Family Moments

Published on November 11th, 2014 | by Richard Black


My Aversion to Change, the Vacation Conundrum and the Ill Fated Christmas Picnic of ’04


The sort of change I would fear if I were a germaphobe, which I’m not…probably.

I wouldn’t say that I fear change.  Instead I prefer to believe that I have a completely normal and totally healthy dislike of anything that differs from my norm.

Of course change is a natural part of life, or so I’ve heard. Then again bald spots, incontinence, menopause and death are also “natural” parts of life but if anyone has published a compelling argument for the benefits of soiling oneself or hot flashes I have yet to read them.

Unfortunately change is constant. Other than my daughter’s erratic preschool schedule, the holidays, the weekends, my mornings and my afternoons it turns out that travel is the most typical disruption I face to my routine. This is regrettable in that my wife Laura would cheerfully spend every other weekend tooling around some third world cesspool that hasn’t managed to eradicate the bubonic plague, install a feasible sewer system, centralize dental care or really encourage hygiene in any meaningful way.

After more than ten years of horrible vacations and constant whining I had hoped to discourage my wife’s enthusiasm for travel. To date however I haven’t had much success. We recently went drove to Washington D.C. for a long weekend and I considered pitching a fit to make the trip unbearable but it turned out that the powers that be (fate, God, road construction crews, Satan) made my incessant complaints unnecessary. Or so I thought. Despite pulling into D.C. five hours late around 2:00 in the morning and discovering that our hotel room was scented with the sort of industrial strength cleanser crews usually reserve for a crime scene Laura’s zest for travel remained as undiminished as ever.

I didn’t enjoy travel before we had a child and now that we have a daughter in tow I’m coming to understand that a “vacation” for a stay at home parent isn’t really a vacation.

The only variable that changes is the fact that I’m in a different location without all of the accoutrements I need to keep a four year old reasonably happy and occasionally fed. I may have juxtaposed something there but you get the idea. The scenery might be nice in wherever we happen to be but I rarely have time to enjoy it. Instead of lying in a hammock with a a bottle of Colt .45 and listening to the sound of the surf dash itself onto the beach I inevitably spend the hours keeping Darcy and her mother from drowning, eating rotting hermit crabs or stepping on used syringes.

One, and by “one” I mean myself, my wife or any other reasonable person, might think that staying at a rental property or a condo would solve matters but we’d all be wrong. Sure I can set up shop and cook and clean and tend to the needs of my family but that doesn’t really differ all that much from what I’d do at home which should make me marginally more inclined to travel as long as one doesn’t take my fickle and passive aggressive nature into account.

Hotels are even worse unless I want to throw money at any problem that pops up which, by the way, I don’t. In addition to being somewhat paranoid about anywhere that isn’t my own home it also turns out that I’m remarkably cheap; a personality trait that doesn’t mesh all that well with the price of foodstuffs ordered from room service. OPEC could learn a thing or two about how to make a buck from the hotel industry. There are only so many fifteen dollar peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I can buy before I feel like a victim of price gouging or inadequate because I lacked the foresight to find a grocery store and spend ten bucks to keep Darcy in PB&J for the next four days.

It’s a conundrum, travel that is, not my lack of foresight which I believe has been thoroughly documented.  I could go into therapy or solve the issue with pharmaceuticals but I’ve taken a different approach, one more suited to my generation and have chosen to blame my family. Tasking them with my dysfunction is a lot cheaper than the alternatives and requires less time on my part, two conditions that appeal to my thrifty nature, my obsession with time management and the pleasure I get from managing two personality quirks at once.

11_11_14_UF_What XMas_LooksLikeAfterBeer

What Christmas Lights look like after I “prepare” to celebrate the Holiday’s with my extended family.

Sure family gatherings may become a bit more tense given my new outlook but they weren’t a picnic anyway, unless of course I recall the ill fated Christmas family picnic of ’04 which was an actual picnic.  No one lost a limb but there were more than a few fingers and toes that succumbed to frost bite on that tragic and frigid day. If memory serves I lost a cousin as well. He was one of Aunt Berth’s brood and it was a downright shame in the theoretical sense.

Bertha’s a tough old bird who was around a hundred and fifty at last count.  She’s also been a staunch advocate of the belief that adversity makes one stronger and didn’t deviate from her beliefs when her youngest son “Two hundred pound Tommy the Toddler” disappeared into the woods on the southwest corner of my uncle’s lot and wasn’t heard from since.

“He’ll get the best of that coyote or he won’t,” I can hear her say as we listened to the howls and yips in the distance. He didn’t. There’s not much chance a morbidly obese child at that age has against a pack of coyotes but we’ve all taken some solace in the fact that Bertha has other children, a few dozen at last count, which took some of the sting out of the loss.

Apologies it seems that I’ve somehow rambled off topic. I think it’s fair to blame the booze I’ve had to drink while discussing a few of my many neurosis. I also seem to recall that I’ll be visiting Aunt Bertha this year for Christmas. Excuse me I’ve got to sign off and prepare myself for the pleasure of joining my extended family for the Holidays .

Glug. Glug. Glug.

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