By Sean Pearson
Since I wasn’t able to squeeze all my action-packed childhood memories of vacations with the family into last week’s Spiew, I thought it only fair to further my riveting account of days spent on the road to Silver Dollar City and Astroworld in this week’s offering.
You can thank me later.
Now, I have to throw in a disclaimer here that a few of these vacations are really a bit of a blur. (Oh, who am I kidding? I’ve completely blocked out most of them. To this day, I’m still not sure whether that trip to the Grand Canyon was real, or simply my attempt to form some sort of sad, cohesive bond with the Bradys in their “Grand Canyon or Bust” episode.)
My mother assures me that I wasn’t left behind during these family excursions, but I seem to be conspicuously missing from many of the so-called “family vacation photos.” Sometimes, Mom will point to a blur in an old, wrinkled, black-and-white picture and say, “See, that’s you.”
I think it was a stand-in.
Besides, most of our vacations generally meant going to visit the grandparents, with an excursion to some kind of high-dollar amusement park along the way to keep us from killing each other. (My sister and I were generally OK with each other … most of the time. As long as I didn’t cross that imaginary line on the backseat that delineated her “car territory” from mine, I usually got to keep all my fingers.)
And while my parents and grandparents never actually came to blows, there was always some sort of underlying, unspoken tension resulting from the “re-gifting” episode of 1974. Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like getting back the present you picked out for Grandma last year.
And then, there were those of us who didn’t know how to keep our mouths shut.
“Hey, Mom. Aren’t those the same socks we gave …”
I was usually interrupted by an evil look, an abrupt change of subject, or a swift punch to the solar plexus. I preferred the latter, simply because it left little room for misunderstanding. And I always believe in direct and effective communication.
Enter places like Busch Gardens and Cave of the Winds. Sure, there were lots of fun things to see and do at these places. Although my parents didn’t seem to appreciate my penchant for wandering around the “unforgettable adventure into the 500 million-year-old world underground.” I’m still not sure if the story they told me about kids being lost down there forever was true, or merely a lame scare tactic to keep me nearby. (What can I say? I was feeling kinda “Tom Sawyer-ish” at the time.)
Generally, my parents liked for there to be some kind of “learning” involved in the different places we visited. Whether it was how the folks at Knotts Berry Farm still canned their own jams and jellies, or how a Hell’s Angel earned his “stripes,” my parents made sure we learned it all.
OK. That’s not exactly true.
Still, they thought they could trick us into learning while we had fun, but we were much too smart for that. (Hey, if I can’t be a drooling idiot while I have fun, what’s the point?)
After my father’s sunburn adventures on the white sands of Florida, our “beach trips” became a little more about “trip,” and not so much about “beach.” Sure, Louisiana has a coast, but trust me, there is no “beach.”
One year, we toured the Tabasco factory on Avery Island, off the Louisiana coast. Yes, it was an impressive facility. Equally as impressive were the snowy egrets that peppered the heavy swamp; the awkward, flapping pelicans and the alligators camped out in the mud.
Not as impressive were the little bottles of Tabasco sauce they gave out as free samples following the tour. Back then, “sealed” meant the lid was screwed on tight. But not too tight — if you’re 9 and you just want to see what a few drops of this stuff tastes like on your tongue.
They should put some kind of warning label on that stuff.
Of course, they didn’t care enough about us kids back then to put “childproof” lids on medications, so I don’t know why I would think they would care about Tabasco sauce.
In all honesty, I’m relatively amazed I didn’t OD on Bayer Children’s Aspirin as a child. That stuff was like candy-coated crack for kids. I bet I was going through two or three bottles a week of it.
Wait. Weren’t we talking about vacations?
I think I need one.
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