I graduated from a university with a co-operation education program. This means that after my freshman year, I worked from January through June and then was enrolled in classes from July through December. For my first co-op placement, I was fortunate enough to be hired by one of the Big 6 (at the time) public accounting firms. I was asked to return each year and accepted a full time position with them before I donned my cap and gown.
I prepared many partnership returns and became somewhat of an expert in understanding the technical side of the internally developed and supported software we used for those returns. My friend, Rob, who had graduated two years before me, was in the same position and we were known as the "go-to crew" around the office. Shortly after I began working full time, Rob and I were asked to beta test the software for the upcoming tax season along with other handpicked employees from across the country. We were all going to be flown to Texas for the week so that we could work with the programmers.
Sounds great. Right?
Sure. Except for the fact that I had only been on a plane once in my life and because I had been so young at the time, I couldn't remember any of it. There were some photos so I knew that it had really happened. This was back in the 70s when folks without a boarding pass could actually board an airplane and then (hopefully) de-board before the plane took off. My father had helped my mom with me and my next youngest brother as we readied for our first (and only) plane trip to Michigan and photographed us in our seats ready for take-off.
Well, obviously, I survived the trip to Texas. Although, we did have a bit of a rough landing on our journey down south. I have obviously flown many, many times since then but never with the kids. I always become a bit unsettled (and feel a panic attack bubbling up) when I consider flying with them. And this has nothing to do with keeping them entertained or their behavior or anything like that. I mean, come on - we've already been on two major road trips (Florida and Michigan) with them so a few (or even six) hours on a plane would not be a big deal at all. It has more to do with the state of the world today.
So although I had only flown once in my life prior to my early twenties, that doesn't mean that I hadn't seen and experienced other parts of the country (and other countries too.) We drove to Michigan every summer, sometimes stopping for the night at Niagara Falls. We visited Washington DC and Montreal and New Hampshire. We vacationed in Florida and during hot summer months, embarked upon day trips to the Cape.
As a teenager, I couldn't understand why we couldn't fly to places and why we couldn't get more than one hotel room. I knew money was tight but I didn't know the details of my parents' finances or exactly how much flying somewhere would cost for a family of six. I knew that when other kids went on vacation, they flew on a plane, etc. I didn't get it until I was an adult. And as an adult, I appreciate the fact that my parents brought us places. They could have just stayed at home or, better yet, left us kids with Gramma while they vacationed alone. But they didn't (well, they did once) and as a parent, I know how much work it was for them. Vacations aren't always vacations for parents.
When I was in the fifth grade (it may have been sixth but I think it was fifth), my dad was stationed in Key West, Florida for two weeks active duty. He managed to turn it into a vacation for my family so all six of us packed up the old orange Volvo station wagon and we made the three day trek from Massachusetts to Key West. Back in those days, there were no DVD players or CD players. I had to make do with a walkman for cassette tapes.
We stayed in two minimalistic rooms on base. If you wanted to watch television, you had to go to the "television room." There was one on each floor. During the day, my mom would bring us kids to all the tourist spots and in the early evening, we would all go to a beach. After a week there, we felt more like we were living there on a short-term basis versus actually being on vacation. We made sure to explore as much as we could. It was a great time and as I sit here typing this, I'm finding the fact that this was almost 30 years ago a bit hard to swallow.
A few months ago, the girls were watching a movie in the family room while I sewed. We were discussing the movie as we watched it and I said something about the pelican in the movie. "What's a pelican?" Emily asked.
"What's a pelican?" I responded. "Well, we're going to have to plan a trip to Key West so that you, my friend, can see pelicans."
I was five years old when my parents drove across the country to California and back. I still do retain some random memories from that trip but not enough to say that I really remember it. A trip the size of Key West (well, really the size of what I'm imagining) will have to wait until the girls are older. Places like Disney and Story Land are fun for them and if they don't remember exact details, that's fine. There are other trips we will take when they are older and can enjoy, appreciate and remember more.
So my talk of an extensive road trip to Key West has earned me several "Whatcha talkin' about Willis?" looks from Rich. (Complete side comment here but the girls don't understand what that means so they say "What you saying, Lewis?" instead. Who would have thought that having kids could be so entertaining?)
There's also a Hawaiian vacation on our Dream List. But that would involve PLANES so we'll stick to small, less complicated vacations/trips for now.