Traveling is a fairly new experience for us. When my boys were small, our biggest “vacation” was flying to AZ (ONCE) to see Bruce’s parents who “wintered” there every year. It was my FIRST time flying. I wasn’t excited. You can imagine my disdain at the whole ordeal when I realized that it wasn’t a direct flight. Poor Bruce. While it was definitely enjoyable at times, there were also parts of it that were incredibly stressful for me. I am sure mostly due to the fact that I definitely wasn’t a worldly traveler. If yu think I was worried about flying, my mom was MORE worried about us flying, so she scared the daylights out of me before we even left (if the plane goes down, do this, etc). In addition, she called once to tell me that there was going to be a dust storm in Nevada. She knew we were traveling there as part of our trip, and she was worried we all might die in a wind storm of dirt (I can’t make this stuff up)! Weather woman Shirley we called her. I mean she actually used weather terms like vortex, and high and low pressures causing blah, blah (seriously). The van we rented got a flat tire in Las Vegas, if you can imagine trying to figure out how to fix a tire in unknown, unfriendly city. We got lost countless times (no map-quest back then), paper maps it was! I could go on, National Lampoons has nothing on us, believe me.
Beyond that, we tried two “vacation” camping trips. They were both disastrous (for me). First, whoever says they enjoy this process is hardier than me, or plain crazy! And second, for me camping is more work than fun. I am honestly NOT a princess, but I am also NOT a “be one with nature” person either. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good hike, but that’s usually where it ends for me. We did not grow up camping, honestly I am unsure that we ever did? Dad took us fishing a couple times but beyond that, I don’t remember tenting as a child. So, on our two family camping trips to Bruce’s uncle’s cabin in WI several years ago, it went something like this.
Bruce and I struggling to erect the tent. It took us twice as long as everyone else, and once done, I was a sweaty mess and irritated at the bugs already flying all around us and biting us. The air mattress was a whole other ordeal (manual pumps back then) and by the time that was inflated, I was ready to head home, but I would settle for a shower.
Me: Where do we shower?
Bruce: (looking at me like I am dumb, and yet scared to answer me)…..in the lake….
The rest of the time, I chased my two young boys around (essentially toddlers at the time), fearing that they would either drown or be eaten by a bear. When I wasn’t doing that, I was sweeping out the tent, yes…you read that right, sweeping out the tent. I couldn’t stand the damn sand!
On our second night of FOUR, our air mattress deflated. I woke up somewhere in the middle of the night sandwiched with Bruce in what was essentially a taco of our air mattress. We tried to repair it, which simply meant a slower deflation EACH night, over the next two nights, to where we essentially were laying on the ground. Then trying to repair it, re-inflate it and having the whole damn thing start over again. Beyond that, every sound that I heard outside our tent at night frightened me beyond belief, as I feared it was a grizzly or a pack of wolves (The Grey anyone?).
I was never so happy to be home. Two of those events were enough for me. I never went again.
Bruce however was a trooper and he took the boys on a couple of “dad-son bonding, one with the earth” trips to the Boundary Waters. I was hesitant at first because I worried incessantly about my boys being away from me. However, they were going with a friend of Bruce’s, Will, who was an experienced camper and woodsman. So I relented and let the boys go. The first trip seemed to go well, and Bruce and the boys had fun!
The second trip though would be their last one. We laugh about parts of this now, but as much as I laugh, the alternative of this trip always grips my heart just a bit as it could’ve turned much more tragic. I am sure that the whole way home Bruce encouraged the boys not to tell me anything about a certain part of the trip, but that lasted until the moment they walked in the door. I was so excited to see them home and safe! That joy was quickly deflated as this scene unfolded…..
Darek: (as he is walking in the door, all of 10 years old) Hi mom, we are back and we had fun, but Darien almost choked to death and died (seriously… his. delivery. was. just. like. that)
Bruce who was walking in the door right behind him visibly cringed.
Me: What? (as I search for Darien who comes in, trailing behind Bruce, clearly okay but being a mom, I go immediately to him, I have to survey him myself) Is that true??? (looking at Bruce) as I grab Darien, the need to feel the warmth of his face)
Bruce: Yes, but it’s okay, it wasn’t that bad.
Darek: (Then as if needing to push his point further) Dad had to push on Darien’s stomach.
Me: <stunned silence> You had to do the Heimlich Maneuver??????!!!!!!!! (simultaneously at a loss for words and sick to my stomach as I hold Darien, thankful that he is there for me to hold)
Yes, Bruce did do the Heimlich Maneuver. Darien had been eating a piece of beef jerkey, which we now always refer to jokingly as beef chokey, and started to choke on it. This day has played over in my mind countless times since. That day could’ve ended with my husband carrying out the body of my dead son. Maybe that’s dramatic, but that’s what my mind’s eye envisions when I think of this camping trip.
