Abandon All Hope, It’s A Family Vacation


The following article contains me poking fun at my very dysfunctional family- the one that raised me, not my husband and I, we seem to function just fine, oddly enough. This does not mean that I don’t love them. It just means that we would have been a good case study on social behavior, falling under the category “What Not To Do.” And remember, this was written in the spirit of fun. Or lack thereof… at the time….  So if you feel you can handle seeing deeper into my psychosis, read on.


A few years ago, my dad called me to discuss some important things. During that discussion he said (and I quote) “…incase one of us gets incredibly rich and takes the whole family on vacation and we all die in an accident.”  (Now you know where I get my ability to look at the Worst Case Scenario of every situation.) Eventually my gales of laughter that had burst forth at that phrase subsided. Pop is a lot funnier than he gets credit for. First of all, as President of the Poverty Stricken, I don’t foresee any of us getting rich in this lifetime. And secondly, if we did, the likelihood of a family vacation would fall somewhere between getting hit by a meteor and finding Bigfoot. He was right about one thing though – a family vacation, for us, would most likely end in death. If not by accident, then by each other’s own hands.

Most can remember their childhood family vacations will a rather sunny attitude. Nay, not us. Our family vacations felt more like a punishment, sentenced to spend hours in the back seat of the car with my little sister.  We hated each other. Fighting was the rule, not the exception.  To be trapped in such close quarters to one another was akin to splitting the atom – there was going to be more excess energy than one Chevy station wagon could contain. This in turn, would set off a rather unfortunate chain of events.

Our car needed a sign above the doors that said “Abandon All Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here” and we came to believe that our car really was a portal to hell. Here is how a typical family vacation went: I would be reading a book or looking out the window.  My sister would start singing, usually a nonsensical chant. It would be something designed to get my attention. Something irritating like: “You caaan’t touch me, you caaaan’t touch me, I’ve over heeeere, I’m over heeere.” Ignoring her would not shut her up. My dirty looks would not shut her up. My asking her to be quiet would not shut her up. Eventually the dam would break and I would hit her.

As soon as my fist crossed the imaginary line that separated the backseat from Her Side and My Side, even before contact, she would begin shrieking and screaming. Pop would hear the commotion, even with one bad ear. His knee-jerk reaction to the howling was to END IT. Pop “ended it” by reaching into the back seat and waving his arm back and forth, frantically and desperately trying to gain purchase on one of us while keeping his other hand on the wheel and both eyes on the road. He didn’t care who he got a hold of, as far as he was concerned both of us were guilty of ruining this relaxing and lovely drive to Timbuktu.

Pop’s vacation persona took on that of a pirate: “The floggings will continue until morale improves.”  So it was, that we would see Pop’s arm flying into the backseat to reach us and we would curl up our legs, lay on the floor, whatever it took to evade his Long Arm of Punishment. If he was successful and actually found one of us, we would begin bawling dramatically in hopes that Mom would intercede on our behalf, which usually worked.

Her intercession worked so well that they ended up getting into an argument with each other and forgot all about the brats in the back that started the whole thing.  The argument would last for miles and miles and ended with everyone crying except Pop. Hoist the Jolly Roger, we’re sailing into stormy seas, Yaarrrrrr.

With bullheaded perseverance that would have made Captain Ahab proud, my father forged ahead with our family vacation. I suppose “Having a Good Time” would have been his Moby Dick. And just like in the book, it about did us all in.  Call me Ishmael, for I have lived to tell the tale.

There is a scene from National Lampoon Vacation which comes to mind where Clark Griswold launches into the Fun Monologue: “Well, I’ll tell you something. This is no longer a vacation! It’s a quest! 
It’s a quest for fun. I’m going to have fun and you’re going to have fun. We’re all going to have so much (beep) fun… …we’ll need plastic surgery to remove our (beep) smiles.
You’ll be whistling zippity-doo-dah out of your (beep)!

By the time we made it to our destination we hated each other’s guts. We would pout and drag our feet and be of poor attitude everywhere we went which would outrage Pop and make Mom cry. Then they’d fight about why Mom was crying or why Pop had to be such a bonehead. And the two little devils in the backseat would continue to be at each other’s throats. Yet, each summer, we would try it again. I believe that is the definition of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

A few years ago there was an occasion that called for my sister and I to go to New Jersey.  We thought the sands of time had erased the awfulness of being together for a lengthy trip. We were wrong. When I got home I signed and dated a piece of paper that said “I hereby solemnly swear, being of semi-sound mind and questionable body to never travel with an immediate family member, they can’t be trusted.” It hung on my fridge till the fridge died and I had to get a new one. Now it is filed away so I will remember.  Oh yes. I will remember.

circus 2015 003 Kelly Baker; Cove Humor Writer