The first family vacation I have any memories of was back in 1969. It was also the last time my entire family – all eight of us – vacationed together. I realize that for more than a few Q readers, seeing 1969 is like seeing 1850 or 1624, but I was 4 years old and we were celebrating my oldest brother’s high school graduation.
We traveled the length of the U.S. West Coast, dipping into Mexico and up to Canada as well. I still remember bits and pieces: the smell in the Olympia Brewery, watching my siblings ride the cable cars on California Street in San Francisco, how cold the ocean was in Oregon, getting lost in a very large Canadian department store and repeatedly telling the manager and bobby that I was an American citizen.
Last month Kelly and I followed in my parents’ footsteps and took our kids on their first family vacation. And because we’re apparently gluttons for punishment, we made it a road trip to Zion National Park and Las Vegas.
I’m not sure what I expected. Being trapped with each other 24/7 for an entire week was a pretty daunting proposition. But like the old adage goes: what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Plus, you never know what you might learn about the other people traveling with you. For example, once many years ago, several of us learned that our loving, gentle, kindhearted friend “Peaches” does this whole Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde number when you run out of coffee and booze on the same day while backpacking.
The problem for us taking our boys on vacation is that we’ve never been the kind of parents who do stuff simply to please our kids. I mean Hell will freeze over before you ever see me at Chuck-E-Cheese. On the flip side, Kelly doesn’t dance – ever.
With both of us basically having veto power over what we did, the potential for a pretty dull vacation was in the making. But then I think we remembered what family vacations are really about: having some fun and making cool memories. And that’s exactly what we set out to do.
Sure there were the usual bumps in the road. We even heard the cliche “are we there yet?” after we’d been in the car for a whopping 40 minutes. No, we weren’t there yet, as a matter of fact! A couple of times we had to remind the boys that the whole point of going to Zion was to hike, not hang out in the (unheated) pool; an entire day at the amusement park in Circus Circus is indeed way more than enough.
But for every bump there were a lot more fun times. I think that’s what vacation is really about. And honestly, that’s what I’m going to remember.
I mean, I’m sure on that family vacation all those years ago there must have been some unpleasant moments. But you’d be hard-pressed to get any of my siblings or my parents to remember one. What we do recall are the stories that have become a part of my family’s history.
We recount the scary rope bridge we crossed in Canada, or how my then 9-year-old brother, John, produced fistfuls of money from his pockets, while telling our horrified parents that Dad had “left” it on the tables in all the restaurants where we had eaten. (Yes, folks, in 1969, servers at such fine eating establishments as Bob’s Big Boy and Little Black Sambo up and down the West Coast were stiffed of their well-deserved tips!)
So as the years go by, when we talk about our trip to Zion and Vegas, I’m pretty sure the four of us will forget the bickering and the occasional raised voice. We’ll remember catching frogs in the Virgin River, and joke about how Gus sneaked up behind Niko in the Egyptian exhibit at the Las Vegas Natural History Museum and scared the bejebus out of him.
Most of all, I think we’ll remember what a great time we had just being together like all the other typical American families on vacation.
If you’d like to read more about our vacation adventures, check out my blog, Christopher-whosyourdaddy.blogspot.com.