Needless to say, that’s where any camping excursions ended. And that is what formed my idea that vacations were for other people, because as far as I was concerned, ours always ended like a Chevy Chase movie!
It wasn’t until a handful of years ago, when Bruce was diagnosed with cancer that I started to feel the need to travel again. To make some memories of FUN family time together (I laugh at this because vacations are always a healthy mix of fun…and stress!).
Our first big trip was to San Francisco (Bruce, I and the boys), AND we learned A LOT on this trip, like never get ONE hotel room! That was followed the next year with a trip to New York City (Bruce, I, the boys and Madi, our niece), again we learned that you don’t go grocery shopping the first night there in unknown territory. We got lost for about an hour, walking aimlessly, IN THE DARK, IN NYC, and in the rain, (our groceries were in PAPER BAGS), I thought poor Bruce was going to pass out. Then two years ago, we did a FAMILY trip to Yellowstone, our family, Chad and his kids and Ally and her family, in which Ally and I realized that thinking about riding horses, and ACTUALLY riding horses are two very different things! There is more to this trip that has it’s own National Lampoon’s parts to it, but that’s for another post! And then last year, we went to the North Shore, again the whole tribe of us, and once again, we learned a few things, like tie the chairs down that are on the dock in a wind storm. It was great fun fishing out a chair in about 6 feet of freezing cold water! Ahhhh, the “joys” of vacationing!
Last year, we also went to the Dells for a mid-summer vacation, everyone except Bruce (waterparks are not his thing), who stayed home and kept the dogs alive.
This year for our midsummer waterpark trip to the Dells, it is myself, Darien, Chad and his kids (Madi and Nolan), Bella (Ally’s daughter) and Fiona, Madi’s friend. Darek and Bruce both decided to stay home (Darek said dad needed him, honestly I think he just gets over stimulated with all the people). It is a random mix of people and it felt so weird to leave Bruce and Darek at home. I almost didn’t want to go but we had committed to the room. Also, I realize that this mini-vacation is not about the grown-ups, but more about the kids.
And so that’s what this post is really about! Whew, all that to get to this point!
I have always been a worrier. The very thing that drove me NUTS about my mom, I do even better than she did. I have a wonderful imagination, and it can take me down a rabbit hole that would rival the best of Steven King’s scenario’s. I really stole what could’ve been wonderful memories for my boys growing up, had I not been so afraid of “what could happen”, and instead learn to “enjoy the moment”. And also realized a little too late, that yes, there are definitely “not fun” parts to vacations (sand, sweat and bugs) but for kids, these make up the fun (and memories) for them.
And to learn that, yes, things can happen (beef chokey) but mostly, bad things don’t happen.
Case in point: yesterday, Chad and Darien wanted the kids to go on the Hurricane. If you’re not familiar with the Hurricane, it is a water park thrill ride to end all thrill rides. You always hear the people before you see the people emerge from the ride, either that or you see them clinging to the raft, pale and in shock. There is a HUGE drop at the start of the ride, and if you’re the unlucky one with your back to the drop, you feel as though you are going to be catapulted out of the raft.
Yes, I have been on it before, twice. It is an adrenaline rush for sure!
I was hesitant (okay, I started down the rabbit hole of worry, with vivid imagination) about Nolan and Bella going on it, but they really wanted to go. Madisyn and Fiona were like, “tomorrow….” (smart girls). So, I waited with them while the rest went on the Hurricane.
As we waited, we witnessed people coming through the shoot of the ride to the end, time and again, either screaming or shell shocked. Then there was a HUGE delay where no one came through. Later we found out a girl passed out right in front of Chad, Dari and the kids. Chad thought for sure the kids would opt out, but they persevered!
Their faces say it all!
The big boys are all smiles, the adrenaline rush FANTASTIC!
Bell and Noli are like, “WTH just happened?” and “YAY, we survived!”. Bell’s face was PRICELESS!
Me: Was it fun?
Bell: No, it was terrifying. I am NEVER doing that again! (laughing hysterically!)
Noli: <not a word spoken, thunderstruck> (I am thinking he is in shock)
I look over at Madi and Fiona and I am certain that has sealed the deal for them, they won’t be experiencing any kind of Hurricane any time soon…..
But for Nolan and Bella, the BRAGGING rights are a serious deal! They have out done the cooler older sister/cousin and her friend!
Later, we decide to lull the evening away on the lazy river. As I take pictures, I love that the kids are giggling, Madi and Fiona are doing their preteen banter as the float around and that Chad and Dari are simply enjoying the calm.
This is what vacation is about. Its the death defying, adrenaline rushing thrill rides, followed by the calm of a serene float. It is laughing our butts off after a thrill seeking ride (because we are still working through the hysteria)! Then, it’s giggling about the ride AFTER it’s all done! Then it’s enjoying the day and thinking about the next adventure tomorrow! It’s about making memories with those we love. Is there anything better?