04 September 2014

What Happened on My Summer Vacation

I am not a man. I mean, based on conventional meanings. 

As far as I understand them.

Being the father of two boys has cast a bright light on my masculine shortcomings, my deficiencies in all things male, at least in any traditional sense. This thought (which I have often) returned to me when we were on vacation last month and it suddenly became my job to build a campfire. And I realized I had never built one before. By some miracle, I managed to do it.

Also, I chased a bat out of the kitchen, as well. Yeah, that happened. Although I’m still not convinced these things make me a man. (Subject for another time perhaps.)

You could trace this back to my own childhood. After our first son was born, old toys started to be excavated from our childhood basements. And our relationship, outlooks, personalities, etc., can be pretty well summed up by the fact that as a child, my wife played with a Fisher-Price camping set, while I had a Holiday Inn playset (which is apparently a thing they used to make).

I’m all for the outdoors. Through the windows of a passing car perhaps. Or from the balcony of a nice hotel room with room service and premium cable channels. But we have boys and they like to be outside. No matter how many books or movies we I push on them, the siren call of grass and sand and dirt and water is simply too much to resist.

Of course, they didn’t notice any scenery outside the car window. Someone loaned us portable DVD players to keep them entertained on the long drive. The psychological impact of this, how quickly they became acclimated to this set-up, was astonishing to behold. Our older son has spent six years in a car never once seeing a TV. But now he and his brother don’t understand why TV isn’t on in the car all the time. It changed their entire outlook on the world. If TV is in cars, imagine all the other limitless possibilities of the universe.

Or more aptly, what other awesome things are our parents keeping us in the dark about? Nothing. We swear.

Go to bed.

I find that vacation can be a lot like it was for the Griswolds. Stretches of fury and frustration punctuated by moments of beauty and harmony. Such as watching your kids splash in a lake or get melted marshmallow all over their face. Their expressions as they watch horses clop down the street or giant container ships pass before them.

Or like when your 2-year-old invents a new way to eat an ice cream cone. Just when your cynical mind thought it had seen everything in life, your kid starts eating ice cream bottom up, cone first. Now, if you have even a passing familiarity with how an ice cream cone functions, you’ll know instantly that this is not an effective strategy and there’s a reason people don’t eat them this way.

Of course, try being logical and explaining this all to a 2-year-old. They look at you with those f-off eyes like you’re the world’s biggest idiot.

Ahh, it’s good to be a dad.

Watching them on vacation frequently took me back to my own childhood vacations. Not that I remember them all that clearly, but I’ve seen photos. Actually, slides. (“It’s not called the Wheel, it’s called the carousel.”) Entire vacations would be documented, minute by minute, to replay ad nauseum for disinterested relatives and neighbors. This practice has of course been distilled now as we try to find that one perfect moment, that one all-encompassing shot to post on Facebook that will make our life look fabulous and make us the envy of all our friends and acquaintances.

Someday, will our kids go through old Facebook posts to remind them of times gone by? Will there even be an Instagram? Will the images jog their memories and be pleasing to recall? Can one image really conjure up all the magic of a childhood journey to a new, exciting place?

If we did our job right, and didn’t go all Clark Griswold and punch an animatronic moose in the snout, maybe they will just remember. I know that I will. I’ll remember all those moments, the ones not recorded for posterity or shared with the world via the Internets. Small, quiet moments that exist now only in my memory. Like the moment where – no, on second thought, never mind.

That one’s just for me.

1 comment:

  1. Glad the hiatus is over! I still enjoy your writing, Matt.