Summer of 1980; it had been a roller coaster ride thus far that year for many of our immediate family. Continuing health issues were taking their toll on my brother; those of us close enough to be affected were emotionally drained.
My Only was now four years old, at the perfect age when dreams and places like Disneyland were beckoning! Since my folks had never experienced a trip to Disneyland, we came up with the idea of renting a travel trailer and making our summer vacation a three generation trip. I reasoned that getting away would be good for the folks and we believed we could pull it off this year as business was steady, and we were financially able to help make it happen. In my fairytale-like, happy ending, creative reasoning, I envisioned My Only seeing Disneyland with her Funny Grandma and Funny Grandpa to be a memory that they could all share for years forward.
This was a getaway that few men would have had the courage to take on! A ten day trip with his mother-in-law… My Only’s Father would need as much support as he could round up; a few lit candles wouldn’t hurt either.
Only Bro couldn’t believe how gutsy his brother-in-law had proven himself even SUGGESTING a 24/7 trip with Mom. The woman we all knew and loved, who never stopped talking and never found a topic, flower, or American Flag that she didn’t think was worth noting….yep, this was going to be interesting. Bro started the betting; he gave Mom seven days MAX before either 1) she couldn’t handle being away from home so long or, 2) her son-in-law would cry Uncle and change direction for home!
Big Sis thought Mom would make it, if only because Mom was determined to prove her children wrong; she would get through a ten day adventure if it killed her. For myself, I planned to pack lots of vitamins, plenty of spirits, and as many comfort foods as I could slam into the trailer’s kitchen. So, I went into high gear.
Planning a menu around Daddy’s expectations of what constituted a meal even on vacation meant that we’d be bringing the microwave, the toaster oven, a full packed ice chest with casseroles already assembled for speedy cooking and serving, and as many comforts of home as we could fit. I planned each day’s menu, down to and including when we would eat on the road, what restaurants we’d choose at the parks (we would include Knott’s Berry Farm, too), and the how, what and when we’d barbeque when we stayed at KOA camp grounds.
For everyone to be comfortable on this trip, we knew that the size of the rented travel trailer should at least meet a minimum living space and require as few change-overs as needed for sleeping arrangements. We were somewhat familiar with the layout options that existed. We couldn’t squeeze Daddy in just any space, so the floor plan had to be correct for everyone’s sizes and abilities.
Because my folks had never spent time in a travel trailer, it was up to me to persuade them both of the wonders of trailer camping. Daddy “got it”; actually, he thought it sounded fun and was a willing participant. Persuading Mom that the trip was doable was another task. Describing a travel trailer vacation to Mom conjured up something less than anything familiar she had ever known. My description notwithstanding, I believe she pictured more of a modern day Conestoga Wagon; and this was the woman who wondered why we babies grew up believing she had been with the original Donner Party??? Yep, the entire undertaking would be a memory alright, as long as we were still able to keep our brain cells in tact through the planning and prepping stages.
This was supposed to be quality time for My Only and her grandparents. Quality Time was the current expression for describing what generations previously had taken for granted in multi-generational homes. These ten days would have to suffice. We were finally off and all things considered, the trip began and ended extremely well. We had a fantastic time! Not that we didn’t experience a few fees, foes and fumbles along the way!
Unfortunately, we thought it smart to combine a business stop along the route. The stop was a success; we were happy to meet one of our suppliers in person. Picking up what we needed would save us some shipping this time around. Until we drove off; then ever so slowly, we heard a noise that could only come from the trailer having brushed against a tree limb. We got out and inspected the damage. A six to eight inch gash along the trailer’s right side panel told us the limb had won. Insurance would cover it, so we continued on, certainly a bit more carefully when parking under shade trees.
Then there was the first morning we’d awakened in the trailer, and Daddy wanted to get dressed. He couldn’t find his pants and asked Mom where she’d put them.
“They are in the suitcase, Honey.”
“Where’s the suitcase?”
“It’s right there, at your feet.”
Surprise! Son-in-law had placed it back into the trunk of the Chrysler Newport to save some floor space…Mom and I broke into giggles at Daddy’s reaction. He was furious for her having placed the pants back inside the suitcase! My Only’s Father saved the day by going outside in his trunks and retrieving Daddy’s pants. What a guy!
I’d paid all the fees ahead and, for the most part, the camping sites were nice and convenient. But when we arrived at one of our spots and realized just how desolate it really was, we left our reservation money behind and found a place with a little more civilization. We settled in for the evening and endeavored to barbeque some steaks. The desert winds were strong enough that they actually lifted a couple of the steaks right off the grill and literally tossed them to the winds! My Only’s Father managed to salvage them, sand and all. Being the good sports that they were, Mom and Daddy suggested we just rinse them off and finish cooking them; we did, managed to enjoy our dinner, and spend a quiet evening, exhausted from the day’s events.
One of my most cherished memories on that trip involved Daddy and My Only. I suggested to my daughter that she take one of her favorite books over to Funny Grandpa, who was sitting in one of our lawn chairs, enjoying the outdoors. Of course, this suggestion didn’t need repeating. She loved books and dutifully walked over to her grandpa, climbed up in his lap and asked him to read one of her favorite stories. She handed him Jack and the Beanstalk.
Being the good sport that he was, Daddy began to read. Mom and I marveled at this, as both of us knew that when Daddy normally read aloud, he didn’t apply much emphasis or inflections that a story would call for. From what we could tell, he seemed to be handling both the book and the granddaughter fairly well.
That was until the Giant came onto the scene. Daddy continued reading and, thinking it wouldn’t matter, began skipping over a few words here and there. Mom and I were chuckling softly, watching the two from the inside of the trailer, listening and picking up what we could through the screened view; My Only’s facial expression was one of absolute disgust as she waited for him to get through another page; then we heard her admonish him:
“Grandpa, you forgot the Fee, Fie, Foe, Fum again!”
Even quality time had its limits…