Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Let's Face It, I Probably Really Do Have a Relative Who Stirs Kool-Aid with Her Arm

Summer always makes me think of vacations. This is not necessarily a good thing.

For starters, I haven't gone anywhere for more than a long weekend since, oh, 2006 or so. And that was a somewhat misguided trip involving the World's Largest Manmade Illuminated Star, a Ford Focus that I kept losing in parking lots, and an accidental visit to an illegal off-track betting parlor. (Oh, wait, that trip was AWESOME.)

But mostly I think of the summer trips of my childhood. What's funny is that I can never remember where we went, what we did, or who we saw. My parents could mention that time we went to Upper Caledonia in the Zebulon Galaxy and battled three-headed cross-dressing Amway representatives, and I would not recall a thing.

Instead, this is what I remember:

I remember my mom's AMC station wagon, which was wood-paneled in homage to the Family Truckster. This was way back when booster seats and child seats were yuppie fripperies for the weak of spirit. (If I were a child today, parental paranoia would demand I wear a helmet and some bubble wrap.) My sister and I sprawled across the storage area on a pile of blankets, while our luggage was comfortably ensconced in the backseat (you know, where there was actual seatbelts and safety features, well, such as they were in the early 80s). I remember the gooey plastic ceiling cover which would melt and land on us in disturbingly vomitous chunks.

I remember the endless loop of our only two 8-tracks, Olivia Newton-John and ABBA. I remember being the only girl at Casita Elementary who knew all the words to "Fernando", which may have marked the beginning of my plummet into nerd-dom.

I remember the endless driving from hotel to motel to resort, as all lodging options in town were exhausted due to my dad's philosophical objection to making reservations.

I remember the endless driving as the source of my endless horking by the side of the road, at rest stops, and sometimes I-swear-it-was-an-accident onto my sister.

I remember leaving my favorite doll on the roof of the car.

I remember leaving my retainer at a Burger King.

I remember the time we returned to find my pet parakeet Sydney had committed suicide by trapping herself behind my dresser mirror. Upside down. And staring directly at me. Gross.

I also remember the time we returned to find a pescetarian Jonestown, as all of Skye's fish had jumped out of their tank in the week we were away.

I remember the funny way my dad would stick his tongue out just a little when we'd pass the same intersection half a dozen times from a dozen different directions. (The laws of physics never seemed to apply to my family in any real way. This is how we'd visit four states in an hour but teleport back from Tijuana.)

The one trip I do truly remember, we aimed for the Finger Lakes and landed in Montreal. I met a lottery winner and saw Turner and Hooch.

It's funny how family vacations have achieved a sort of American mythology. The food, the accommodations, all of it, is usually...just plain bad. It's all about bickering, getting lost, getting all the way to Wally World only to find out it's closed for repairs. But it's still something we do.
And I'll be damned if my hypothetical future kids, Union Carbide and Enron, get out of this fine American tradition of intergenerational torture. I may even drive a custom-built Truckster.

In the comments, tell me about your summer vacations.


Brando said...

I recall we had only three 8-track tapes in our car--ABBA (what is it with ABBA?), Crystal Gayle and Anne Murray. To this day I can't see a 1978 Caprice Classic and hear "Don't It Make My Brown Eyes Blue" without getting shivvers of nostalgia.

Fearless in Toronto said...

I spent many an overnight trip to my cousin's house in the US, curled up in a sleeping bag in the back of the station wagon.

Oh, Fernando. There was something in the air that night...wait, perhaps I've said too much.

Shannon said...

Brando - So, you often run into a 1978 Caprice Classic while listening to "Don't Make My Brown Eyes Blue"? This is a rather disturbing view into your private life.

Fearless - The stars were bright, Fernando! They were shining there for you and me, for lib-er-teeee, Fernando!

Dmbosstone said...

I don't go on long trips over the Summer either. The summer kicks off with my annual OBX Trip but after that I don't do anything but perhaps some weekend trips.

Brando said...

What I choose to do when I time travel back to the Carter years is my own business....

Shannon said...

Dmbosstone - I need an annual trip!

Brando - That would explain why you've been so malaise-y lately.

Anonymous said...

First of all I LOVE the song Fernando, so that does not make you a dork.

Second of all what is it with those station wagons? A college friend of mine had one and it would leave a trail of foam across the parking lot every time we took it somewhere.

bh said...

