The Cox family is on the countdown to our first official family vacation. In the six years we’ve had children we’ve been on numerous trips to visit family and friends, but this trip is different. Webster’s defines vacation as “a period of suspension of work, study, or other mandatory activity, usually used for rest or recreation.” I personally equate vacation with traveling to a destination we’ve never been to pursue new adventures and spend quality time with my immediate family. So, guess what, we’re going to Disneyland! I’m not sure it will meet the criteria of being restful, but there is sure to be a good deal of quality time and recreation.
The anticipation and excitement of our upcoming adventure got me thinking about my childhood family vacations. Like many working class families, I don’t think we took a vacation every year but a few travels stand out in my memory. It is when I think about the funny, stressful or otherwise memorable experiences we shared through the years that I truly appreciate the unmatched bond of family.
There’s the time we took an RV and horse trailer across the country to Cheyenne, WY to watch my dad compete in a rodeo. If you had any doubt about my “Red Dirt” roots, they can be put to rest, as I grew up turning calves out of the chute as my dad practiced his roping skills. We traveled to many rodeos throughout my childhood, but the Wyoming trip carries special memories. We parked the RV amidst many others and spent what seemed like weeks, although I’m sure it was just a few days, living in a temporary community of rodeo families. Someone set up a dummy calf (bale of hay with a fake head on it) for the kids to practice their roping, and my daddy was so proud of my skills that he bought me my very own rope…..a huge deal to my six year old self.
We borrowed some cowboy’s Cadillac (funny in and of itself, right?!) to drive into town to go swimming at an indoor pool where I experienced my first truly embarrassing moment when I chickened out on the high dive and forced a bunch of kids to climb back down the ladder so I wouldn’t have to take the plunge. And, I think this trip was the beginning of our family tradition of spending hours on the road coming up with new verses to the ever popular “Diarrhea” song. Once that got old, we could always count on dad to blast his favorite Platters album and sing at the top of his lungs. Yes, I know all the words to “The Great Pretender” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” In later years, I started singing the harmony just to change it up a bit.
In stark contrast, my parents took all six of us to Hawaii the summer before my junior year in high school. This was long after my dad had abandoned the rodeo circuit due to the requirement that he enter senior rodeo and his subsequent refusal to recognize himself as a senior. He decided golf was a wonderful substitute and began wearing shorts and tennis shoes, instead of boots and jeans, for the first time in his life. The best place he could imagine to wear said clothing was Hawaii.
My parents had been to Hawaii several times and, knowing that our family wouldn’t all be together for too much longer given my age (I’m the oldest), they bit the bullet and used my college money (not bitter) to take us on a magnificent trip. The great thing about this trip is that we have so many collective memories and continue to bond over them even now. When Jason and I were dating, we’d always joke that every trip to my parent’s house would inevitably include at least one sentence that began with, “Remember in Hawaii when…?”
We still make this joke and have refined it to assert that the only certainties in life are death, taxes and repeated conversations about Hawaii. We’ll talk about going parasailing, snorkeling and the undersea Nautilus tour. We’ll laugh about eating at the super fancy restaurant where my brother Cooper looked at the menu full of things we couldn’t pronounce and subsequently ordered a cheeseburger (blank stare from the not-so-amused waiter). This moment was followed by my brother Conner spitting out whatever fancy thing he ordered and my mom trying to discreetly clean the chewed lump off the floor before anyone noticed. News alert: they noticed. My dad will reminisce about driving to the top of the volcano on a one-lane road with no guard rails to prevent us from plummeting to our death, and that I was so convinced we were going to die that I curled up in the floorboard of the back seat and alternated between crying and praying. We’ll sing a chorus of “Tiny Bubbles” at the top of our lungs like some gregarious drunk guy did at the luau we attended. We’ll talk about the horrible one-way roads in Honolulu and how we were lost for hours in the middle of the night upon our initial arrival to the city. And we’ll all agree that the Pizza Hut delivery we ate on the floor of our hotel room after we finally made it was hands down the best we’d ever had.
Memories are made each and every day, but I’m ready to make some that are just ours to talk about for years to come. With a first-time airplane ride and a trip to Disneyland in our near future, I’m pretty confident I can accomplish this goal. And, even if we don’t have anything spectacular happen to us while we’re there, I’m eager to eat some pizza that, regardless of its quality and taste, will be the new “best I’ve ever had.”
Editor’s note: Visit HERE for Kendy’s post over how their family vacation held a surprise they certainly didn’t expect.