Bad family summer holidays prep you for the real world
Every January, my sisters and I would be forced into a stinking hot car that, according to Mum, Dad had forgotten to service, and we’d argue our way to a camping ground. There we would argue some more and shower in a communal block where everyone wore thongs, so as to avoid that classic ‘70s foot disease, tinea.
As Dad’s “short cuts” meant that the trip had taken us around the same amount of time as flying to Russia, we would have had precisely one day to “relax”. Or as an adult might put it: “Shut up, you’re on holidays and you’ll bloody well enjoy yourself.”
On the way home we’d be treated to a night at a motel called something enticingly foreign like La Stupenda. If the health inspectors hadn’t been tipped off, we would race each other to dive into the filthy swimming pool which bore no resemblance to the aquatic wonderland featured on La Stupenda’s brochure (“Come and enjoy our range of superior European-style facilities with a Hawaiian feel.”)
In the evening we would dress in matching crocheted outfits and attend La Stupenda’s dining room, where a prawn cocktail the colour of a bad spray tan would be on offer and which, if you were lucky, only caused food poisoning in half of those who ate it.
“But Mum, you promised we could have the chocolate mousse.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. We have to leave, your sister’s throwing up on herself.”
“I don’t care. I want dessert. She’s being selfish. I hate her.”
After sleeping in a bed whose sheets had collected more DNA than CSI’s forensics lab, it would be time to return home. To alleviate the boredom, my sisters and I would amuse ourselves by committing random acts of physical violence on each other in the backseat of the Holden. Mum and Dad were always too busy fighting over where the next turn-off was to take much notice.
Every so often someone would “have their eye out” in the back and the car would screech to a halt. Dad would then tell one of us to “get out of the bloody car” and “bloody well walk home”. If it was directed at me, I would gladly jump out and stick out my thumb.
That meant the Holden would reverse at high speed and I’d be told to get in.
Looking back, taking my chances with the local serial killer was probably not such a bad bet, but at six I wasn’t old enough to comprehend this.
While my mother threatened to divorce my father, my sisters continued to take turns punching me really hard. As the youngest, it was understood that I had to sit in the uncomfortable middle seat and take these assaults without complaint.
If I did protest, my parents would say that it “takes two to tango”, which I had already pegged as my defence when I eventually killed one of them.
I once tried to explain to my nephews, whose vacations have already included a trip to Paris, what these holidays were like. I may as well have been telling them I had grown up tied to a cot in a Romanian orphanage - they couldn’t even conceive of the idea that people would have to endure such conditions.
The best part of our family trips was returning home – not normally one of my favourite places—sticky, sunburnt and exhausted from one hundred and fifty-eight hours of driving and the stress of pretending to enjoy ourselves when other people were looking.
I’m not even sure if family holidays are like this anymore - the government may have banned them. But if they are and you’re about to endure one, I want to let you in on a secret.
These holidays may seem like a violation of your human rights right now. But what you will gain from them is a gift beyond measure, one which will be denied those of your peers relaxing by a pool in a resort somewhere with their well-behaved relatives.
You see, the bar will be set incredibly low for the rest of your life. I’ve rarely ventured further than the local shops whenever I’ve had a break, and I’ve always been thrilled by the experience.
Your happy friends, on the other hand, will be paying for all that happiness later on. It costs a lot to try to recreate blissful childhood memories these days. Even if their families just rented a shack near the beach when they were young, that shack is probably now owned by a celebrity chef.
All you’ll have to do is stay home and avoid getting so pissed that you’re tempted to phone your family and tell them what you really think of them.
Happy holidays everyone.
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