Oh, the joys of the family vacation.
January is normally the time when those who are still enslaved to “the man” have to put in their annual holidays, so decisions must be made what unfortunate location will, in 2013, be the recipient of an unwieldy group of my nearest, dearest and in-laws. Those of us who are not working 9-5 – the unemployed and the retired – are breaking open piggy banks and selling collections on ebay to try and scare up the deposit.
Deciding on a location is an interesting case study in how adults can, under duress, morph into bullies, drama queens, and five year olds. The actual children quickly escape the kitchens, family rooms and travel agencies where their elders are screaming at each other, bringing up ancient grievances.
Why families continue to believe that they must spend at least a week together each year I do not know. I am certain that some of the early cave drawings were not, as archaeologists believe, arm-waving Neanderthals dancing about the primeval fire. I maintain that they were irate family members arguing about where to go to escape glacier season. I’m convinced Homo erectus stood upright and developed opposable thumbs for the express purpose of carrying someone else’s extra suitcases.
Those of you who don’t travel with an Aunt Edna who packs as if Armageddon will occur ten minutes after the plane leaves the airport – and she must be dressed for it – will think I’m exaggerating. Let me give you a few examples from my travel diaries.
One year we all went to Florida to discover that the distant relations we had planned to stay with – oh, you must visit us at our new waterfront mansion with 14 bathrooms and room for a pony – were in the midst of an acrimonious divorce. They had divided the house into war zones, each hoping to win over members of the family with bribes and intimidation.
Then there was the time we went on a foliage bus tour of the Maritimes. Don’t ever go on a bus tour with relatives – it’s like a caged death match on wheels. Two of my cousins decided that this was the time to tell their parents they were gay – their reasoning was that the parents would have to be civilized in front of the family. That’s two weeks of my life I’ll never get back.
We’ve lost my mother in Las Vegas, were held by the police in France for passport fraud, and were flooded out of a campsite in Yellowstone National Park. We’ve shared the Norwalk virus in San Diego, a charge of disturbing the peace in Lac La Biche, and a great many hangovers that were never funny enough to be made into movies.
It makes no sense that we continue to enact the ritual of the extended family vacation. Yet we do it. Like lemmings pre-programmed to jump off the first available cliff, we pack our bags and head into oblivion. What we need is someone – a superhero-type - to take charge and put a stop to the madness. But knowing my family, someone would probably knock the hero unconscious and we’d end up dragging him or her along with the luggage.