Tomorrow I am leaving, with my children and father, on our annual vacation on the Cape. My oldest son is coming along, despite the fact that for two years now he has said he is too old for "family vacations." I am very happy he is coming, but my happiness is tempered with dread for the sullen attitude which will inevitably surface. My four year old daughter is so excited that it is nerve-wracking: not only have we been counting the days for over two weeks now, but she has been putting things aside to pack - we'll need a refrigerator box for it all to fit. My 15 yr. old son is sleeping now, but he will be the one to help me get the show on the road.
We've been doing this for so long that we have a system. My mother is the co-pilot. She calms me down, offers conversation to keep me alert on the seven hour trip, and keeps my father, the ultimate backseat driver, at bay. Unfortunately, she is already on the Cape, caring for my brand new twin nephews. Believe me, I am terrified of making the trip without her. My father wants to leave before dawn, drive more than halfway before the first stop and, if we do not "make good time," refrain from making any more stops. I like to take a more leisurely drive, maybe stopping and doing some shopping at my favorite stores along the way, have breakfast and maybe lunch, too.
I have packed little wrapped trinkets for my daughter to open along the trip. It has become a tradition, and it keeps her occupied. My father will worry about every little scrap of paper littering the rental car. I am more laid back. Once we get to the hotel, I will clean everything up in one fell swoop. If she tries to talk to me, he will interrupt, "No distracting the driver!" My father will keep his eyes on the road, but also on my son who I have elected to be my co-pilot. If he fidgets even a little, my father will yell, "Don't touch anything on the dashboard. No distracting the driver!" This is okay, though, because it means that my son will not be able to flip the radio station when I begin to sing along.
My oldest son will put his earphones in his ears and fall asleep. However, when he wakes up he will revert back to his toddler days and ask how much longer the trip will be. He will do this every 20 minutes until the end of the trip. Unless my father yells at him, "For crying out loud, grow up. We'll be there when we get there. If we hadn't had to wait for you to go back upstairs for your earphones, we'd have made it to Rhode Island by now. And, do we still have to remind you to use the bathroom before we leave? That pit-stop in Jersey cost us at least an hour's driving time by the time we got past rush hour traffic." Now I am the driver and referee.
We will get there. We will have fun. We will laugh, we will swim, and we will have peppermint ice cream. I know this because we have been doing this for so long. The night before we have to trek home again, we will all wish for just one more day. And I will pray that God keeps us well until we come back next year.