I have been told that I’ve ruined every family vacation during my adolescent years. My dad and mom worked hard each year, saving their money so that they could take my brother and me on an adventure during the summers. My dad was a saver extraordinaire. He once saved up enough change to buy a Lund Pro-V boat, which at the time was the BMW of fishing boats. Every night for four years, my dad would empty the loose change from the pockets of his work pants and place it into an empty 5 gallon Culligan water jug. Four years later, he pulled up to our house with a boat on a trailer behind our family mini-van. After my dad purchased his boat, he was considered a “baller” in our Eastside of St. Paul, Minnesota neighborhood. I felt like a character on Beverly Hills 90210 as our family sped around Lake Phalen going 30 miles an hour. All eyes were on us as we cruised along. I gazed upon what I assumed to be a sea of jealous faces as I thought, “This is what Donna Martin must feel like.” As an adult I found out that people were looking at us because gas powered motors were not allowed on Lake Phalen, but at the time I basked in my assumption that everyone looking at us, wanted to be us.
In my teen years, I was what most would consider, unpleasant. I was narcissistic, selfish and moody. My moods were the worst. I could be laughing hysterically to the comedic styling of Beavis and Butthead one minute and then the next I was screaming and crying on the floor because one of the straps on my favorite Doc Marten sandals had broken. And these mood swings didn’t cease as my age increased. Finally, in my late twenties my behavior was given a name, Bipolar II.
At the time when I was ruining our family vacations it was no laughing matter, but as the years have passed it has become a family joke. “Remember when you ruined our trip to Glacier National Park,” my dad often reminds everyone during any and every family dinner. “That was money down the drain.” I do remember how I ruined that vacation. It was 1994, I was 14 years old and the last thing I wanted to do was spend fourteen days in an RV with my mom, dad and little brother. It wasn’t long into our ride before I was grumbling about my dad’s incessant playing of his Johnny Horton CD. “If I have to listen to ‘North to Alaska’ one more time, I’m going to die. I’m going to open the door of this RV and fall out and onto the freeway,” I screamed to my parents from the back of the RV. During my teenage years, this was an ongoing fantasy of mine. Every time I felt anxiety, depression or the slightest discomfort, I would imagine how peaceful it would be to just open the door of the vehicle I was driving in and simply fall out. Looking back I realize that there would be nothing peaceful about falling out onto the unforgiving ground of the freeway at a speed of 70 miles per hour, but at that time, it seemed like my only option.
During our drive from Minnesota to Montana, I begged my dad to play my “Live Through This” Hole CD, but he resisted. According to him, our music options were Johnny Horton, Roger Miller, John Prine or silence. And the silence option was not even silence. Instead it was listening as my mom hummed the chorus to Diana Ross and The Supremes’ “Love Child” over and over again while reaching over from the passenger seat and running her fingers through my dad’s non-existent hair. In the 70’s my dad had long wavy locks, but by the 90’s my dad had nothing but peach fuzz. My mom was clearly living in the past and nothing annoyed me more than when she pretended his 70’s hair had made it into the 90’s.
Before we left for our vacation I begged to stay home. At the time I could not imagine leaving my friends for two whole weeks. Plus I had already made plans that my parents didn’t even take into consideration. I was planning on spending every summer day at Prosperity Recreation Center where my friends and I would sit on the gymnasium floor and watch the boys we liked play basketball and then run away screaming when they tried to shoot snot rockets at us. I had been looking forward to this all school year and my parents were ruining it. How dare they take me to one of the most beautiful places on earth where I whitewater rafted, hiked glacial mountains, stayed at campgrounds with water slides, had nightly bonfires and ate endless s ’mores!?! I still blame my parents for why my summer crush, Dan, never asked me out when I got back. If it weren’t for our family vacation, I could have gotten to him before Tanya did. Then maybe I could have been the girl who ran into his arms (full of homemade tattoos) and kissed his mouth (missing many teeth) when he was released from prison in 2000 for carjacking he committed in 1996. Ugh, parents.
I continued to complain during our entire vacation. I thought the mountains were annoying; the glaciers were “just regular old snow;” the mountain air smelled like the pig barn at the Minnesota State Fair and around every corner I swore that I saw a grizzly bear just waiting to maul us all to death. Of course none of these things were true yet I spent each day with a permanent scowl on my face. And at night before we all fell asleep inside the RV, I would cry just loud enough so my parents could hear that they were ruining my life. That was the last time we took a family vacation. Sure, we went to a cabin or camped here and there throughout the years, but that was our last true family vacation.
When my parents told me we wouldn’t be taking another trip the following summer, I was ecstatic. Ironically, I’m now the only one who misses going on family vacations. “We should take another vacation. Just the four of us,” I’ve suggested every summer since I turned 25 years old. Each time I make the suggestion, I hope that my dad will say yes and then reveal a 5 gallon Culligan water jug full of coins that he’s been saving to fund our trip. Sadly, this has yet to happen. The past is impossible for them to forget as my suggestion is always met with, “Maybe next year.” I think my only chance of getting the four of us to go on another family vacation is if I pay for the entire trip and then let my parents sit in the backseat of the RV and ruin it for me. It’s only fair.