Their husbands didn’t get it.
Lauren, Mary, Suzy, and I made plans to meet at Beth’s house near Chicago for a long April weekend. Lauren would drive in from Indianapolis, and Mary could handle the six-hour drive from St. Louis. Naturally, Suzy and I decided to make the trip to Beth’s together, from Pennsylvania.
Which is why we booked flights to St. Louis so that we could drive north to Beth’s house with Mary. Because, road trip.
This is what their husbands (and probably mine, if I had one) could not understand. It’s all about the journey.
Our story really starts nearly 100 years ago.
In the early 1920s, Peter met Catherine at a church picnic. Peter was a young Ukrainian immigrant coal miner. Catherine, twelve years his junior, was the oldest daughter of Ukrainian immigrant parents.
Peter and Catherine married in 1923, and over the course of the next three decades, they had 12 children. My dad, John, was number nine. They eventually welcomed 36 grandchildren—I am number 22.
Mary and Suzy are the daughters of number eight, Patty. Lauren and Beth were born to Sonia, number ten. All five of us were born in the mid- to late-1960s, and although we’ve known each other all our lives, we were deeply into adulthood before we took the initiative to spend time together apart from the rest of our families.
Lauren, Beth, and I dubbed ourselves “The Ho-Ho Sisterhood” in 2002, after an ill-advised trip to a Hostess Outlet store near Indianapolis. We had gathered at Lauren’s house to help prepare for a family reunion, and while running party-related errands, we each purchased a box full of our preferred snack cake. We then challenged each other to devour its entire contents on our way back to Lauren’s house.
None of us succeeded, although Beth insisted that she would have won the contest easily had we stopped to pick up a gallon of milk to wash them down.
We all felt a little ill, and our sides hurt. I think I managed to ingest four or five Ho-Hos—which was clearly three or four too many. But the stitch in my side had less to do with the volume of snack cakes and everything to do with the laughter.
We later inducted Mary and Suzy into the Sisterhood, minus the disgusting initiation ritual.
Our inaugural Ho-Ho Sisterhood gathering at Beth’s house fell, appropriately, around April Fool’s Day.
Suzy and I ended up with a two-hour layover in Chicago’s O’Hare airport en route to meet up with Mary in St. Louis. The next day, we would drive six hours. To Chicago.
At this point, we wondered if maybe the husbands had a point.
Then we dismissed that idea. It’s all about the journey. We made this our new mantra.
But it was really all about the laughter. It started early between me and Suzy. On our boarding passes, our names were in all caps, and our first names and middle initials had been condensed into a single word. Suzy thought I was nuts when I first called her SUSANE. To this day, she calls me AMYL.
Mary picked us up at the St. Louis airport, and promptly took me to a local Urgent Care to treat my brand new sinus infection. She was the one suffering a bad head cold, which would likely have prevented her trip altogether had we not planned our group pilgrimage to Chicago.
SUSANE and I congratulated ourselves for our combined intuition and foresight in routing our trip from Pennsylvania to Illinois through Missouri. The next morning, Mary and her box of Kleenex climbed into the backseat of her sedan, and Suzy and I took turns driving north to Beth and Lauren.
The itinerary of our weekend ended up having very little to do with Chicago. We did eventually visit the city’s IKEA store—but only after a pilgrimage to Hebron, Wisconsin, where we posed for photos with trolls and visited The Mustard Museum, where we witnessed Mary’s commencement from “Poupon U.”
We ate giant cinnamon rolls at The Machine Shed Restaurant before returning to Wisconsin to visit The Mars Cheese Castle, where an older gentleman complimented Lauren on her beautiful blue eyes. The rest of us reassured each other: “And you have eyes, too!”
Beth’s husband, David, dubbed himself the “Ho-Bro,” and graciously served as our chauffeur and photographer throughout the weekend.
In retrospect, it seems evident that we were just following the example set for us by our parents at every extended family event we ever attended. Whether a wedding, a holiday, a reunion, or even a funeral, only one element is as omnipresent at Maczuzak family gatherings as pierogies and coolers full of beer.
The laughter. It’s the lasting legacy of Peter and Catherine.