On family vacations
Dear kids, Well, school is out and it’s time for our summer vacation. We’ll leave tomorrow for the beach, and in July we’ll be driving south to visit your grandparents. As you know, I’ve been on a few of these trips with you and there are some matters I need to explain.By “matters” I am primarily referring to those frequent times when I reach the point of exasperation and find myself in one of those disagreeable moods. I think you know what I am talking about here.First of all, you know how particular I am about the car; that’s the reason I wash it every Saturday when you are pestering me to play ball or go swimming. Cars cost more money than you can earn in a year’s worth of bake sales and we should take care of them. Please remember that the seat pockets are not built-in garbage bags, and baloney sandwich crusts should not be discarded under the seats by the heating vents. I would also like to discuss all of the toys, pencils, drawing paper, books, CD players, videos, board games, stuffed animals, water bottles, blankets, pillows, eyeshades, baseball gloves, ballet slippers, Ace bandages, pasta strainers, hair curlers, tiaras, etc. that you pack for our road trips. When I open the car doors most of this stuff falls out and rolls underneath, and I have to crawl on my belly over some of the filthiest real estate on earth (i.e., convenience store parking lots) to retrieve it. If you add to this stuff all of the “free” toys we get at every fast-food joint we stop at, you will understand why Dad is a little on edge when he unloads the car.Next, noise can be a distraction. When everybody is listening to music through his or her headphones, playing with various video games with the sound turned up and arguing about which movie to watch at the same time, it can make driving a challenge. You know that feeling when you’re sitting in the dentist’s chair and she fires up the thing that makes your mandible do the mamba, your eyes water and causes smoke to come out of your mouth? Well, that’s what I feel like sometimes while counting the miles from Witheral to Levelland.I should mention the motels too. After a hard day on the road, Mom and I usually feel like going to bed early, yet you guys want to stay up late pushing buttons on the air conditioner, running up and down the halls getting ice to fill up the bathtub, wrestling on the less-than-sanitary carpeting, jumping on the beds and fighting over who gets to sleep on the rollaway.Then the next day when I would like to get on the road early, the only thing that can get you out of bed is my mentioning the complimentary continental breakfast that I recommend we avoid. You remember, that’s where you get to make your own waffles in one of those fancy machines that is handled by hundreds of other travelers before we get to it. Someday you’ll understand the misery of waking up to a cool cup of watered-down, bitter coffee. The airports can be problematic too. Touching every single handrail, doorknob and spring-loaded trash-can lid in the place scares your mom and me. Many, many people grab those things, and there is more fungus growing on them than there was in the old cooler we left in Grammy’s garage and forgot to clean out for the entire two weeks we were in Texas last August. What I’m really trying to say about this stuff that happens on our vacations, kids, is that it tends to make me grouchy. And I just want to tell you that I’m sorry.Now that you are all getting older, I’m realizing that we won’t be making these journeys together forever. You’ve reached the age where there are fewer family vacation miles in front of us than there are behind. I think it’s important to let you know that I’m really going to miss all those times we invented reasons to get out of Grammy’s hair for a while. Ending up at the go-cart track with you steering while sitting in my lap because you were two years short of being 48 inches tall was more fun than any powder day I’ve ever had. Who would have thought that my chasing you guys around a play park for two-and-a-half hours could make us all laugh until we were crying? I don’t think the Fireballs and Slurpees afterward were as bad for you as Grammy thought, but keep up the good work in brushing your teeth anyway. If you give me another chance, I promise that I’ll build more sand castles, stay in the water a few more minutes and let you bury me up to my neck until your digging fingers get tired. I’ll worry less about making good time and more about savoring good times. We’ll stop more often and linger longer. You see, kids, I’ve made a big mistake. Somewhere along the way I’ve forgotten that the journey is the adventure. Arriving somewhere is only getting to a place from where we will have to return, all too soon. Our lives are made up of those small crumbs that get ground into the upholstery. Rather than vacuuming them up and scrubbing them away as soon as possible, we should look up, see what piece of cake they are falling from and join the party. I am bringing this up because recently I’ve noticed that you’ve been keeping the car a little cleaner. We’re not packing as much stuff. More and more often we listen to the same kinds of music, and we’re making fewer bathroom stops. Sadly, our family vacations are becoming what I used to desperately wish they would.I miss who you were, and I’m proud of who you are. It’s a joyful pain that I will never be able to explain to you. Just trust me that it’s a nice feeling, even though it hurts like crazy sometimes. So this year don’t be alarmed if I seem a little different on our trip. If my eyes get a little watery from time to time, my voice quivers a little now and then, or I give you a big hug for no apparent reason, I just wanted you to know why. Thanks for understanding. You guys are the coolest. Love, Dad P.S. This doesn’t mean it’s OK to put your gum in the ashtrays.Roger Marolt’s email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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