Monday, August 10, 2009

Vacation Memories with a Smile

We took our summer vacation last November. When folks ask us where we are going this summer, we’re happy to whip out 50 of our best photos from our trip to visit our daughter in Scotland last Thanksgiving. I notice that people tend not to pursue the conversation further.

I once did an article on traveling with children and an expert I interviewed advised parents not to think of those trips as vacations. Rather, it’s just experiencing family life in a different location. She had a point. No matter where we went, there was always laundry to be done, meals to be figured out, and squabbling to contend with.

Family vacations take on a mythic lore only after you are back home. Then the minor inconveniences (or major ones like the time the entire backyard of the house we rented was covered in tiny cacti!) are the stuff of family legends. Some of our family trips make the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation look like an expensive guided tour.

Like the stream that was described in the brochure as straight out of a Huck Finn adventure, which was instead 30 degrees in August, and didn’t come up to our ankles, once we dipped our toes in it. Or the hike to the top of the mountain in the middle of August that was advertised as experiencing winter in the summer (and why did that seem like a good idea?), which was instead, a sliver of ice between two rocks and more black flies than found in a stable of horses. Or the ski vacation in the Poconos, when we all attempted the bunny slope in the pouring rain. One by one the children went up the rope tow line, let go about half way up what they were describing as Mt. Everest, but was approximately a 20 degree angle and maybe 100 feet high. In any case, first son goes half way up the mountain, lets go of the rope, and immediately drops into a heap unable to get himself up. Son number three follows him, stops a few feet before him, falls into a heap, unable to get up. Son number two, daredevil that he was, holds onto the rope all the way to the top. Screams triumphantly, and immediately falls into a heap…unable to get up.

Father of this crew starts up the same rope tow line (see a pattern here?), falls into a heap – but flips himself over, takes off the d**n skis, and plods his way from one wailing kid to another, unbuckling skis, and standing each child upright to walk down the slope. Mother of the tribe was at the bottom, alternately a little concerned, but also trying desperately not to fall to the ground in hysterics at yet another family vacation gone to Hell in a Handbasket.

Family vacations are part of the glue that binds us to another. Who else will remember the trip to Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory? All of us were atwitter at the concept of a free ice cone. The flavor of the day was Chunky Monkey. With no disrespect to a fine company that does good works, the banana flavor was gross. All six cones, including the one for the then year-old baby daughter, were immediately dumped into the nearest garbage can, with attendant wailing at pitches known to shatter glass. Only Nana, who had politely declined the freebie, and instead paid for her own delicious flavor in a cup, was happy. Obviously, the only solution was to buy ice cream cones for everyone. But now, years later, all anyone has to do to ensure guffaws all around is whisper Chunky Monkey.

This summer is a staycation. We’re enjoying reminiscing about our family forays – and planning a new one. Maybe we can find somewhere that has a rope tow to an ice cream factory?

Where are you headed this summer?

Evelyn David

Murder Takes the Cake by Evelyn David
Murder Off the Books by Evelyn David


  1. This happend a gazillion years ago. After a two-week vacation my former husband and I came home to blood dripping from the freezer. He was a great guy, but in the excitment of our departure, as he turned off electrical equipment, he accidently unplugged the fridge. So while I cleaned up the mess, he went outside to mow the grass. He forgot to empty his pocket on the dresser, so it emptied itself on the lawn and he ended up grinding all his keys.
    Sometimes it's just better to stay home in the first place! :>)

  2. Having only one child, our family vacations are calmer than the ones I remember taking with my parents and my brother. This year we went to Decatur, IL, to visit my side of the family (a trip my hubby makes me take every other year), and then spent a week with 4 other families up in the Sierra Nevadas (Graeagle, NW of Truckee, for those of you who know the area). THAT was fun.


  3. Our most tiring, but exciting family vacation was when we tent-camped across the U.S. Oxnard CA to Cambridge MD. We were headed for a family reunion, missed it by a day. Our VW bus which pulled a small trailer with all our gear had to be pushed to start it--or we could park on a hill if there was one. In essence, we pushed that VW all across the country and back. It took one hour to set up camp and cook dinner and one hour to eat breakfast and break camp down and get on the road. It rained on us every time we stopped on the way home. Hubby would say, "Which cloud shall we camp under tonight?" No time for sightseeing, only what we could see from the windows of the bus.