Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Getting Away From It All

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.


Kath said...

Oh how I do not like those last minute decisions! They always come while you are behind on laundry. And then you have to fit in this ,this and that in a few days. Then you need a vacation at home from your vacation!
Thats how ours went again this year! We had a lovely vacation and then Hubs had four days at home afterwards. He had us going everywhere. Have to say it was nice to see him leave in the truck on Mon.....he exhausted us!!!

threecollie said...

So sorry to hear that you had a rough time with illness. Your description of your husband's ideal vacation was read out loud here though. You could have been describing our farmer. lol

Dawn said...

Thank you for the cold splash of reality. Every once in a while I start feeling wistful for your country life. Posts like this remind me of why my suburban, life is much more fitting to my list-making, where's-my-calendar personality. (Yep, I'd be one of those people who plan my vacation for months. But once my feet are in the sand, all lists and calendars go out the window!)

Aren't you glad that time is a great buffer for all of our family memories?

Anonymous said...

Our vacations are always to a tractor salvage yard, a car salvage yard (Terry restores old cars in his spare time) and we stop at 'cafes' along the way. The cafes are always interesting as the second we hit the door of the cafe, in some little farm town, EVERYONE turns to look at us.
After 41 years I'm sort of getting use to this, but Terry never meets a stranger and soon has someone talking to him.

Enjoy your blog very much....come to Colorado some time and visit us!

Linda Brown

Anonymous said...

I remenber last year when you were so sick, but ya'll had a great time and like you said the kids will always remenber all the fun they had.. I know I remenber all the things we use to do over the summer, when we went on vacation as a kid..


~ Straight Shooter ~ said...

I so love your honesty. Find it so refreshing.
Thank you.

Jenny said...

We are married to the same man! We went on vacation last year and met my folks (who drove from Atlanta) in San Antonio and Corpus Christi. It was so hard to plan because THEY have to get time off of work and book a condo, etc. Where all we had to do is load up at a moments notice (whenever the crops are planted and we get a spare week or so). Last time we didn't visit any tractor dealerships, but he did have to check out crops along the way.

Oh, and tractor brocures are the standard reading material for the kids as well.

Anonymous said...

Too funny Erin. I love reading your blog. I, too, remember your vacation last year. My husband is not one to just up and leave at a moments notice on an extended vacation anymore. We both work in town besides the cattle stuff so we need to ask for time off, make sure someone can check the cows occasionally, etc. We are leaving for Colorado Wednesday night. I've been planning for months. Not that it takes that long to plan, since we drive all night and then stay at my sisters once we get there, but I had stuff to plan. I'm so excited since my dh usually doesn't want to leave the farm at all.

Enjoy the rest of your summer!
Robin, in MN

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