Family Vacation, Enough Said

I haven’t spent a week with my whole family in twenty years, which is not a mistake. To the like-minded reader, this needs no explanation.  To those who have a Brady Bunch family, congratulations.  I envy you and hope you will try to understand.

Someone once asked me if I was adopted.  I am that different, in every way, from my family.  Which makes me, by default, the black sheep simply because I am the one who is different.  We are apples and oranges my family and I.  Never the two shall mix in harmony. I knew this when I agreed to spend my one full week of summer vacation with Mom, Dad, Sis, and the five children between us.  (Husbands wisely opted out.)

The excel spreadsheet I received via email one month before the intended trip opened with a warning:

‘I know you can’t think this far ahead, but here’s a list of what we’re bringing.  Take some Tylenol and try to fill in your part.’

My response:  ‘It would take a lot more than Tylenol to deal with this level of preparation.  Get back to you in a few weeks.’

I mean, really.  I didn’t even know what I was having for dinner that night.

Anticipating the level of drama my family creates, I wisely planned my arrival a day later than the other players in this theatrical performance.  As it turned out, it took less than six hours for a ‘situation’ to arise.  Details were not forthcoming via text and I was afraid to ask.  Instead, I patted myself on the back for my strategic planning and hoped the situation would be resolved before I joined the inevitable circus scene.

On the drive to Destination Disaster I began to panic.  Like a bride with wedding jitters, I contemplated all manner of excuses that would spare me from this vacation.  When none proved to be believable I resigned myself to hopeful dependence that our collective maturity level would smooth the waters.

But alas, the chaos that surrounds this clan is immense.  As I am the one writing this perspective, I shall remain blameless.  (We’ll disregard the small hissy fit I had when I arrived at the house on schedule to find it empty.  Myself and three children were locked out, desperately in need of a bathroom.)

I’d like to say the week went smoothly despite the enormous personality gaps outlined above. Nothing would be more satisfying than for me to wrap up my story in a neat little package with a bow on top, like an episode of Leave It To Beaver.  But if that were the case, I wouldn’t have any juicy stories to relate. Like the night that a Jerry Springer episode unfolded causing enough commotion to motivate one handicapped grandmother to climb 16 steps and another family of four to flee from the house to avoid involvement. (I still can’t believe the neighbors didn’t call the police.)

And what fun would it have been if two grown sisters didn’t disagree about meal preparation, sleeping arrangements, and Mom’s favorite child status?  Just kidding about that last part, but truly, sibling rivalry has no age limit I discovered.

Ram Das said, “If you think you’re enlightened, spend time with your family.”  Family has a way of bringing out those aspects of us that we’ve learned to keep nicely tucked away in broader social situations – impatience, intolerance, harsh judgment….Our closest relations are the sandpaper that rubs up against our vulnerability in just the right (or wrong) way, causing us to react from a well-worn place.

By the end of our vacation, that vulnerable place inside of me started to resemble an actual wound.  I feared for my sanity and the sanctity of our family relationships.  A cry for help to husband stated a simple but desperate truth, ‘I NEED YOU!’

Luckily, husband was just an hour away and full of generosity from his own solitary week without us. Upon his arrival, I nearly wept for joy. It could have been the alcoholic beverages or the bakery items he brought that made my knees weak. But more likely, it was the relief I felt to see him.

Husband has a way of tilting a room in his direction. I watched in awe as he took charge with his sense of humor and no-nonsense attitude, setting us all back on center, effectively calling us away from ingrained patterns of discord.  My knight in shining armor.

Unintentionally, husband made an even greater save the next day when he necessitated a quick and early departure by breaking Beagle’s finger while tossing him a football. Vacation over. Phew.

It’s been a few weeks since the vacation.  I’m still recovering.  In fact, I’ve delayed writing about it because I’m searching for closure.  Or more accurately, I’m hoping to absolve myself from guilt over not embracing the family gig.   The best I’ve come up with is a little pat on the back for holding my irritated tongue on several occasions.

I like to remind myself that there are as many people in the world struggling to get over having known me as I am trying to get over having known them.  This thought keeps me humble.  In the future, though, I’d like to ‘get over’ my people from a greater distance, on separate vacations.  I love my birth family.  Just not when we’re living under the same roof.


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