Summertime is the traditional season for family vacations, an activity wherein you spend so much time with the ones you love that you can’t stand them anymore.
The term staycation has come into vogue lately, a word used to describe staying at home during a vacation. With eight kids and a dairy farm to operate, our parents were masters of the staycation. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that Mom and Dad actually invented the art of staycationing.
For example, every summer when the weather was at its hottest, we would bale hay and heft it into the hayloft of our barn. As we shuffled across the haymow, the itchy bales jostling against our legs, the air would become befogged with hay dust. The temperature in the haymow soared to the melting point of lead.
Dad would eventually call for a break, and we would clamber down from the haymow and sit in the shade of the barn. A water jug would be passed around, the ice cubes clunking as we each took a long, hard swig. Ironically, the hottest day of the year thus elicited the worst frozen food headaches.
If we were lucky, we might be visited by a breeze. This was much appreciated as we had sweat so much that our skin had pruned. Dad would then gaze at the farmstead, take a deep breath and say, “Wow, isn’t this nice?”
A deep whiff would bring to the nose the smell of fragrant hogs, the bouquet of fresh hay and the perfume of cow poop. Looking at the farmyard only reminded us that when we were done stacking hay we next had to carry water and feed to the hogs and the steers. And then milk our cows in that stifling barn.
After a few minutes Dad would announce, “Well, vacation’s over!” And we would resume our Herculean hayloft labors.
I grew up and became a dairy farmer, holding firm to the belief that “vacation” meant simply resting a short spell. I was disabused of that notion shortly after I got married.
My wife, who had grown up in town, believed that vacationing involved traveling. She reinforced her argument by pointing out that the “vaca” part meant “vacating the premises.” She didn’t buy my theory that it was short for “staring vacantly.”
“But if we vacation at home, I’ll be able to keep tabs on the cows,” I reasoned. “And we could help the hired man with chores and maybe throw some bales.”
That logic went over like a skunk at a Ladies’ Aid luncheon. So when our kids became old enough, I was forced to go on an actual Disney World family vacation. Sadly, all of our cows had to stay home.
Disney World, I quickly learned, is chockfull of wondrous family-oriented wonders. It’s also a place where you must pay beaucoup bucks to stand in line to experience said wonders.
“What’s the holdup?” I asked as we waited in a line that stretched to the horizon. “Let’s get things moving! I knew I should have brought my electric stock prod!”
Our boys began to whine that they were hungry. “We should think about getting something to eat,” said my wife.