I have a confession to make.
It’s rather un-American of me, I must admit, but I have developed a great deal of animosity toward the annual family vacation.
Many families plan the yearly outing months in advance, booking cottages on the beach or motel rooms at a resort. They rent RVs, buy plane tickets, hire house sitters, and arrange all the details well before their departure date.
In our family, things work a little differently. There is seldom any discussion of a vacation prior to the moment that my husband either finishes harvest or greens out, usually sometime during the week before school begins. He will come into the house and announce, “If we’re going to get out of here for awhile, we need to leave tomorrow.”
Having spent nearly every moment in field or pasture all summer, he is yearning to leave the place and relax. His secret desire is to get in the pickup and drive from implement dealership to implement dealership all across the country, stopping at truck stop restaurants in between and spending his dinner hour poring over the advertisements in an auto trader magazine he picked up in the lobby.
Knowing that the kids are due back at school soon, he modifies his dream trip to accommodate the family, and I begin the 24 hour marathon of work to prepare for a trip to an undetermined location for an undetermined length of time.
While I’m trying to pack for six people and prepare for the diversion of four kids under the age of 10 who will soon be confined to car seats for hours on end, I attempt to replace the feeling of dread with optimism. Unless you count hasty harvest dinners around the pickup tailgate, our family has little time together in the summer months, and our hasty trips certainly amend that. I enjoy traveling and seeing new sights. I want the kids to appreciate adventure and to learn that life exists outside of Fergus County.
The nice thing about arguing with myself is that I always win, and this case is no exception. By the time we are ready to depart, I have usually convinced myself that this trip will be enjoyable. Such was the case last summer when we headed for Wyoming despite the fact that a head cold has rendered me unable to speak or swallow.
The kids survived the eight hours in the car with few arguments and a minimal amount of screaming. We decided on a destination and reached it without becoming lost along the way. And, up until our six-year-old woke us in the motel room to inform us that our four-year-old had thrown up on her, it was a fairly enjoyable time.
Although the story culminates with the convergence of the stomach flu, a raging cold, and an eye infection all wreaking havoc on my exhausted body, I know that my children will not remember all those aspects of the trip.
They will remember the waterslides and the fun with their cousins. They will remember honking the horn through the mountain tunnels and visiting the dinosaur museum. When they look back on the trip, it won’t be about the time that we spent cleaning up bedsheets and stuffed animals or dodging the deer on the late-night trip home.
Their memories will be of ice cream cones past bedtime, climbing around inside old bomber planes, and crossing the state line. They will remember the simple things like seeing a freight train smoking along right next to the highway and playing in the cute little playhouse at the home of relatives in Wyoming.
Now that it's a year later and I can breathe through my nose, open both eyes completely, and keep down my supper, I can see the trip with new perspective through the eyes of my children, one of whom handed me a hand-drawn picture of six smiling people in a car after we returned from the ill-fated trip.
“Thanks for taking us on vacation, Mom,” she said. “It was the greatest.”
It was a relaxing trip (pre-puking).
Seriously. He visits tractor dealerships. Every trip.
This is what country kids read in the car: tractor brochures.
The dino museum was a big hit.
And it went downhill from there.
This year we went camping before harvest instead of taking the big hectic vacation afterward. You can read all about how that turned out here. Maybe next year we'll just go on a picnic in the backyard.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
I have a confession to make.