Last week one of our daughters sent out a family e-mail asking did everyone want to get together for a family vacation… rent a large house together at some fun destination.
The last time we did that was in 1997.
We’d found a large rental house in the mountains… plenty of bedrooms and “breathtaking views,” according to the rental brochure. The guys planned to hike on the Appalachian Trail, play golf, and watch sports, while the girls and I looked forward to browsing the town shops and relaxing in the cool mountain air.
With daughter Pogo (then a college student), Dearly Beloved and I arrived a day ahead of the rest of the family. That evening, after we’d unpacked and made the beds, we were tired but not ready for sleep. Pogo joined us in our king-sized bed to watch a TV show, thirty toes lined up across the foot of the bed.
The show was interrupted with news of Princess Diana’s auto accident in Paris. Transfixed, Pogo and I watched throughout the night, long after Dearly Beloved had drifted into sleep.
The next morning Pogo and I planted ourselves in front of the downstairs TV, absorbed in the story. The rest of the family arrived that afternoon and daughter Boo, tissues in hand, claimed a spot on the sofa with Pogo and me, watching with us.
The guys were really ready for the all-day hike they had planned. Watching three women snivel and snort was not what they had signed on for. DB had selected a 13-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail, accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway. They would hike all day and we’d pick them up eight hours later at a pre-appointed time and place. We held a dry run to make sure there was no confusion about the pickup spot: left side of parkway, overlook, big rock, Appalachian Trail marker.
Yeah, yeah, we’ve got it.
The next day, we drove the hikers, their belts clinking with water and energy bars, to their starting point, headed to town for our own adventure. Boo had just announced she was pregnant (our first grandchild) and we couldn’t wait to look at baby items.
That afternoon, we drove back to retrieve the hikers as scheduled.
Big rock, trail entrance sign, left wide of the Parkway, check. We parked and waited. And waited. Pogo even walked a ways up the trail, listening for them. It began to rain. We sat in the car and discussed possible scenarios. Lost… sprains… broken bones… bears… slides….
Finally, we drove back to a Ranger station we’d passed, described our hikers, and left a phone number should someone report… um… remains. In case they were able to crawl out into civilization, we drove Son’s battered old car out to The Spot and left it, unlocked, key under the mat– one of the upsides of having a car not worth stealing.
When we could think of nothing else to do, we returned to the house to await the grim news from the trail while we watched the grim news from Europe.
We heard the old car about two hours later. The hikers emerged– wet, grim-faced, and exhausted. Perhaps it was our demand of “Why isn’t one of you limping?” that set their jaws permanently and set their temple veins to pulsing for the rest of the week.
I will not divulge the “discussion” which ensued. Too soon. But WHO KNEW there could be another big rock, trail marker, parking on left side of Parkway very similar and only two miles before the … um… CORRECT spot?
We’d sat for two hours at the wrong spot while they’d waited on the side of the road for two hours. They began to walk back to the town, a distance considerably longer than the original hike.
They came upon the car two miles into their trek, another upside of having the most beat-up car around. Had we parked it two miles past the meeting place, however, there might have bodies after all. Ours.
The rest of the week we tiptoed around one another. The “completely equipped” kitchen turned out to have two pots–a small saucepan–no lid– and a pasta pot of a size suitable for bathing a Golden Retriever. The coffee maker didn’t have all of his parts. There weren’t enough drinking glasses. It rained some more.
The “breathtaking view” from the deck was blocked by a stand of scraggly sweetgum saplings, but it didn’t matter. Fog hid even the saplings.
The sad reports from Britain continued the rest of the week. The girls and I watched on the upstairs television, having decided it best to surrender the downstairs TV.
No one lamented not being able to stay for a second week.
Did the news of the Royal Wedding trigger some niggling memory in daughter’s brain without a full recall of why? Will she rescind her suggestion if a picture of Diana flashes in her mind?
Our daughter-in-law, new enough to the fold that she may not have heard of That Vacation, volunteered to look into destinations. I offered that we could all rent RV’s and meet someplace, circling the wagons so no one could escape.
DB and I think it would be grand. With five grandsons now in the mix, we’d love any chance to see them together.
One of the sons-in-law mentioned Team Skydiving and in response, I volunteered to head Team Diarrhea… on the ground.
Daughter mentioned the beach as one possibility, bantering that her husband “looks fantastic in a Speedo” and that she herself is “a blast to be around.”
Silence from the rest of the family on the idea.
Perhaps they’re thinking. . . so soon?