July 23, 2024

Column: “That Got Me to Thinkin’…?” “Family Vacation”


“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” “Family Vacation” Chapter 61
By Bruce Williams

Bruce Williams

Going on vacation with your family is never quite what you expect.  There’s the anticipation and the build up while you’re deciding amongst all your options; the relief of having finally booked the hotel, airfare and car (if you need one); the packing and prep—the buying of several “necessary” items; finding someone to watch the house and the dogs; how to get to and from the airport.  Then there’s all the stuff the kids need and will forget—along with the steady murmur of their incessant complaints and inane objections.

Note to self: there’s no combination of two queen beds that’ll satisfactorily outfit the Williams Clan.  The kids won’t share one (“He farts too much!”); Jack flips and flops like a flounder enough that his mom exasperatedly tossed off the comforter at 2 a.m. and declared, “I can’t take anymore!” after receiving yet another lazy forearm across her mouth.  Exhausted after that first sleepless night while negotiating at the front desk, we would’ve taken just about anything as long as it included more beds—all they had available was a suite and I had the hazy wherewithal to have them toss in an extra rollaway, too, since they were now doubling our nightly price.  It was totally worth it, though—two big rooms with five floor-to-ceiling windows of downtown San Francisco, proving there’s nothing you can’t fix by throwing money at, as long as you don’t mind continuously hemorrhaging cash.

And don’t forget the trinkets, keepsakes, knick-knacks, tchotchkes and what-nots.  My son now has a whole wardrobe of hats, shirts and sweatshirts from our beloved Seahawks’ rival city—twice buying one set of shirts because they came too big.  “You know those’ll shrink two sizes when you wash them,” I offer—foolishly trying to prevent the inevitable trudge back to the same pier boutique where they found them the first time.  Magnets, coasters, pencils, bookmarks…I look over at my daughter and she now has a new petite ring on each of her dainty little fingers.  We even had to stop and buy another backpack on the way out of town just to fit all the new loot into…

But torching cash isn’t the only thing you get to do on vacation.  Late one night, after we were settled deeply into our new luxurious room, freshly pruned from a two-hour swim and sated after gorging ourselves following a long wait for our to-go order at the only restaurant still open near our hotel (where we over-bought enough food for twice as many people), we leaned back in our pajamas and chairs and just talked.  The kids shared what some of their future life projections might look like—how many kids they might have, who they’ll live with in college, what kind of pets they’ll have.  They took turns answering the questions about us, their parents, that came in one of the clever books Michelle and Jack had picked up in one of the shops when I wasn’t paying attention (something like “All About Dad” or such).  Some of their responses were profoundly touching—enough to let you know you’re not wrecking them and might actually be getting something right once in a while.  Michelle and my eyes met after one of Jack’s particularly poignant responses—we grabbed hands and exchanged knowing glances…the kind where you acknowledge that all the complaints, the meltdowns, the expense and the drudgery are worth it for that one shining moment of clarity as to why you do all the stuff that you do when it sometimes doesn’t feel worth it.  An instance when it was just the four of us in our element—hopefully one they’ll look back on together when we’re long gone and they’re reminiscing about us—after they’ve made fun of us and laughed about how ridiculous we could be, of course.

So here we are now at the SFO airport, dining on $100 worth of overpriced deli food while we wait for our 5 p.m. flight because it required only half the air miles compared to the earlier one.  We saw the Bridge and Alcatraz and Fisherman’s Wharf—our hot fudge tin from Ghirardelli now confiscated from Michelle’s shoulder bag at the security checkpoint as I held Lou back from attacking the weary agent as she tiredly tossed the chocolate gold into the trash receptacle.  I’m now running through the list of all the stuff we need to do on the one day I have left before returning to work:

1 Unpack

2 Mow the lawn

3 Go through the mail

4 Pick out new flooring for the bedroom

5 Buy groceries

6 Wash 40 loads of clothes…

Then in about a week after we’re all back to normal we’ll plop down into bed and Michelle will innocently ask me, “Well…where should we go for our next vacation…?”