Same trip every year. For 12 straight years. Austin to Port Aransas Texas for a week of vacation in a condo on the beach, with my mom, my grand parents, my mom's two sisters, their two husbands and their three daughters. We stopped at the same Dairy Queen in Beeville every year. We spent every day on the ship channel or the jettie crabbing, with the same fish heads and turkey necks for bait the whole week (we'd store them in garbage bags under the cars in 100 degree heat, you can't fathom how bad they would smell by the end of the week). My aunt would turn the crabs into some sort of casserole with craft chedder cheese after the grown ups spent all afternoon drinking beer and picking crabs.

In 7th grade, I lost my ray bans when we stopped to pick some cotton on the way home. My younger cousin saw me drop them and intentionally failed to tell me.

One year we crabbed for five straight days. We caught one crab.

Another year, my uncle went out to pick up pizza, stopped at a bar, and came home four hours later plastered.

When I was a Junior, my other cousin and I got hammered off tequila while everyone was at the beach. I pulled the whole affair off and nobody knew until last year we drank the tequila.

And my mom owned a 76 Cutless Supreme Wagon then 86 Cheverly Caprice Wagon.

In looking back, probably some of the best times of my entire life.

Tina said...

My parents took us on a hellish trip from western New York to San Francisco by greyhound bus. They thought it would be educational.

Shannon said...

Fiery - It was leaving behind a foam of awesomeness!

bh - At least you got to stay in the same place for a whole week! We changed locations almost every single day - which meant I spent almost every single day horking from carsickness on the side of the road.

Shannon said...

Tina - Well, it's educational in that you probably learned to NEVER DO THAT AGAIN!

Anonymous said...

My last family trip was like the Griswalds going to Wally World. Totally went pear shaped.

Jo said...

Shannon, thanks to you I've had "Fernando" stuck in my head for a good 2 hours. I was in a meeting earlier with the chorus on repeat in my head... This wouldn't be a problem except I DON'T know more than 3 lines of the damn song. I'm actually annoying myself!

Shannon said...

jp - Well, if Christie Brinkley showed up, then it probably wasn't a complete loss...

Jo - You're welcome! Oh, wait, that was sarcastic.

hoyden said...

We drove to the Grand Canyon, where we got a flat tire while driving across the Reservation on a Sunday afternoon. We drove to NYC where we got a flat tire on a rainy Sunday night while crusing the strip looking for a hotel whose name had been changed-- unbeknownst to us. We went to Martha's Vineyard where we were stranded on the island for 5 days without power due to Hurricane Bob.

After that, we just stayed home.

Heather said...

My mom introduced me to the world of ABBA with Fernando :)

I defiantly still have a bit of nostalgia for my family's 10 hr car trips to the Greak Lakes or upstate NY in the summers. My mom always packed the greatest sandwiches and snacks for the trip. And of course the sibling bickering on the ride up was always enjoyable!

Shannon said...

hoyden - I think I remember hearing the Grand Canyon story!

Heather - If you don't knock that off right this minute, I'll turn this blog around and go home! I mean it!

Zipcode said...

I remember the 1978 Cadillac and the CB radio my father had -- he pissed off more truckers then you can think of.

I was tortured with music of Kenny Rogers, Barbara Mandrel, Olivia Newton John, Alabama and Abba too all on 8 track.

My dad made the trips amusing yelling at my mother about bad directions. I just sat in the back and played with my barbies.

f.B said...

our annual family trip was to VA Beach. it was the first place i'd ever seen bumper boats. you could ram people with a boat.

bh said...

And I like to point out that there is no shame in stirring kool aid with your arm.

I stirred my G&T last night with my finger because I was too lazy to turn around and grab a spoon.

Shannon said...

Zip - I have a CB I used to take on college road trips. My handle was "Vixen."

f.B - Awesome. I hope you got lots of salt water taffy.

bh - Was it your drink, or was it a guest's drink?

Anonymous said...

hello... hapi blogging... have a nice day! just visiting here....

Marsh said...

Every couple years, we would pack up the faux wood paneled station wagon and take the family trip. My younger sister and I would always have to ride in the cargo area, facing backward to following vehicles.

One trip, I convinced my sister that the car behind us was the CIA/FBI tailing us. The poor guy was stuck behind us for miles on a back road...

After a while - we began using our crayons to send messages to the unsuspecting dude.

We got busted by my Dad in the rear view mirror, and he pulled over to let our Victim pass by.

I can't see a person in the bed of a pick-up truck, without thinking of this particular road trip.