Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Pack It Up

The family vacations of my childhood manifested themselves into curious rituals. The idea is to get away, see something new, enjoy yourself and live it up for about a week and a half. The reality is a drawn-out marathon of driving, sightseeing, motels, fast food, scheduling, annoyances and so much more. We often returned home exhausted, worn out from this supposedly-liberating experience.

It all starts with packing the car. The family vacations of my youth -- at least the ones I can vividly remember -- involved at least three different vehicles:
  • Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra
  • Nissan Maxima Sedan
  • Nissan Maxima Stationwagon
Two of these proved themselves more capable than the third at handling the large amount of baggage that went along with us, including:
  • Two red full-sized American Tourister suitcases -- containing likely most of my brothers' and my clothing
  • A large black bag containing mostly my Royal Father's clothing
  • A smaller beige bag containing the Queen Mother's clothing
  • A red American Tourister cosmetic case with all the toiletries, pills, and anything having to do with the bathroom
  • At least three to four camera bags and/or cases containing a portable VHS recorder and camera, numerous 35mm still cameras, and accessories for each
  • Several other bags, which also contained a Macintosh computer at one point -- you couldn't separate the nerd kid of the family from that machine
Dad had to solve a jigsaw puzzle to get all of this to fit into the trunk every year upon starting out. He would shove things into every nook and cranny to make as much room in the center for the larger items. He shoved and smashed things in where he could. Having kids doesn't help this situation, but my brother and I had a workaround. Our toys and goodies rode in the back seat with us in small beige American Express travel bags. I usually packed mine with notepads, games, magazines and an increasing array of electronic goods as I grew older and these devices became affordable.

"Your father," the Queen Mother complained more than once, "likes to buy these flashy cars that don't have any room in the trunk." Hence we didn't have the stationwagon until it became an unavoidable necessity. But in the Royal Father's defense, who really wanted to be seen with one of those? The Maxima stationwagon at least looked cooler, in silver tones, than the Brady Bunch stereotype of the happy family vehicle. It sure as heck wasn't the Wagon Queen Family Truckster.

Some modifications were inevitable. Dad stayed up late installing fog lights on the Cutlass the night before we set to roll from Kansas City to Cheyenne, Wyoming -- in one day. The Nissans also got the fog-light treatment. The Cutlass also had a CompuCruise driving computer, state of the art in calculating fuel economy and a few other things. Its ability to display speed in kilometers per hour came in handy when we drove into Canada.

Mainly, though, we needed room. We needed every square inch of it in approximately 1984, when the Queen Mother went on a crock-and-jug buying spree in New England and we had to get it all home. We shipped a couple back via UPS, but the others had to go into the stash with the rest of us. We worked out a system where the Queen Mother rode with two crocks -- one on the passenger-seat floor and one in her lap. About three or four others rode in the back seat, separating my brother and I. Nothing cracked, and Mom's lap survived.

When a family lugs so much on the road, naturally conversations take place on what to leave behind. The Royal Father could never understand why that single American Express bag of mine was so heavy.

"What do you have in here, your gold?"

Actually, it was about six months' worth of MacWorld magazines. Ironically, I never heard the Queen Mother complain about the myriad camera equipment. I gather that kept the Royal Father from complaining about the crocks and jugs.

No comments: