Greetings, all. This is Elizabeth here - Jane’s eldest daughter. I’m happy to report that Mom and Dad survived their adventures in Europe and are very happy to be back in the U.S. of A. Home of cheeseburgers and the English language. They are headed back to Dallas this morning, so while they’re flying through the air with the greatest of ease (let’s hope), I’m filling in as Mom’s first ever guest blogger. She’ll be back next week and I’m sure you’ll hear all about her recent travels then. But to give you a taste – an appetizer, if you will – of what’s to come, I thought I’d dig back into the ol’ memory banks and share some stories of my own travels with those two. (After all those somewhat “truthy” stories of my childhood, this is my chance for revenge! HA!)
My sister and I agree that we always had great vacations while we were kids. Now, our family never had the money to go anywhere fancy or far away; so our Spring Breaks and Summer Vacations were always determined by how far we could get via automobile in one day. There was the trip to our state’s capital the summer before I started my class in Texas History. There was the trip to San Antonio after Mom and Dad went by themselves once and had so much fun they couldn’t wait to go back and bring us along. And for my 18th birthday, we headed to Galveston Beach. We ventured outside our lovely state to Oklahoma a few times, but our all time favorite vacation spot has to be Arkansas. After a while, there wasn’t even any discussion about it. The only real decision to be made was which Arkansas state park to call home for a week or so.
All our trips began the same way. The day before our departure, Mom began the “breakdown countdown”. I don’t remember how many nervous breakdowns we were each allotted, but I do remember that the biggest breakdown always took place at the end of our street – mere moments after leaving the house. In the midst of all the arguing and the yelling, Dad would bring the car to an abrupt stop and proclaim (very loudly), “Fine! We just won’t go, then!” As Emily and I got older, the breakdowns became fewer. But we still insisted that Dad begin each trip by threatening to call it off.
One memorable trip, we had to go without Mom. At the last minute, she was unable to get the time off of work, so Dad and Emily and I packed up the tent trailer and went on as planned. Dad was a REALLY good sport to take two adolescent girls with him and spend a week sleeping in close quarters. And speaking of quarters, there’s no telling how many of those Dad spent calling Mom from various pay phones all over Arkansas for help in dealing with two bickering daughters.
The one thing all of our trips had in common is that we always had a sense of humor about things. When things went wrong, we were always able to make each other laugh. One trip we arrived at our destination to find some grocery bags had spilled over and tossed a carton of raw eggs all over dad’s new company car. But did Dad blow up in frustration? No. We figured we’d better laugh about it rather than let it ruin our vacation. And when Emily and I hit the age where we found Mom & Dad too embarrassing to be in the room with, we developed a running joke about our position as the “Nerd Family”. We joked about that right up until the moment we spotted the family that out-nerded us.
But perhaps the hardest we have ever laughed had to be the trip to the Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. This was during the aforementioned trip to Galveston for my 18th birthday. After spending the morning and early afternoon playing on the beach, we packed up our great big blue station wagon, with our ice coolers and lawn chairs stacked in the back, and headed to the one and only place Dad had wanted to go on this entire trip. Did I mention what a good sport my father is? Dad is always going along with whatever us gals want to do, so every now and then, we humor Dad and do something he wants to do. And he waited ever so patiently for his chance to visit NASA. So, how could we possibly say no? Anyway, as we pulled up to the parking attendant – our big blue station wagon loaded with beach gear and one very sunburned and very tired family of four – my father looked the parking attendant right in the eyes and said, “We’re just visiting.” I immediately broke into uncontrollable laughter. Since no one else saw the humor, as soon as I could catch my breath, I said, “Well, I don’t think he thought we were going to the moon, Dad.” At which point, the rest of them burst into laughter as well, and I don’t think it stopped for about two weeks. We still laugh about that to this day.
Yes sir, my sister and I have many fond memories of our family vacations. And as a result, we still travel from time to time with our parents. Of course, now that we’re adults, it is a completely different experience. But I’ll have to save those stories for another time. Probably when Mom and Dad leave the country again.