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Ginnie Graham: Travels with my mom and her manila folder
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Ginnie Graham: Travels with my mom and her manila folder

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Recently, Mom and I went to Chicago for a family wedding. It was the first trip since the pandemic started, and a return to the hilarity of watching Mom in the wilds of the world.

Mom not only prints out her airline boarding pass, she also carries a manila folder filled with what’s deemed important information for the trip.

There’s the hotel confirmation, lists of restaurants nearby and printouts of possible shopping excursions and tourist sites. She totes around physical magazines and books. Oh, the snacks for days, sometimes entire meals.

This all fits in a purse that is not much bigger than the size of that folder. It’s some Harry Potter magic she refuses to share.

This is what it’s like traveling with Mom. No use in fighting it, just lean into her old-school ways and plan on being at the airport two hours early. It’s her security blanket, and it hurts no one.

Her retirement has been filled with trips around the world. She’s made it a point to get away with my sister and I when we can. She’s in charge of planning because her organization skills surpass Marie Kondo.

She color-codes, paper clips and earmarks her way into creating small booklets before hitting roads, air or water.

It’s great because my sister and I don’t have the time for the kind of research she puts in for the best deals for most convenient travel. It would not be a surprise if Mom calls actual people at the various airlines and hotels to get it done. I don’t ask; she doesn’t tell.

Printing the boarding pass is a non-negotiable action.

“Mom, I can show you how to download it on your phone,” I offered.

“No, that will take forever. This way is faster,” she says.

“Honestly, this is how people fly now. You don’t have to worry about losing the paper,” I said.

“Have you ever seen how much time is wasted when people do that? Phones go dead, or they can’t find it on their phones. Or the screen goes blank or not bright enough or whatever. No, we just have the paper in our hands and scan it quickly,” she says.

No use in arguing with this nearly 70-year-old any further. I revert to being a kid again, taking orders to do things her way.

As she waited to board — always in the first group while I’m always in the last — she watched the scanning process. For anyone taking more than 1.5 seconds to scan the ticket, she looks back at me with an eyeroll.

“See,” she mouths wordlessly while pointing at whoever is at the front of the line, like her irritation is not obvious.

She has a point; all those half seconds could build up to something like almost half a minute.

And people say youth want instant gratification.

Getting a cab to the hotel was the only wild card among her preparation. She doesn’t Uber, believing that city-approved taxis are safer and properly vetted.

Not in Chicago. We learned a valuable lesson about the Windy City cabs. Avoid them. At least we only got scammed by about $20.

The experience gave Mom a reason to write a sternly worded letter to the city of Chicago, something she’s pretty good at doing. She’s waiting to see if there will be a refund anytime soon. Be certain she is saving the paper on this correspondence and planning follow-ups.

Each trip with Mom is a treasure. We have gone as far as Ireland and as close as a one-night stay in Tulsa hotel just blocks from my house.

Mom planned each one down to the double-decker bus and cheesecake we shared for dessert (a tradition we started two decades ago on our first trip together). It’s the easiest kind of traveling I’ve ever done.

We’ve learned a few things through the years, such as Mom gets a separate room. She seems to only sleep in rooms that are 80 degrees, instead of the proven perfect temperature of 68.

We get adjoining rooms, that way we can curl up in pajamas while talking about nothing and everything for hours.

Our individual quirks fade away during our outings, or we’re just used to them. Like, Mom’s an early riser, and I’ll read into the night hours.

We make it work. The point is to try new things and add to our list of memories.

That Chicago wedding gave me a chance to see her with the cousins she considers sisters. They grew up closely in Perry but now live in different cities.

Seeing them together showed a side of Mom that I wouldn’t have otherwise seen. It brought up new childhood stories she shared and a unique smile only those women could inspire.

Bonus, I never know Mom served as her cousin’s wingwoman when flirting with future firefighters at Oklahoma State University more than 50 years ago. Wild woman. (I definitely need to hear more from these cousins.)

There were still those wacky moments between us in Chicago. My irrational fretting over not having hairspray led to Mom talking me into hot-rolling my hair, something that hasn’t happened since I wore Guess jeans and Giorgio perfume.

That’s not a big thing, and most men won’t understand. But that’s our thing; it was inconsequential yet unforgettable.

It’s those small scenes that bank in my mind, knowing one day they will provide me comfort.

Until then, we’ll keep up our girls’ trips, because getting to know a parent as an adult is one of the true blessings in life.

Featured video:

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