The tough thing about summer is figuring out what to do with it. Rent a lake house? Go camping? Travel to some exotic land, like, say, New Jersey? After months of deliberation, we have honed our many alternatives down to two: 1. Go somewhere, and 2. Stay home.
I’m feeling pretty good about the progress we’ve made.
We’re not one of those plan-ahead type families. We are more the plan-behind type. When we decide to see a movie, for example, we don’t check to see where it’s playing, but if it’s playing. “Hon, we’ll have to see something else. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King has already left town.” “Wow — it just opened six months ago.”
During his spring break, our 14-year-old son told us of friends who had already arranged for a camp in June, a visit to grandma’s in July, and a lodge in the mountains in August. And that was just one family. We, on the other hand, were still thinking about what to do over spring break.
Finding out that other folks had already made summer plans spurred me to Get On It. I immediately sat down with the family and decided, no dilly-dallying, to Think About It.
The difficulty is the number of choices. The options are more vexing than choosing which flavor of ice cream to order at Baskin-Robbins. In the old days, there was no such thing as an option. The closest anybody came to a vacation was joining a band of marauders to loot and pillage through distant tribal lands. Fun, sure. But it was primarily a men-only type of deal. “Hon, when we get around to naming the days, pencil in Tuesday. That’s when I’ll be leaving with Alexander.” “Alexander? Again? I can’t stand that guy. He thinks he is so great.” “At least it gets me out from underfoot for a while. See ya in a couple of years.”
When vacations were finally invented, nobody went very far. “Wanna drive over to the next county? That’ll be fun, huh?” And there wasn’t much to do. “I hear they’re havin’ Flowers Are Comin’ Up Days over in Suchalooza County. What say we go?”
Then came flight, and suddenly, people could go anywhere.
I hate that. People say the world has gotten smaller. I say, if the world has gotten smaller, it hasn’t gotten small enough. Unless by small you mean a million more options. We could go to Chile and see Santiago. Easter Island. Patagonia. Ah, but how about France? Paris. Wine. Cafes. Maybe Japan? Tokyo. Sushi. Ancient temples.
And that’s just a few out-of-pocket international possibilities. In the U.S., of course, there is always Gatorland in Orlando, Florida. You just can’t get enough of Gatorland, what with guys wrestling gators and gators jumping up for small cats (it’s a joke, a joke — the cats are large, okay?). Oh, and the annual Taylor International Barbeque Cookoff in Taylor, Texas. In a bit of scheduling so sadistically crazy, it is actually brilliant, the cook-off is held under the wilting mid-August sun, the very shank, if that is the word, of the Lone Star State’s “Hell: Are We There Yet?” summertime. You also gotta love that Taylor — a small town of roughly 14,000 people, more or less in the middle of nowhere, touts its cook-off as international. I’ve been. I don’t remember a lot of people from France or England competing. Because Texans consider their state “a whole other country,” as the marketers say, the international barbecuers are probably a few guys from Louisiana.
Of course, we don’t have to travel to the ends of the earth to have a summer vacation. We could visit family. Then again, the operative word is “vacation.” Family vacation — there’s an oxymoron. Traveling to visit family is more like going out to dinner. At a restaurant very far away. Where the menu is iffy. And the wait staff temperamental. And the ambience a bit, um, sitcom?
But if I want to be paralyzed by options, then visiting my family is the perfect vacation. We can spend all day thinking of which restaurant to go to that night, and finally, as we’re walking out the door for fried perch at the American Legion Hall, my mom will turn and say, “We could scoot over to Flint for Lebanese.” And it all starts over again.
You know, now that I think about it, a little getaway to Chile doesn’t sound half bad.