va.ca.tion: a period of sustained insanity, often cruelly referred to as “relaxation”

Clark Griswold himself would have been proud (and maybe even a trifle envious) of the way I spent the last ten days of my life.

My family and I were subjected to privileged to spend 8+ hours on the side of a Wyoming road in 30 degree weather with two fewer tires than is generally considered acceptable in polite company, followed by the scheduled (and by that time, blessedly uneventful) 18-hour drive from “God’s Country” to Sunny SoCal. Once there, we (wrecklessly) paraded the entire Susanka pack through my brother-in-law’s graduation. We followed that up with Second Son’s Second Communion — a long story, that; dinner at a fancy sea-side restaurant in honor of said brother-in-law’s release from his academic indentures; frantic efforts to visit as many of our old friends in the Ventura area as possible before returning to the Wilds of Wyoming, and the piece de resistance: a two day stay at Anaheim’s own particular Little Shop of Horrors…er, Disneyland. Then, it was back into the van for the all-too-familiar 18-hour jaunt back to the remoter portions of the contiguous US.

Toss in the charming little stomach bug “wildcard” — which made its first appearance amongst the boys while we sat huddled in our hotel recuperating from our first day’s insanity at The Magic Kingdom and took its (hopefully) final bow in the van during the last 10 hours of our journey home — and you can see all too clearly that any vestiges of Pieper’s cultural-enriching “leisure hours” were conspicuously absent during our just-completed SouthWestern swing. In fact, it felt very much like the breakneck pace of my daily routine, transplanted to the somewhat warmer confines of California in an effort to keep things “interesting.”

Still, the few hours leading up to our departure on Sunday night — my boys eagerly vying for the opportunity to sit on the laps of my parents in an effort to squeeze out the last few precious moments of the visit — was more than enough to remind me of why exactly we subject ourselves to such absurd ordeals.

Family: it does a body good.

Joseph Susanka

By

Joseph Susanka has been doing development work for institutions of Catholic higher education since his graduation from Thomas Aquinas College in 1999. Currently residing in Lander, Wyoming -- "where Stetsons meet Birkenstocks" -- he is a columnist for Crisis Magazine and the Patheos Catholic portal.

  • Jason Negri

    Your picture caption is AWESOME.

    Sorry to hear about your trip, but thanks for sharing the grueling details with everyone as we enter family vacation season. I’m so glad those days (travelling with little kids) are behind us. Stay strong, man!

  • Joseph Susanka

    Stay strong, man!

    …and by “stay strong,” I assume you mean “try not to weep openly, because the boys will surely see that as a sign of weakness, and go in for the kill,” right? Excellent advice.

    I pretty much assumed a deserted Wyoming roadside adventure was just a matter of time, so we’ve gotten that behind us now. And the driving is nowhere near as bad for the boys as one might expect. They travel very well. But I must admit that the “stomach bug in the Disneyland hotel” felt just a little bit like piling on…

    In hindsight, I suspect the whole vacation sounds worse than it actually was. The boys had a great time with my parents, and since objects in the rear-view mirror are always a bit smaller than they were at the time, I’m feeling much better now.

  • Zoe Romanowsky

    That little face says it all. Great shot.

    As far as I’m concerned, you deserve just about any prize I can think of simply for stepping foot in Disneyland. Being Canadian, I didn’t grow up with any real expectation I would ever get to Disneyland or Disney World and I’m kind of hoping it stays that way.

    Welcome back! We missed you around here.

  • Sarah Pierzchala

    Joseph, your trip just sounds like my average grocery-shopping trip (other than the 18-hour drive).

    But seriously, if you really want to have fun, why don’t you and Sarah add a dog to your family? Your boys really deserve a dog—think of how much they will learn about responsibility, car-sickness, extra mud, shedding, etc.

    And then, after it dies or runs away, a road trip with 5 kids will seem ridiculously simple.

  • Simcha

    No photos of a kid getting spanked in front of “The Happiest Place In the World” sign? I don’t believe you’ve been to Disneyland at all.

  • Joseph Susanka

    As far as I’m concerned, you deserve just about any prize I can think of simply for stepping foot in Disneyland. Being Canadian, I didn’t grow up with any real expectation I would ever get to Disneyland or Disney World and I’m kind of hoping it stays that way.

    Your reaction is not unique, Zoe. Any number of folks expressed incredulity at the fact that I would willingly bring my children there. But what can I say? I’ve always loved Disneyland, ever since the first time I visited year ago. I do find it strangely “magical.” (And yes, this is even in spite of the terrible 8+ hours I spent in a scrupulously clean Disneyland bathroom battling food poisoning some time in the early 90s. A long story, which I don’t plan to tell any time soon. Or ever. So don’t ask.)

    But seriously, if you really want to have fun, why don’t you and Sarah add a dog to your family? Your boys really deserve a dog—think of how much they will learn about responsibility, car-sickness, extra mud, shedding, etc.

    I’m already scared of my children as it is, Sarah. Adding a four-legged perpetual motion machine to the 5+ I’ve already got doesn’t seem like it’s a step in the “less scary” direction. I’m not sure you’re helping here. [smiley=wink]

    No photos of a kid getting spanked in front of “The Happiest Place In the World” sign? I don’t believe you’ve been to Disneyland at all.

    And why, exactly, do you think he’s crying? [smiley=think]

    (Wait. Did I just use two emoticons in the same response? What will people think of me now?)

  • Kamilla

    Ah Joseph, it’s no easier when taking elderly parents on vacation. My mother lost her boarding pass somewhere in the terminal, on it goes . . .

    But at least I picked the right hotel – they happen to be having their grand re-opening reception tonight. After a attitude-adjusting martini, I’m feeing much better!

    Kamilla

  • Austin

    Having driven to Florida with the children to visit Disneyworld, as well as other beach vacations, I must confess that I actually looked forward to getting back to work after a few days of “vacation.” I know this sounds awful, but I am sure that I am not alone.

  • Frank

    My man, your article is a perfect example of why every father must keep a pocket-size copy of Boethius’ De Consolatione Philosophiae with him at all times! When it all just gets to be too much — preferably before you begin bleeding from the ears or eyes — detatch yourself from the situation, cower in your hotel bathroom, and drink deeply from the springs of wisdom. Then, hurl imprecations at Fortuna, calling her OUT for the vicious slut she truly is!

    I am attaching your article to my request to the FDA that Xanax and other anti-anxiety medications be made available in a 10 lb. salt-lick size. I think it will add the needed gravitas for my petition to be treated seriously.

  • dymphna

    When I was a kid my parents never took vacations. I used to envy all the other kids but in retrospect maybe they were right.

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