When I made the decision to leave the workforce and become a stay-at-home mom, there were repercussions. One of the first things to go were family vacations. Airplane trips to exotic locales were not in the budget. In fact, there wasn’t much in the budget at all. So, our yearly trips consisted of driving to North Dakota and staying with my in-laws (who very graciously put up with us every summer).
The trip to Jerry’s hometown can be made in 24 hours of nonstop driving (no, thank you). While we were childless, my husband and I would do it in two days (twelve hours each day). Once the kids came, we lengthened that to three days each way (8 hour days). Any more time in the car would have resulted in huge tantrums (me).
The thing is, that when you lose an income, your cars tend to be rather “unreliable”. This adds to the excitement of summer vacations. Let’s see, there were the cars with no air conditioning (which makes for VERY crabby passengers (me again). There was the car that would only go 40 mph up hills, IF you turned off the radio and air conditioner. There was the car that had the heater going at full blast (because that’s fun in 90 plus degree heat). And, there was the car that leaked water and had to be refilled every few miles.
But, the car that took the prize was the one that died in Cle Elum. It was packed with a week’s worth of luggage for a family of five, food, plus two adults and three children. We had the thrill of riding all the way back home in a tow truck. The kids were not impressed when I told them to pretend they were on a Disneyland ride. Especially the carsick child.
Once home again (many hours later), we crammed everything into Jerry’s tiny commuter car. We shoe-horned three kids into the back seat and took off again. I somehow ended up in the back separating fighting kids who did not see the humor in spending the day crammed into two different cars plus a tow truck. By midnight I told Jerry to pull into the first motel he passed or I was leaping out of the car onto the freeway. I meant it too.
If it wasn’t car issues, our trips were fraught with illness. One year, our eldest got the flu in the hotel on our first night out. There’s nothing like sharing a single room with a sick child and her siblings yelling, “Gross!” all night long. The middle child got it while we were in ND and the baby and I got it on the ride home. THAT was a fun trip.
My husband took the kids to Northern Montana one year and our son was so ill with a high fever and respiratory flu that he was in tears in the backseat. I thankfully missed that trip. I was in Texas for my niece’s boot camp graduation, miserably ill with the respiratory flu there!
When I returned to work (eleven years after the birth of my eldest), we took some nice trips to California and Texas. We had reliable transportation and we stayed in hotels. But, those vacations melt together in a hazy, happy, dream-like way.
The times we really remember and laugh about are those “disaster” trips. They created a sense of camaraderie that comes only from having survived something tough together. Although we would never want to go back in time and relive those vacations, they have become the source of hilarious family lore.
And, believe it or not, I wouldn’t trade that for all the reliable cars in the world.