The Joys – and the Pain – of a Family Vacation
Someone (probably Erma Bombeck) once wrote that "there's nothing better than spending time with family, until you're stuck inside in the rain." A week-long family beach vacation, at first blush, sounds like a memory-making, relationship-building and happiness-off-the-chart inducing good time.
With family spread from Brunswick to Huntsville, AL, finding the perfect gathering spot is a cartographic challenge. With measuring tools in hand, Myrtle Beach, SC, was chosen as the halfway point, that way no family had much more than a nine hour ride.
A NINE HOUR RIDE!
Fortunately, grandparents get to ride in relative peace and quiet. Even a loaded iPod is pushed to its digital music limit on a nine-hour road trip, so even the most jaded traveler is tempted with excuses to pull off of the Interstate.
South of The Border beckons a weary driver like an oasis to a thirsty desert dweller, and appeals to our baser human instincts. Not unlike a roadside car wreck, you really have to use discipline not to take the exit after having been visually assaulted for 100 miles by their stupid billboards.
Shifting into full tourist-zombie mode, the car seemed to steer itself off the exit ramp. Surely a well-read and educated adult like myself would never intentionally drive into the SOTB parking lot, but alas, they got me.
The truest test of a place is to try to define it using just one word. So how was South of the Border? Dirty. I mean filthy, disgusting and bordering (bad pun intended) on unhealthy dirty. I avoided actual contact with any surface, especially door handles, spigots, and latches. It isn't hard to guess what most people eat there, since they leave their wrappers all over the place.
Setting aside the "Border incident," there are few prettier places in America than the low country and beaches of South Carolina. Even in the rain; and, boy, did it rain!
I don't mean the light summer drizzle or short-duration afternoon thunderstorm. I'm talking ’bout the daylong, constant soaking downpour that drenches everyone and everything.
Nothing says beach vacation like a soaking rain. Especially when your vacation party includes four little boys, ages 1-4. Even the private swimming pool and hot tub stand like a mocking reminder of the fun to be had when the rain stops.
To add some emphasis, Garden City Beach defines the low in low country. When the wind is howling and the tide is high, the access road from inland is awash in salt water. You feel like an irresponsible adult by driving through it, but there really isn't any other choice.
If the choice is to spend more time stuck in a place you don't know, surrounded by people you don't know, doing things you don't really care to do, or risking it all to be swept out to sea in order to get back to the comfort of your beach house, you take your chances with the ocean.
So, you try to avoid driving off the peninsula at high tide, and you wait out the rain, secretly praying for the reappearance of that hot ball of gas in the sky. And no, I don't mean the after effects of the South of the Border burrito, either.
I learned a thing or two about a confluence of diaper-wearing grandsons last week. Used diapers in plastic trash bags dot the outside porches and decks like some kind of weird trail marker. It's like the little travelers used their own soiled diapers to mark their way so they could return home one day.
Another consequence of bad weather and young children is the Disney Channel. This evil creation plays throughout the morning while parents fix breakfast and plot how to avoid the soaking rain (a fruitless endeavor). Each time I hear Mickey's high-pitched squeal, I feel myself moving one step closer to fired postal worker rage.
A grandfather holds a special place in their grandson's eye. Grandpa, or Go-Go (both apply here) is often a last resort go-to guy when the chips are down. If trouble looms, find a path to Grandpa. Mommy and Daddy will most likely lighten the punishment in Grandpa's presence.
I can't really explain it. It's just one of those immutable laws of parenting.
Similarly, seeing our own children interact with their siblings is a joy, even when they fight. With our oldest living so far away, her sister and brother only get to see her a few times a year.
Even if they get into arguments, it isn't really a bad thing. For Heaven's sake, they spent their entire childhood fighting with one another, so you could say that they're just returning to form, and acting like themselves again!
All in all, in spite of the drive, the rain, the frayed nerves, and the diaper trail, a week away from work is still a week away from work.
Also, the blemishes, scars and missed opportunities remind us of one simple and precious truth. Our families are a gift from God, and each and every moment we have with them is a source of joy and wonder.
Think of the families that don't have those treasured moments to spend together, or the people who would trade all that they have to hear a child's cry or laugh just one more time.
So let it rain! This will just be one more memory for the scrapbooks, the year South Carolina low country beaches almost got washed away by the rain.