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Vacation All I Ever Wanted

June 2, 2009


It’s summertime and for most American families that heralds a vacation together as a collective unit. Growing up, we weren’t exactly a vacation kind of family. I can remember only two honest-to-goodness true vacations with all six of us Hazels. One was in 1987 to attend the Pan American Games in Indianapolis, Indiana (and if memory serves, we only really went because my father knew the wrestling coach for the American team).


Even so, I loved the poster I picked up from the games – it hung on my bedroom wall throughout my adolescence…I loved the colors and simple design of the X’s.

The other was between my Junior and Senior year of high school. In retrospect, I’m fairly certain this vacation was my mother’s brainchild because her own children were just about to fly the nest. We went white-water rafting on the White River somewhere in Missouri. It was really more like molasses than white water with its gentle flow, but fun, nonetheless.

So, how ironic that I should marry into a family who could give the Griswold’s a run for their money in the vacation department? My husband’s family, now they vacation. Like clockwork, my father-in-law would load the entire family (some years this included three kids and a Labrador Retriever) into the wood-paneled station wagon and set out from Cincinnati bound for Myrtle Beach, South Carolina where they’d proceed to car camp for two weeks. Oh and did I mention they had a pop up camper? Now, these are folks that vacation.

By the time my husband’s family was grown, the camping trips had long since morphed into an annual beach rental on Emerald Isle, North Carolina. Much like the camping tradition (same campsite, same duration of time), the beach holiday gave way to the same beach rental every summer for exactly 14 days, the same two weeks (to coincide with the 4th of July holiday and his father’s birthday). Rain or shine.

So, because of this, for the past six years, we – the Hazels – now vacation as well. Every other summer, the formerly non-vacationing Hazels, meet somewhere for 7 days. But instead of having a set destination, we change every trip. The whole process is done in a very democratic manner complete with secret paper ballots, tallying, sliding scales, spreadsheets, and generally a phoned-in vote via speakerphone. So far, we’ve visited – Silverthorne, Colorado, Jekyll Island, Georgia and Vancouver, British Columbia.


Forgoing the matching outfits…cheese.


Blazing saddles (literally) several of the horses had belly issues.

Each year we meet at that random locale and it gets a little easier to accept who we’ve become in our adult life, away from each other (none of us siblings live in the same city). And I’m proud to say, that this year, there were no major tantrums done by anyone over the age of three. This is progress, folks.

In retrospect, (and to an outsider) I’ve learned the meltdowns of years past sound hysterical (and maybe they are). I mean, the Colorado year, the first vacation we’d ever taken as adults, we had one couple sleeping on a futon in the common area where they competed for space with a foosball table, a couple in twin beds, two pregnant women and a  basement that could have stood in for a guy’s locker room – it was a recipe for disaster from the get go. But, who could’ve predicted the great equalizer would come on the last night over a drunken game of Cranium which ended abruptly with the board being flipped over like a mob boss and someone (okay, me) storming off, crying, vowing to never speak to any of them again.


We all got the white shirt and denim memo.

The second vacation was on Jekyll Island. This trip’s turn for the worst happened mid-vacation when a recently deceased childhood cat’s name was added to our holiday gift drawing, causing Cranium incident part deux.

I know now the lesson is the memory and the notion that you’re building something without a material item. I look back at even those vacation disaster years and smile (dead kitty and all) just that we’re all there together and that we all take the time and simply show up. In today’s world with grown-up jobs, responsibilities and families, that’s saying enough, I think.

It makes me wonder where we’ll head next…I’m predicting behavior like a Washington insider acting as lobbyist for any place that allows us to speak something other than English…now that will be a story…I can just see my 3-year-old nieces now practicing up on how to perfect their chicken nugget and French fry orders in Spanish.

Until then, I’m making sure the pieces are in tack on all board games and keeping the Christmas gift drawing limited to those without a tail.