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Family Style Vacation

by Bob Schwartz

With a supreme look of indignation, my youngest son bellowed, "This is supposed to be a family vacation! You're supposed to spend time with your family! Not dump us off!"

Ah, the mouths of babes can capsulize things so precisely with a slightly tainted view of the facts. Truth is we had just discussed with our children our family vacation plans for the summer that involved a trip to a family-type camp on the East Coast. What that terminology meant was apparently open for interpretation. To me, it was the best of both worlds. We could enjoy family activities together, but there would also be the opportunity for them to do organized fun-filled camp things with other children. And my wife and I could then have a five-minute conversation which was uninterrupted by refereeing the variance of opinion between two brothers, treating a skinned knee for the 476th time or answering a phone call from someone wishing to sell me a time share condo in Bettendorf, Iowa.

By the second day of our vacation my younger son had changed his tune significantly. He was having so much fun that by 8:00 a.m. he was pleading to be able to ditch his parents at the breakfast table and go join his fellow campers. His chorus was now, "I see you guys all the time at home. Vacation is the time to enjoy my new friends and activities. Can I go now? Can I go now? Huh, huh, huh!"

Yes, the fickle mind of the eight-year-old. From the trepiditation of not knowing to the titillation of experiencing in less than 24 hours. One of the parental bonuses here was that meals were included. A week of no cooking brings joy, but nothing like the ecstasy of 158 hours of not having to wash dishes. Additionally, dinners were available as "adult only," so that while your children ate buffet style with their new friends, so could you. The trade-off was that without the nutritional police/parent around your child was undoubtedly washing down one bite of spagetti with sixteen chococate chip cookies and five scoops of ice cream. I'm not the king of small talk like my wife, who can strike up a conversation with a mime. I viewed vacationing with strangers as going on a first date every night and having to provide your life story. I figured it might be much more entertaining to have a different life story every time I met a new person.

The first night I told our table-sharing dinner guests that I was the conductor for the Montgomery, Alabama traveling orchestra, after having told others during the cocktail hour that I was the US ambassador to Madagascar. My wife wasn't in earshot of the first fib, but was for the second. I was suddenly shot a look that said something like knock off the vocational shenanigans or you'll find yourself looking for a new career as a husband.

The activities available for adults are more aptly titled, "Let's do physically challenging things that we have never done before and try to live and tell about it." Pain relievers are apparently the big seller at the local drug store. By the end of the week you've got to pack up and head out as the new influx of families is arriving. You look at the interlopers with a tainted eye for they signify that you're now back to the reality of no forty foot buffet table every night. But if you weren't disappointed upon leaving, what kind of vacation would that have been?

Copyright 2000 © Bob Schwartz

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