Jul 16, 2012

Vacations: Worst is Best

It's been several years since I have taken a family vacation, and I may never to be able to afford to really take one again.  Instead of a big vacation these days, we have a lot more sleepovers and short trips to visit family.

This seems surreal to me because when I was a child we always took a vacation, even though we lived on a very modest income.  Most often we went to places where we had family to stay with, which meant spending hours and days in the car.  At the time I thought it was undoubtedly the most miserable times I would ever have in my life, and that turned out to be both true and not true, but the bigger point is that those memories have survived and become treasured, moreso for the misery they contained.

I remember it like it was yesterday.  My step father would drag out the Atlas and plan our route all winter long.  The morning vacation "started" meant that we would all get up around 3 in the morning, even earlier if we had to cross Kansas.  Living in Missouri, we often had to cross Kansas, and while I love many people in Kansas, I would rather slip into a coma than have to cross it during the day.  It's like the ocean, only without water.  Or trees.  Just endless prairie grasses to the horizon for days at a time.  Occasionally you will see a tree.  You will be able to see it for a very looooongggg time before you pass it.  It was like being in the twilight zone.  But I'm wandering again.  Enough of Kansas.

My brother and I would sleepwalk from our beds to the bed made for us in the backseat of our family car, and proceed to go straight back to sleep.  Only sound asleep would we ever share the backseat without fighting.  We would wake up hours later, never close to our destination, sadly,  but always ready to put up a good fight over our half of the backseat.  Every child who had only one sibling knows about the imaginary line.  There is actually nothing "imaginary" about this line.  It exists.  Your mother teaches you about it and once seen, it can never really be unseen again.  Parents may forget about it after their children turn into teenagers, but make no mistake, the imaginary line is real, and battles will be fought over it until someone leaves home, even after the children who see it are old enough to know how childish and really, beneath them it is.  Nevertheless, the imaginary line remains, and many cars have been stopped and punishments handed out over violating the sacred rule of the perfect half division of the imaginary line in the backseat.

Once, when my younger brother was about 8 he, brilliant strategist that he is, figured out a way to get his revenge without bringing the imaginary line into play.  Picture a trip to Colorado and New Mexico, an eight year old boy with a pretend plastic machine gun, and 3 other irritated people, two of whom are trying to read and one of whom is trying to drive, listening to the constant rolling of the plastic mechanism that makes a pretend plastic machine gun a gem to any 8 year old boy.  When he got in trouble for pulling the trigger and making us all want to scream, he simply turned it around and tooted it like a trumpet, to the tune of Rhinestone Cowboy, a big hit that summer.  Big enough to have been listened to on every station we could bring in, and to have already worn out it's welcome without it being tooted through a pretend plastic machine gun.  But you know what?  I can still remember the resigned look on my mother's face, and the way I intuited that instead of arguing on and on, she would wait him out.  He couldn't toot forever and he wasn't the only one with the patience to make a subtle but full blown assault.  Eventually he fell asleep.  And someone may have stepped on his pretend plastic machine gun........It may not surprise you to know that the boy grew up to be a soldier.  I know it wouldn't surprise you to know that I grew up to have 4 children, and a van that played movies!

The year we went to Galveston I was about 10.  It was the first time I had ever seen the ocean.  It was also the year that I got such a terrible sunburn that we spent a bunch of money on bottles of pop out of a machine at the motel for (glass) bottles of pop (remember that? Glass bottles of pop out of machines?) for no other reason than that I could lay on them, so burnt was I.  I always got hurt.  It's always been what I do.  Turned out the bottles hurt too much to lay on, or to have laid upon my back.  I also learned that jellyfish are much, much prettier in the water, and will sting you regardless of where they are.  Sigh..............

