There is a point in every family vacation when I begin referring to my children as “Poor Life Choice Number 1, 2, 3, and 4.”
Not to their faces, obviously. That would be mean. I did however refer to my older kids and nieces and nephews as “SLAs,” which stands for “slightly less annoying” (than the younger kids). But that is 100% the truth and I’m standing by it. And they wore it like a badge of honor.
Seriously, taking kids on family vacations is bullshit. I would like a family vacation without my family, please. Is that too much to ask?
“Family vacation” almost immediately moves from excitement, anticipation and all the beautiful mental pictures of “how great” it will be to throwing away a shit-filled pair of shorts in a Taco Bell bathroom.
Sorry, Taco Bell.
On the plus side, they weren’t my shorts.
I am the picture of positivity.
Also, sorry, hotel staff, for the puke on the bed you had to clean up at 4pm on a Friday because I played with my toddler too long and he LAUGHED TOO HARD I GUESS after drinking milk, and puked. So gross.
More proof one should always limit engagement with offspring.
I’m kidding. All I want to do in every waking moment of my life is engage with my special snowflakes on a level so exciting they vomit.
Literally four of the six of us puked at different times for different reasons WHY WHY WHY WHY.
At least twice a day on every family “vacation,” my husband and I look at each other and say with our mouths or eyes, “We’re never doing this again,” “What the fuck is wrong with our kids?” and WHY ARE WE PAYING ACTUAL MONEY FOR THIS. It feels like tossing $20s into the air while chasing a sugar-fueled toddler into a Lego store.
To illustrate the level of bullshit, I made a Family Vacation BINGO card. Every one of these things happened during our recent trip to Disneyland.
I think I ended the trip more tired than when we left. Pretty sure the last hour of the car ride had every single one of us screaming at equal volume and with equal maturity. And we won’t be unpacked for a month. And holy shit is that place expensive. WE WILL BE HAVING A VERY SMALL CHRISTMAS, kids.
(Disneyland prices are some nonsense, and yet, it’s so oddly horribly fun. I mean, I think it is. I hate crowds. Fuck crowds. And yet, it’s a small world! What is wrong with me. WHY DO I LOVE DISNEYLAND with its corporate princess capitalist patriarchal systems of oppression? The rides are so fun, people. And it’s so clean! I want to hate it and yet I do not hate it. I think it’s like adult acid without the regret.)
BUT, the trip was amazing. We went to Disneyland for fuck’s sake. As a family. We are so lucky. I know all this, and yet, I got frustrated and lost my patience and thought WHY ARE WE HERE and kept thinking Janelle! You are ruining the family memories! Stop! Be grateful! You’re acting like an asshole!
And I gotta tell ya, these feelings were especially intense because just one week before I left for this trip, I sat in a hospital room with my grandfather and grandmother, mom, brother, and cousins as my grandpa passed his final hours on earth. I watched him pressed to the furthest right side of his bed so he could be as close as possible to my grandmother, the woman with whom he spent 70 of his 87 years, with whom he raised 4 daughters and shared 20 grandchildren and 44 great-grandchildren. I watched their hands never let go as they played and replayed with their eyes the story of their lives together.
And I realized, they were replaying what I am living now.
I watched them travel a lifetime in a few hours, tracing cracked fingers over paths of kids, jobs, grief and joy, and a few times I stole a glance at my husband across the room of beeping machinery and nearly palpable love, and I observed his face, the barely perceptible lines when he smiles, the black hair with just a few gray hairs, the strong, square shoulders and quickness of the way he moves.
We are so young.
We are, so young.
My heart ached. My eyes were on fire. This is it, Janelle. These are the years. This is life. What the fuck are we waiting for.
It all felt small. It all felt unimportant. These days that race by in frantic monotony. The shit-filled shorts. The puke. The bickering over the front seat. The pure exhaustion. The whining.
I thought, “I’ll never forget this! I’ll never get worked up about stupid shit again!”
Two weeks later, I’m making a Family Vacation Bullshit BINGO card.
I guess that’s the luxury of being here, and not being a spiritual giant.
Still, I want to remember. We are a family. We are together. We go on trips. We
walk hand-in-hand and hold our babies and make them laugh so hard they puke. We watch bigger cousins holding younger cousins as our teenager races to a ride, as if she were seven, and we run to CVS at 2am because the toddler has a random, inexplicable fever. I see my son and daughter dressed up with Goofy. I nearly cry it’s so damn precious. I love them so much I almost have to look away.
We take pictures. We try to remember.
Someday, we will try even harder.
I feel altered by my grandfather’s death. My grandparents were always there. They seemed immovable, fixed. Their home, where we played in the basement and now our kids play, and them, in love, inseparable. I knew in my brain it couldn’t last forever. I didn’t know it in my heart.
I guess we can’t. It’s too hard.
But what if we could? What if we could live our lives in the knowing that someday, at the very best, at the very luckiest, we will think of the days of racing around after slightly less annoying children and puking babies as the memories that fill a room with so much love and warm light that it can almost be held, by me, by you, in the last breath of a man who had this once.
Or a hundred times.
Still, it would never be enough.
It feels it will never end. It feels relentless and pounding. It feels so sacred it takes my breath away. And one day, it will.
So fuck it. Let’s live this. Let’s hate it and love it. Let’s scream and laugh and let our babies fall asleep against our arms and with their hands on our faces and let’s stay up late and be bad parents and great ones on occasion but let’s not under any circumstances miss this.
It’s a BINGO game of bullshit, but it’s ours, and it’s the best we’ll ever have.
Until next time, kids.
And thanks for making me wear a tutu.