Sunday, June 22, 2014

"Perfect" Family Vacations

“Perfect” Family Vacations

Hollywood has figured it out.

Take something that’s supposed to be perfect, like a vacation or a marriage, and tell the truth. You’ll end up with enough dramatic scenes to satisfy Steven Spielburg.

You’ll also end up with comedy. Woody Allen would have loved our Hawaiian vacation. 

Well, actually, so did we.  But we had our moments.

Thirteen of us went to the Big Island on Hawaii—and get this: the youngest was nine months, and the oldest was eighty-seven—four generations. Some of us were divinely married, some were simply married, and some weren’t married at all. Some of us had perfect health, some had spotty health, and one had a health problem so serious he shouldn’t have been there. For that one we brought a wheelchair—and happily never used it.      

Okay, Woody Allen, here goes:  The setting, you’d have agreed, was perfect. The multi-level Hapuna Hotel near Kona, where breezes blow (or work themselves into minor hurricanes), where the nation’s number-one snorkeling beach is right out front, where the meals are gourmet (but don’t fit every pocketbook), and where an occasional Asian tourist arrives wearing a mask.  (Go figure). 

First, the baby: When you’re still taking two naps a day and your night ends at five a.m., you do not give your parents a perfect vacation. But when you break into a wide grin with the first glimpse of a family member, you definitely add points everywhere else. And we added points too—by clapping and cheering every time he stood alone.

Health problems should have loomed larger than they did. The family member with a brain tumor might have kept himself and wife at home. Somehow, Brad did fine—walked more than usual, ate full meals, even swam in the ocean.  An outsider wouldn’t have known. Turns out I was the health headache. I blew apart with inflammation—with a wrist that swelled into a baseball glove (at two a.m., nobody wants to hear you groan.) Luckily, our son, Dr. Chris, was right next door—and had the right medicine. The girlfriend with a bad cough never slowed down.  

One night we played card games—and finally chased away the two disrupters, who preferred another glass of wine to learning the rules.

The temperature dispute in bedroom A was never resolved—the wife who cherishes air-conditioning versus the husband who adores a sauna. “We’re going to have problems this summer!” he growled, but she left him to simmer in his sauces and went elsewhere—suspecting after 65 years of marriage they’d work out the summer, too.   

Meals were a compromise between super-rich and super-poor . . . the outrageously-priced dinners offset by peanut-butter-and-jelly lunches a la Costco.

As a family, we worked out problems: baby Corbin could have wrecked some dinners, but never did. To accommodate him one night, we moved the entire group into an unused dining room, ordered room service, and let Corbin wander off to dig his fingers into nearby planters. Our group was loud enough to sound like a whole dining room.  

Three boxes of Sees Candy could have blown up into a family fight: instead, two members ate an entire box in one twenty-minute sitting, and the others shook their heads in amazement. Finally our patriarch Rob, parceled out the rest in little dabs.    

It was our Natural Born Leader who persuaded us, spur-of-the-moment, to enter the ocean for a group Photo Op —and never mind that some of us were fully dressed.  

The highlight, for me, was when Dane’s girlfriend said in amazement, “You’re a big family—but you all get along so well!”  Well, we don’t always.  But we all want to make our big family “work” and so, most of the time, we do.