There was the year we visited my Papa in New Mexico and he thought I was old enough to drive a little scooter he called a Tote Goat.
"Just don't get out of the yard, see if you can handle it, " he said.  I was old enough to drive it.  I was not old enough to remember how to stop it, which is what caused me to shoot right out the driveway and down the blacktop road that he lived on, scared out of my mind and able to think of nothing but "Just try not to wreck!!!"  I managed not to wreck long enough to remember where the brake was and by the time I got pulled into a driveway a couple miles down the road, there my Papa was, on his motorcycle, coming after me.  Once he saw I was all right, he stopped and laughed until he cried, bent over at the waste with his hands on his knees, until I was ready to cry I was so embarrassed.  He said that was nonsense, I hadn't wrecked and was fine, and for a first lesson he thought it has been just fine.  My mom was PISSED at my Papa!  I did not get back on that scooter, something my mother and I agreed on, for once.  Oh, and that was the year I caught me arm on a barbed wire fence feeding a horse and had to get a tetanus shot.  Fun, fun, fun!  OK, not fun, but you have to admit, memorable.  What I would not give for footage of the look on my face, not to mention Papa's, when I shot out the driveway and down the road!

We had very memorable vacations.  I think everyone does, and let me tell you this: it matters not where you go, as long as you are together, even if you are miserable.  In fact, the more miserable you are, the more memorable it will be.  Just wait and see if I am not right. 

Every year we spent time at Nana's with all or at least most of our cousins around.  Heaven.  We did nothing more than walk up the lane to get the mail, or sit in the porch swing, drink tea and visit.  We ate constantly.  Nana should have probably run a Bed and Breakfast full time.  During my teenage years we all compared and discovered that we all gained an average 5 pounds per week, at Nana's.    This is probably why I rarely spent two weeks consecutively.  If I had it to do over, I would care less about the weight gain and write down every thing she ever said to me, especially the recipe's.  We never wanted to leave Nana's and I never did it without tears.

One year Nana's husband wanted to drive my uncle's new motor cycle.  It worked out just about exactly like my first time on a Tote Goat, but with the added hilarity of him running straight at the trash barrell, which went straight up and vomited a shower of ashes over him, my poor uncle, and the motorcycle.  The motorcycle and Nana's husband were both driven into the ground and covered with debris, several yards from each other.  My uncle, true to form, laughed until he cried, bent over at the waist with his hands on his knees.  It's how my family rolls.  To this day, when that memory is recalled my uncle still laughs until he cries.  We all do.  So the next time you do something really stupid that you KNOW no one is ever gong to forget, take heart:  You have added a memory that will live on through your family for what, at least for you and probably your children, will be the equivalent of "forever".  Don't be embarrassed.  That's how memories are made!

Eventually we would make grown up memories there together also, we would bring our babies and stay up all night talking and eating.  To this day, I get a certain yearning in the summer to be drinking a Rt. 44 Sonic drink in a car with a bunch of my cousins, at night, all the windows down, headed to see the Spook Light, headed to 43 bridge, headed anywhere in the warm night with the trees and the bluffs all around us, our feet stuck in running water over a rock bottom creek and confessing our hopes and fears to each other, safe with each other and never alone, no matter how dim the future may seem.  One year a bunch of us got drunk, a cardinal sin to Nana, who either knew through her psychic abilities or just forgot we were there and locked us out. I think our average age was 40 at the time, and if you've never dealt with Southern Baptists, I could not possibly explain what a sin this was. I laugh until I cry remembering my cousins trying to figure out how to break in without hurting anything and me waking up my best step mother ever, who was peacefully sleeping after taking care of her very active grandchildren that night, poor thing.  She took it well, as she takes everything.  Nana never know FOR SURE we were drinking, but we are sure she suspected because she said we had it coming if we weren't home by the time she went to bed and locked up for the night.  

I have been yearning a lot for these old times lately.  It's summer time, and just to get my own children together between working and school vacations is a pretty neat trick.  Add to that the fact that we are all in the same boat now, with our children and grandchildren, (grandchildren?  Is that really possible?  Yip.  Sure is.  We are OLD!)  and I think we are going to have to start an annual tradition where you have to show up or pay a fine.

Kidding again.

We are old enough to want to show up.  

It's the kids we have to put in the backseat only to do battle over the imaginary line that we have to convince.

At least we don't have to go through Kansas.....

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These are my thoughts, which sometimes drive me crazy and sometimes keep me sane, but are always entertaining. I call this Lace Your Days With Hope because I can't find enough hope to make an entire quilt out of. Stay tuned, and add your own!