I needed a little writing fix today. As you can imagine I'm getting a bit restless. So I went to a handy "writing prompt" website that generates a prompt at the click of a button. Here is one that happened to pop up: "Did you take enough sun screen and bug repellent? Tell the story of something that happened on a favorite summer vacation with your family."
Here is what I wrote.
Last night some friends were over at our apartment and after a great meal, good conversation, and much laughter we settled in to our usual seats around the table for a rousing card game of nertz. We were into the second or third round [I was, of course, winning], when we remembered there was a new series airing on the History Channel: "America: The Story of Us."
"I'll just turn the TV on and face it this way, but we can keep playing," Brent decided for us. We all shook our heads in agreement as we shuffled for another round. We dealt the cards and played one more round before the program began expounding on the Revolution. We all cranked our necks uncomfortably in our seats until we just decided to call it quits and moved to the couch. And so there we all were, the four of us 20-somethings on a couch on a Sunday evening spending our time watching a new series on the History Channel.
I don't know what the rest of their problems were, but I know what mine was: family vacations.
You see, for those of you that don't know I sometimes came home to this:
It was simply normal. He would lay his satchel in his "toy chest" with his other "dress up clothes," tell us what he did with his "pretend friends" that day and, if we were lucky, shower before joining us at the supper table.
History was a part of my everyday life. But on those really special occasions, Kali and I were called into the adventure as well. [And heaven help her, mom was too!] Yes, those "special occasions" that most people call "family vacations."
I have wrestled with the term "vacation." You see, dictionary.com's definition of vacation is: a period of suspension of work, study, or other activity, usually used for rest, recreation, or travel; recess or holiday." It's the idea that a vacation is supposed to be a time used for rest; a suspension of other work that gets me. Don't get me wrong, I greatly looked forward to our family trips, but I would not venture so far to say that they were restful.
So what might a typical C. family vacation entail? Well, what follows is a generic plan of what you MAY have encountered had you traveled with our fearless foursome into the great unknowns of American civilization:
Preparing to leave:
Step one: Pack your bags. Have mom remind you to pack your underwear because after checking your bag for camp in the summer of '97 and realizing you only brought two extra pair, she has been a little leery.
Step two: Try to help dad find all the camping gear which has been unsuccessfully lodged in places not meant for lodging in the garage.
Step three: Realize dad may better be left alone trying to unbend the fishing rod from that odd angle and retreat to the kitchen to pretend like you're helping mom pack the cooler for our picnics along the way.
Step four: Get shooed out of the kitchen because she realizes you really aren't helping.
Step five: Plop on the couch and wait roughly 1 more hour and leave roughly 2 hours behind the original plan.
Step one: Fight Kali for the seat behind mom who is always selfless enough to give you a little more foot room.
Step two: Realize the cooler has to rest between you and Kali, and the Atlas has to be in the seat back in front of you so that the top part bends back and scratches your knees with every move and your travel bag has to go under your feet and realize that step one was a bad choice.
Step three: Put in head phones and try to gain back the time you lost when you had to wake up early for the extra underwear inspection.
Step four: Wonder why dad is turning around the vehicle. Notice the look on your mom's face and decide it's a better option to leave in head phones and pretend you don't notice the turn around occurring.
Step five: Retrieve Dad's wallet from the kitchen table and cram back into the vehicle.
Step one: Sleep as much as possible while trying to avoid drooling on your sister's arm ... or the Atlas that is still flapping precariously in front of you.
Step two. Stop an hour down the road to figure out what the rattling noise is that is irritating dad. Figure out that it is simply the car, and that it will be accompanying us the entire trip.
Step three: Stop another hour down the road because you forgot to go to the bathroom before we left the house...both times.
Step four: Have a successful chunk of time on the road, possibly 3 hours, and then notice the brown sign approaching up ahead. Pretend not to notice the brown sign. It is getting closer. Hold your breath because he may not notice the brown sign.
Step five: Pull over to the side of the road by the brown sign, watch all the semis you recently passed fly past you, and decide who will read the sign this time.
Step six: This particular historical landmarker denotes the death place of some general in some war that you're pretty sure someone made up. Take a picture and feign interest.
Step seven: Continue the drive, legs beginning to cramp and cabin fever beginning to set in.
Step eight: Picnic. Find a picnic table which will most likely be set in a horribly windy spot so you must chase down paper goods before the squirrels get a hold of them. Eat sandwiches and, the best treat of all, CHIPS!, remind yourself to go to the restroom and then shove the cooler back into the backseat and crawl in behind it.
Step nine: Drive. Stop because dad needs to "coke up" and informs you we all probably need a "seatbelt break" and then gives us a few calisthenic stretches we all participate in in the "Speedway" parking lot.
Step ten: take the "scenic route" when you are within an hour of your day's destination, only to find this actually adds another few hours.
Step eleven: Nix the picnic for supper and stop at a Wendy's. Bacon cheeseburgers all around.
Step twelve: Tumble back into the car, this time rotating spots with your sister only to find that, although the atlas is not chaffing your thighs raw, the fishing poles from the back end are sticking over your left shoulder and may, if you make the slightest wrong move, poke your eye out.
Step thirteen: Realize mom left her purse with all of our vacation money sitting by the table at Wendy's. Stop at a gas station, make a few phone calls, lose about an hour, miraculously figure out how to get the purse [and all the money] back, buy ice cream sundaes to celebrate and get back on the "unbeaten path."
Step fourteen: Begin to get slightly delirious from the 13 hours you have spent in a car.
Step Fifteen: drive thirty miles off the interstate to find a campsite. Absolutely under no circumstances believe the "no vacancy" sign at the entrance and be sure to check every lot for yourself.
Step sixteen: find a hotel, preferably a hole in the wall called "Sequoia Inn" or something of the like [although it is worth noting here that a Holiday Inn will also do the trick on occasion if you are feeling particularly crazy]. Sleep.
Step seventeen: repeat steps one through sixteen for roughly 2 to 3 more days for the really great trips.
Step one: be sure to take a dip in the hotel pool before leaving for the morning because you just never know what may happen during the course of the day.
Step two: Try to find the new "Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center," try being the operative word. Ask a mailman for directions while weaving in and out of one way streets.
Step three: Find the interpretive center and check out the dugout canoes, interactive dioramas, and the informational video.
Step four: Head to a Historical Art Museum. Enjoy.
Step five: pick up mom's purse from the location to which it has been mailed.
Step six: decide you should probably drive a few more hours West, because Custard once said, "Go West, young man." [duly note what happened to Custard].
Step seven: discover a battle field. Don't pay for the tour guide they provide but let dad do the talking. Throw in some quotes from the movie "Little Big Man" or "Jeremiah Johnson."
Step eight: Decide to give camping one more shot. Drive through the backwoods to a spot recommended by the toothless lady [I think] at the gas station.
Step nine: fly fish and get absolutely zero bites.
Step ten: Realize the "no camping" sign posted and pack up and head back into town, your camping dreams thwarted once more.
Step eleven: Sleep. Visit some more battle fields/museums and decide it would be best to get a head start home.
The drive home:
Repeat the aforementioned steps under "The Drive," only in the opposite direction.
Step one: Help unload the camping gear that was piled all around you, realizing you never actually used it on the trip.
Step two: Curse the Atlas one more time.
Step three: join in giving dad a hard time about the trip...reminding him about your beach suggestion the past couple of years...
Step four...and this one is important so don't miss it: secretly enjoy every moment since you left home 7 days before.