Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Character Formation: Family Vacation

You see the flickering screens in every vacation bound minivan on the summer highway.  Children, strapped and clipped and tied to Houdini proof seats, sit mesmerized, eating  goldfish crackers by the hypnotized handful.  Laughing, cavorting cartoon figures dance in front of glazed eyes and scream into earbuds parked in tiny ears while parents luxuriously listen to anything that isn't the Madagascar soundtrack.  It is so sad.

When I was a kid, my family vacations prepared me for life in the real world.  Numerous brothers and sisters  and I squeezed into every inch of our seatbelt optional station wagon.  We preferred fighting, but occasionally banded together in bouts of silly comraderie that made our parents long for discord.

We jiggled the skin of our throats to produce an unnatural vibrato as we sang the same song over and over.  We took turns passing gas and lying about it.  We ignored each other and tried to read.  We read over each other's shoulders in the time honored method to drive someone crazy.  We accused each other of having a girlfriend/boyfriend, naming the most disgusting person we could think of; notorious glue and booger eaters, kids who actually ate the stewed prunes on their cafeteria trays, weirdos who liked Mr. Spock better than Captain Kirk.

We pinched each other, we practiced armpit farts, formed and broke alliances.  We begged mom to stop for ice cream, we begged  dad to stop so we could pee.  His response was always the same "We'll stop when your teeth start to float."  

We  negotiated, we endured, we loved and hated each other through miles of countryside in which we occasionally accidentally observed what our parents had brought us miles to see.  We ended our vacation stronger and wiser.

I'd be willing to bet that Survivorman got his early training in a crowded station wagon, wedged in between smelly siblings on a 1000 mile road trip without a DVD player.

Eating lizards is nothing in comparison.


Sue said...

I do really think parents and kids miss something when they vacation in the mode you describe. Our road trips were major events in themselves. And, honestly, some of my favorite vacation memories have to do with what happened en route, in the station wagon.


Missy said...

Was I on that same vacation with you? Oh wait, no, we did not have a station wagon. Just a car.

My poor deprived children. No dvd players for them. Only nice big windows and a family Ipod for music. They may be damaged for life. lol

Sarah said...

I love this post because I just drove my kids (ages 1,3 and 4) to Grammie's house which takes 12-15 hours (depending on potty needs!) without (GASP!) a movie!!! My friends think I'm insane. I think they're insane for putting on a movie to drive 10 minutes to the grocery store. I fondly remember our station-wagon road trips and hope to create those memories for my kids. Thanks for reminding me that it's worth it! :) I do strap them in like little houdinis though. Safety first!

Pondside said...

Great post! I feel so sorry for the little ones, strapped in and lulled by the boob tube (boy, do I sound crotchety!!)

Anonymous said...

"Daaaad, I'm bored!"
"Well then look out the window!"
I took me way too long to learn that I have to tell dad I need to pee long before I actually do- by the time I REALLY need to go, he might actually stop. This post makes me nostalgic for the days when we would try to sleep on each others' shoulders, only to have the other person rocket-launch us off with a powerful snap of the neck muscles.

Don and Sandy said...

This one really cracked me up and made me nostalgic at the same time.
You forgot "How much longer till we get there" and" he's touching me" and not to mention Mom's favorite game "Who can be the quietest the Longest"
Oh the memories. I think I vote for the DVD player!
Thanks, I love your blog.
Mel's Mom

Dem, Mem and Them said...

I remember my brothers and I making a sign that said "Help, these are not our parents" and putting it in the back window of the station wagon without mom or dad ever knowing. Good times, yes?

Allyson & Jere said...

I fully realize that I'm EXTREMELY late to this party...BUT, after having read this, I HAD to comment.

I too think it's sad that peopl "just pop in movies and don't have the same "joy" that we got to live on family vacays. I FONDLY remember all the ridiculously long road trips my family took in the suburban. 7 kids, two parents and a drive from AZ to Quebec, Canada, via New Yor, and Maine. Thems were long drives. But, in between fights and arguments was the car busting forth with singing, the raucous giggle fits, the farts, the storie,etc. I wouldn't trade those times for anything in the world.