Wednesday, May 18, 2011

'Tis the Season

I’m starting to hear rumblings about family vacation plans from co-workers. Virginia beaches, California coasts, Florida sand, Idaho fly-fishing and even Australian adventures. Families set out on these well-planned trips and come home with tan lines, trophy catches or surf boards. 
Weird. We always came home with frost bite, 13 shampoo and conditioner sets and about 20 lbs. of continental breakfast fruit from the Three Rivers Holiday Inn. 

We rarely took vacations off the farm growing up; any child of agriculture reading this blog understands where I’m coming from. It certainly wasn’t a bad thing, but it sure made you thankful that most families vacationed in the summer when school was out. Can you imagine coming into class and having to look at a classmate’s jar of seashells and sand when you just got done cleaning out and bedding pens?!
I remember one summer when Mom kept on Dad for never taking us anywhere exciting.  Boy, did she come to regret that. Dad asked her to pack a change of clothes for everyone, frisbees, hola-hoops and a couple meals to travel. Within an hour my well-organized Momma had us all ready to go. 
Smoky Mountains, you ask? 
Nope. Dad drove us to I-70 (1 mile from home) and took us to the rest-stop that was just off the next exit - 2 miles from our home. We “vacationed” in a rest area we could have seen from our farm, had the leaves been off the trees. 
It’s the little things. 
And I know you’re wondering. We didn’t spend the night. 

No questions asked, we did take one snowy, numb vacation a year. We drove to Pittsburgh and watched the mighty Steelers dominate the opponent annually. This was back in the Neil O’Donnell days...

14 may or may not have been my lucky number for 5ish years. 
These were great vacations. We usually had fantastic seats and loved being able to hear the player profanity in real life; much like getting an education without having to step foot in the classroom. It was always frigid and Mom spent the majority of the games in the women’s restroom under the hand dryer. Us kids always stuck it out with Dad, who loved the jumbo pretzels but was always too numb to notice he had a tablespoon of spicy mustard stuck in his mustache. Ahhhh, the good old days. 

I remember those trips pretty well. Except for the one where there were only four football tickets for the five of us. Wanna guess which kid stayed home and didn’t get to go watch the Steelers play?
The one blamed for breaking the family symmetry. 

Young Jean
I guess my parents thought they’d leave me home because I would be too young to remember it. False. I don’t remember who watched me that week, but I do remember rebelling by hiding under my bed every evening and brushing my teeth with Kool-Aid before I went to bed. I also remember the “gift” my siblings returned with to compensate for leaving me at home: a picture of Laura and Luke with the a few of the Steelers players. 

No questions asked, I got my sense of adventure from Dad. While Mom swore she heard banjos playing if she didn’t know the exact milage to the nearest hospital, Dad was the one who lead us out on great adventures. Days before the trip he’d pull out an atlas, ask one of us kids to close our eyes, and do the ‘ol swirl and stop trick on the map. Where ever our finger stopped, we went.
Grand Canyon, you ask? 
Nope - Turnip Hole, Pennsylvania

It’s a real bad feeling when you drive around on winding roads for 45 minutes and can’t find the town that the toothless old man at the last gas station said should have There was no GPS. There was no cell phone. Just one confused father, one nervous mother and three impatient kids. 
Dad broke down and stopped at a house; the only house we saw in 10 miles. 

On the porch was an old man; as I remember it he had to have been 173 years old and 450 lbs, wearing bib overalls with no shirt underneath. He sat in a recliner out on his front porch next to the washer and dryer, which his foamy-mouth grey dog was sitting on. He had approximately 7 strands of white hair combed over from one ear to the other and was chewing a soggy cigar.
“We’re looking for Turnip Hole - did we miss it?” Dad yelled from the car window. Heck no, he didn’t get out. 
The old man howled. “Miss is it?! Hell, ya’lls in it! This hea is Turnip Hole, Pensi-vana and I have been the Maya of this village for long nea 59 yeas - since I was long ‘bout 19! Born en raised in dees hills en I don’t suppose I’ll eva be leavin’”

Ohhhhh my. 
While Dad laughed about the the whole deal, the three of us kids, who expected to see a pretty deep hole with tons of turnips in it, were thoroughly confused and highly disappointed. There was nothing in the burg except for one jolly old man hopped up on soggy tobbacco and his dog, which I’m fairly certain was half wolf. 
To make up for it, Dad changed the plan and drove us north to Niagara Falls. 

Ahhhh, nothing like riding along a major waterfall with a Momma who hates water....

Some look back at our family vacations and wonder how we lived through them. We made it through pretty easily, I’ve always thought. We didn’t have a luxury SUV or XM radio. We had each other, the alphabet game, a car that had room for a middle passenger in the front seat, should matters in back get too rambunctious and continental breakfast fruit that always held us over until the next meal. We never went anywhere that sold postcards or keychains, but we sure had fun getting carsick together amongst those American backroads. Made for really great memories. 

Stop in Mars, Pennsylvania

Generally speaking, we spent more time in any given Mom-n-Pop shop learning about the the local culture than we ever spent in any museum. I guess that is why the three of us have no problem talking to anyone with any background these days. I will admit, we went to Disney World one year; it wasn’t quite what any of us expected and I suppose one day I’ll tell you all why. 

I have a good friend who remembers her "last family vacation"; the one where the kids forgot to speak to the parents because cell phones had arrived and it took a month after they got home to even realize they'd been to the Grand Canyon and back. That trip ended their vacation time together. 

I don't know. I guess I'm such a traditionalist that I still believe one day we'll load up the crew, from grandparents to grandkids and set off on the next big adventure to.....
maybe Jungle Jim's in Cincinnati?

Guess that's why they say, "The family that survives vacations together in podunk America, will happily survive anything"

 They do say that, right?

1 comment:

  1. This made me laugh. We rarely went on vacations either, I think the furthest we ever traveled was the time we went to Sea World in Cincinnati, and poor Bailey wasn't even born yet. By the time we went on another one we were all at the age in which it was really not a good idea to have three sisters in the backseat of a car for an extended period of time. I think mom and dad kind of wanted to murder us by the end of that one...