Summer vacations, aren’t they the best? Sand between your toes, the smell of Coppertone in your nose, swimming in the waves, and lazy, lazy days.
But if you’re anything like me, fixin’ to go on vacation will about take the life outta ya. First, you have to get your job ready to leave for a week. Status reports must be written, “away” voicemail messages must be programmed…directions must be read on how to program “away” voicemail messages.
Somehow, about a month’s worth of work must be crammed into the last three days on the job prior to leaving.
At home, clothes have to be cleaned and packed, vacation toys and accessories gathered, book titles picked out for reading on the beach. And oh, the refrigerator! All the food that has potential to spoil (including the leftovers that have been in there for two solid months, solidly spoiling away) must be discarded or packed in a cooler to take on vacation . . . even though there is a 99% chance that you’ll end up throwing that same food away at the end of your vacation, prior to your return home.
I remember when I was growing up, whenever we were about to leave on a trip, the whole family would be in the car, with the exception of my mother who’d be in the kitchen, wiping the counters. That woman could not leave town without wiping the counters. Mercy, what if a burglar broke in while we were gone and found a stray crumb??
Anyway, we’d eventually get on the road, off like a herd of turtles. Now those family vacations voyages were some kind of fun, with five kids and two dogs piled in the back of a station wagon. Once we got on the road, there was no stopping us. My mom would pack sandwiches in a cooler, and dole them out as we barreled down the highway. Water was given sparingly. Very, very sparingly.
My dad absolutely hated to stop. He had a CB radio (google it if you’re under 40) and chatted with the truckers along the way for warnings of traffic jams or other potential determents.
“Breaker one-nine, any Smokies up ahead?”
We’d play games to pass the time. There was the alphabet game, when we’d try to find all of the letters on billboards (Q’s and Z’s were doozies. Oh! Z in Doozies!) We’d see who could spot the greatest number of different states on license plates. We’d count white cars or blue cars or cows or trucks. Then there was my dad’s all-time favorite game, “Who can be the quietest?”
When we finally reached our destination, my dad would check his watch and announce our travel time.
“Well, it only took us 7 hours and 23 minutes this time. Last year it was 7 and a half.”
Every year, we’d go to the beach, somewhere around North Myrtle. My dad was an engineer, and our vacations were engineered to be as foolproof as possible. We’d go to the same beach, often stay in the same house, and pretty much do the same thing, year after year. We’d play in the sand, ride the waves, play horseshoes and hopscotch on the beach, and eat lots of boiled peanuts.
Most of the time, we’d share a beach house with grandparents, aunts and uncles, and half a dozen cousins. With all of those people, things couldn’t be TOO foolproof. There were always sunburns, occasional jellyfish stings and sand in the beds. One year, my sister glued her legs together so she could be a mermaid.
Looking back, I reckon it was an ordeal to take a family of seven on a vacation anywhere. Sometimes, it might be better to stay home!
I knew a couple of families in Lake Wylie who did just that. For years, these two families had gone to the beach together. This particular year, though, their pocketbooks were a little tight and they decided to have vacation at home. One family packed up and moved in with the second family for the week. Vacation rules were applied: No one was allowed to go to work. No unnecessary laundry was washed. Junk food was consumed. Chores were ignored. They spent the days in the sun, read books and lazed around.
One day during the week, it rained like cats and dogs. Undeterred, the families had a marathon game day. They started out with a classic board game. The winner of each game chose the next game. Clue, Monopoly, Ping-Pong, charades and cards; a good time was had by all.
I’m thinking those families had a dang good idea. I just wonder if their counters were wiped.