Into the Wild

Friends, may I offer a bargain? Can we come to an agreement pertaining to this unfolding account of my family vacation? I’ll vow to attempt to entertain you, if you, in turn, vow not to hold me to the purest documentary truth. After all, nobody wants to hear about a perfectly ordinary family on a perfect ordinary summer vacation, and I’m afraid if I were to stick to the strictest reportage, we both end up driven batty with tedium.

I wonder even if this is something people even do anymore. Packing up the kids in the family car and traveling the American interstate system in search of painfully self-conscious fun seems to almost be an act of nostalgia, an ironic hearkening back to our own childhood when we were dragged all over the flat, boring interior with — I should add — no cool electronic gizmos to serve as sweet distractions.

But what the hey? Everyone’s entitled to a summer vacation, and how much time can you spend in your backyard hammock anyhow? Might as well get out on the open road and play Clark Griswold, so the kids will have something to ridicule as they get older.

Problem is, they don’t have much older to get and still remain kids. Our daughters are now 16 and 14, long past the sell-by date for travel enchantment with Mom and Dad. They are going, more or less, against their will and better judgment, preferring to look only at the gloomiest possible scenarios that await us. They don’t know how good they have it. Neither of their parents are singers, the kind of insufferable travel companion who insists on playing songleader in the car to make the time go by. Also, as parents, we don’t play scout leader and lecture kids on historical goodies they may come across. In fact, I’d say the old lady and myself are pretty darn cool customers on the road. I wish for a moment I could take them back to the days when I had to sit captive in the back seat decades before anyone uttered the word “iPod” while my dad blew enormous clouds of cigarette smoke into the back seat while prohibiting us from rolling the windows down. Then, they’d know how good they have it.

So, we leave home today, heading north, bound for Canada, hoping for the best, but somehow knowing we’ll be ever closer to killing each other in a few days time.

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