Chevy Chase had the “Wagon Queen Family Truckster” in the movie “Vacation,” which was a hybrid of the large American cars we drove in the 1980s. However, its base was the Ford LTD Crown Victoria station wagon, which we had, with the wood side panels and lush, velour seats. We also had my mother, dad, three kids, and luggage for seven people in the back and on top when we took a vacation in 1987.
Perhaps my trepidation at having my parents join us stemmed from recollections of my childhood vacations. When I was around eight years old, my family went from Chattanooga to Miami with a couple from our church that had a daughter my age. Nice as this couple was during worship, they argued constantly during vacation. From Tennessee all the way down Florida and back, we listened to a constant marital battle.
One summer, we went with my mom’s sister and her family along with cousins of my uncle’s family to a beach house in Panama City. Not only did my baby brother have a severe ear infection and cry most of the time, the lady who owned the cabin would never let us stay outside more than 15 minutes. About the time we’d get sand cleared to build a castle, she’d call us in. That’s what I remember most about that vacation—being called back inside to get out of the sun we’d come to enjoy.
Now, back to the LTD wagon with its load of family and luggage. My mother, bless her heart, feels like she’s agreeable to everything when in truth she seldom enjoys what she’s doing. My dad is a true homebody. His idea of a good vacation was staying home and doing yard work. He also had a constant fear we’d be attacked and pillaged while traveling. Add to that three children ages 11, 9, and 6, and you’ve got a barrel of monkeys.
First, there was checking into a motel while my mother muttered, “I don’t know why we couldn’t all stay in the same room and save some money. The kids could sleep on the floor.” Once we get that settled, it was time to go “out” to eat. Not a problem, you say. Ha!
Traveling with my mother was like going somewhere with Granny Clampett. For those of you too young to recognize that reference, check out “The Beverly Hillbillies” on Hulu. Mother always carried an electric skillet and wanted to buy groceries and just cook in the room—and not a room with a kitchenette, just a room. My children were mortified at the horror. Going out to eat meant being treated to a critique of the meal while being reminded we could have eaten hamburgers and chips in the room.
With the vacation activities finally finished we headed back to Nashville, which was our home at the time. Somewhere on Interstate 40 West, the car began to make an odd noise. By the time my husband pulled it off the highway, it was obviously breathing its last. Seven of us rode with the tow truck driver to the rental car agency where he helped unload the luggage. Seven of us were packed into a sedan for the trip home. The car had blown the engine, and I was pretty sure we’d blown the chance to ever truly enjoy a vacation again.
A recent Gallup poll says most Americans plan to take their vacation in July this year. I say good luck with that. I’ll be meeting my children and their families at a resort in Pigeon Forge in November, and I’ll go by Mom’s house on the way home.