My mother and father constantly disagreed on the perfect time to end family vacations.
My mother attempted to squeeze every last ray of ultraviolet out of the most powerful tanning bed, begging to hit the road late on Sunday. My father, ever impatient, wanted tires to road after breakfast to at least get half a day back at the homestead to prepare for the coming Monday of work. The pair usually split the difference. Our Cadillac cruising into the driveway a couple minutes south of 3pm.
I’d often side with my mom, wanting to prolong beach stays as long as possible, an attempt to put off the coming week spent sweating in my grandmother’s house for as long as possible. I specifically remember one cruel summer vacation landing the week before school started so Sunday was spent on a beach and Monday in a Catholic school uniform, scanning the room for familiar faces during a refresher lecture on the Stations of the Cross. What would Jesus do? Not play such a cruel joke on a kid!
My wife and I never disagree on the end of our vacations. It’s right when our sets of eyes lock and Morse code with blinks and winks “alright, enough of this crap, let’s go home.” Our only disagreement comes from her habit of dubbed four days at the beach with two toddlers “vacation” while I like to refer to the time as “mandated chaperoning.” The word vacation alludes to long bouts of relaxation and stress-reduction and (long) sips of blender-created alcoholic beverages cleverly named Miami Vice and Murder She Wrote. A Miami Vice the combination of a pina colada and a strawberry margarita and a Murder She Wrote is a drink of my own concoction involving ice, a blender and a mix of twenty rums and liquors that get me so hammered I’m stumbling around in women’s clothes trying to solve mysteries. Usually “the case of my missing underwear.”
I’ll fake excitement about the trip for weeks, secretly dreading ever pending second. I’m not the only person suffering from vacation dread. There’s a country of us regretting the moment the hotel deposit disappears from the checking account.
My reasons for vacation dread are many, mainly, there’s absolutely no time to relax with two young kids. There are breakfasts to make, sun tan lotions to lather, chairs and sand buckets to carry, castles to build, shovels to fight over, naps to coordinate, lunches to overpay for, aloe to apply, showers and baths to take, dinners to wait for, dinners to wait longer for, loaves of bread to eat while dinner’s being waited for, dinners to over pay for, bedtimes, and finally, maybe, if the kids pass out from overexposure to the sun and a fun overload, you and the spouse can sneak out to the balcony, chug a beer, rip a couple off a one-hitter if either of you remembered to pack it and realize you’re too exhausted to stay awake another second. Tomorrow comes early and there are breakfasts to make, and buckets to…
I’ve been told, by parents with kids older than mine, that eventually it gets better (that’s what they say about everything) and that one day you’ll land for vacation and not see your kids again until boarding the plane for home. “You’ll miss the early vacations” they’ll explain and I’ll laugh and reply “no I won’t! This blows!” but it could be the Murder She Wrotes talking.
I’ll miss their excitement over the simplest of boardwalk rides and their jubilation over sleeping in the same bed together. I’ll miss the (excitement) of the first half hour of the car rides (but not the last few hours when “are we there yet?” questions are more frequent than highway mile markers. I’ll miss hilariously tiny bathing suits and my son laughing his ass off when a wave no higher than my kneecap knocks him into the next school year. I’ll miss my daughter asleep under a beach umbrella, visions of sugar cones and machine claw games dancing in her head. I’ll even miss huddling on the balcony, beers pounded in seconds, recounting the good and bad of the day with the woman I’ll love forever. Those are the moments I’ll pine for while preparing to board the plane home and panicking “WHERE THE HELL ARE THOSE KIDS?!?!”All the rest, the stuff I hate, will get buried deep in the sand. I’ll dig a massive hole half way to China, dump it all in, and cover it up. Probably get it all done on Saturday night when the kids are asleep because I’ll want to be on the road no later than noon that Sunday. Gotta get this damn chaperoning trip over with.
Chris Illuminati is the father of two kids and the creator of A Message With A Bottle.