hours in the air.
The best Thanksgiving? My son traveled back to Los Angeles, but it wasn’t a big travel weekend. It was a little late for most of the Thanksgiving weekend after the work week ended. This year, when he decided to come home from school in Seattle, the day was still officially Thanksgiving Eve, so he decided to hit the road after class on Friday morning. On the way back home from an 11-hour ride, he managed to bring a laptop charger along the way, because his laptop died on the road. He didn’t have to drive home from Seattle until Tuesday morning. When we learned of the drive home for the weekend, we had no choice but to allow a few days off. Since his roommate was at the football game with us for Thanksgiving and the store sale was still in full swing, that Thanksgiving weekend, at least, went smoothly.
How did this year compare to all the travel stories in the news since Thanksgiving Eve? The Federal Aviation Administration has been clear: A flight attendant’s call for help on Sunday night from the Atlanta airport went unheeded, and it resulted in a frantic mother seeking a rescue amid the glum holiday and winter temperatures. On Monday, authorities confirmed that the flight attendant had died from what appears to be a heart attack, so travelers did not experience the delays and travel disruptions that the FAA warned of last week.
From Thanksgiving Eve until after the airport reopened on Tuesday, there was only one travel incident: A plane heading into Chicago had engine trouble, and the pilot turned the plane around on Sunday night. (For the record, the people on the plane, not the passengers, were the one people complaining about the delays on Sunday.) I didn’t experience any of the inconveniences that passengers in Chicago and elsewhere complained about on social media. And in between flights and appointments, I was able to enjoy the chill in the air, the sunlight, and most importantly, the rain and snow.
This is what I would consider a successful Thanksgiving for me: Just what the FAA was expecting when it released its advisory, no delays, no disruptions. That’s the formula. My son’s most successful Thanksgiving was last year, and I still got to spend time with his family. This year, it all came together, more or less.