I can say with complete genetic certainty that I did not inherit the dominant Vacation allele from either of my parents. We just returned from a week in Maine with my parents Nana “Who Drank the Last of My Favorite Wine?” Gathen and Pops “Don’t Worry I Brought My Tools” Gathen and my sister Ish “Put It Back On CNN” Gathen and from Day One my parental vacationing inadequacies were at best glaring and at worst utterly disgraceful to the legacy and line of great vacationing parents who have preceded me.
Unlike my parents who are masters of the vacation car ride I am considered the Rosemary Kennedy of the family in this respect. Regardless of whether our annual destination was the Land of Christmas Tree Shops aka Cape Cod (3 Hour drive) or Home of the Overpriced Leather Moccasin aka Lake George (1 Hour drive) the pre-drive preparation was the same. My parents would pack the white and powder blue Suburban the night before in such a manner that with the back seats down a baby mattress would fit perfectly in the center. Before dawn my parents would then gently lift us from our beds, lay us down in the back of the truck and moments later we were on the road avoiding the traffic in the early morning darkness.
With no stringent seatbelt laws in the 1970’s coupled my father’s lead foot, my siblings and I were drowsy adolescent rockets in ideal launching position for when my father hit the brakes to avoid a raccoon or to pull into an All Night Christmas Tree Shop. If we chose to remain awake in the missile silo our options for entertainment were either reciting our Last Will and Testament to each other or a filling in a page or two of Mad Libs where inevitably my ass would ask someone’s boob to dance at the Prom or my brother would visit the Toilet Paper Exhibit at the Museum of Modern Burps. We always arrived at our destination before check-in time at the hotel or beach house; our hearts filled with love for our parents for taking us on vacation, our stomachs filled with butterflies in anticipation of the certain fun and excitement the upcoming week held for us all and our bladders bursting with the contents of countless juice boxes resulting from my father’s “let’s just push through” theory of travel.
In direct contradiction to my parent’s first cardinal rule of vacation travel we waited until the morning we were leaving to pack the car and that decision should have been a harbinger that our 5 hour car rides to and from The Place Where Even the Gas Stations Sell Lobster aka Maine were doomed. Moments before we left the house the power adapter for the portable DVD player fell into a half dozen pieces as I plugged it into the cigarette lighter. Calmly, I gathered up the pieces, brought them in the house and said to Kathleen, “What the Hell are we going to do? Seriously, what the hell are we going to do with Jack for 5 hours in the car without the DVD player? Game over man, Game over!” It was because I remained cool and collected and then donated my eternal soul plus $25 to Satan’s Annual Pledge Drive that I was able to fix the adapter. After astronaut strapping Jack and Adam into their respective car seats, putting in a movie for Jack on the DVD Player of the Damned and again reminding the clown we hired to make balloon animals for the boys that a Trouser Snake is not a legitimate balloon animal we were finally on the road. Adam slept most of the way, Jack watched the entire Roots miniseries and we abandoned the clown at the Exit 7 rest stop on the Mass turnpike for suggestively asking Kathleen if she wanted him to “make her an animal”. In our defense, how could we have known that Libido the Clown was going to turn out to be a lecherous perv? All in all, the drive to Maine went better than we hoped it would; unfortunately the same could not be said for the ride back.
In direct contradiction to my first cardinal rule of vacation travel my father, Pops “Does anyone want more pancakes?” Gathen took Adam for a walk minutes before we left and put him to sleep. Once in the car it took no longer than 10 minutes for Adam to start crying and straining against the seat belt straps like Jeff Gordon in a 7 car pile-up. For the next 5 and ½ hours we played a game with Adam where we would hand him a new object every 30 seconds (rattle, water bottle, balloon animal remnants, a book of Mad Libs) which was just long enough for him to think with each object, “Hey, this is interesting. What if I put it in my mouth? Hmmm. Nope, I’m still pissed off.” Interestingly, it was only a few days earlier, during a similar episode of backseat crying, that we discovered Adam is fascinated with the ring tones on my cell phone particularly one called “I Love Coconuts” and especially when I sing along with that it, so when we ran out of random objects to hand back to him I cued up “I Love Coconuts” and started crooning. Over the course of a few hours some impromptu lyrics were better than others, but Adam and Jack’s favorite seemed to be:
“Coconuts! Coconuts. I love coconuts, why don’t you give them a chance?
That’s right they’re coconuts! Yes Coconuts! I even put a couple in my underpants. Wah-Wah.”
My favorite on the other hand was:
“Coconuts! Coconuts. I love coconuts, but they are so hard to find.
That’s right they’re coconuts! Yes Coconuts! I really think I’m gonna lose my friggin’mind. Wah-Wah.”
Whether it was the dulcet tones of my interminable coconut song or the Benadryl pasties Kathleen wore before nursing him at the rest stop, Adam finally fell asleep three miles from the house. In retrospect, I suppose we should have hired Kama Sutra the Magician although I understand his signature illusion is the disappearing Trouser Snake which is cause for some concern.