Jaunts, Junkets, and Kin

Source: Phillip Martin Clipart

“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” -George Burns

There’s a bit of frenzied summer travel planning happening in these here parts.

For the last couple of weeks each of us have been on travel sites making bookings for air travel, hotel rooms, and airport shuttle services. Except for coordinating the calendar dates with one another, everything has been done separately. Gorgeous and I made a decision that it would be best to have a “divide and conquer” approach for visiting family this year. So we’re going solo to selectively cover more ground than if we traveled together.

She has two trips planned, and I have one. It’s not the way either of us would prefer to do it, but such are the compromises that you sometimes make when you live far away from dear ones.

I moved away from my family in Michigan during the summer of 1983. I vowed to myself in an unspoken, self-affirmation that while I would always go back to visit, I just couldn’t live there permanently any longer.

First and foremost was a need to escape the harsh and brutal winters which had tormented me for far too long as a young boy. I still remember those early November nights, laying in bed under two layers of blankets, while listening to my parents discuss whether it was too early to switch on the furnace. “Good G-d,” I would think to myself. “Just turn the freakin’ thing on already, will ya?!

Of course, I didn’t say “freakin'” because that word really wasn’t said back then. We did say “bogue” quite a bit, though. It was a slang form of the word “bogus.” However, in my house using it was considered crude and uncouth, and so I refrained from even using it at school for fear that I might accidentally blurt it out at home. Doing so would initiate a discourse on proper speaking, followed by an even longer diatribe about the unseemly fashion in which young people were now using the English language. The lectures would have warmed the cockles of Edwin Newman and William Safire’s hearts, but I tried my best to just avoid it. Such were the rhetorical land mines I dodged during my 1970’s adolescence.

William Safire and Edwin Newman
William Safire picture credit: The Guardian
Edwin Newman picture credit: Amazon

Eh, so sorry for the detour. But are you like me about wanting authenticity? I get easily rattled when watching current movies and TV shows that ostensibly take place in the past, but Hollywood writers insist on using contemporary slang in the scripts to appeal to, or keep the attention spans of Gen Xers and beyond. It’s lazy and inaccurate. And come to think of it, it’s also bogue too, man.  

So while moving away from the frozen tundra was my number one desire after college, I had other motivations too. I knew instinctively that I also needed the freedom to try out new things and make my own mistakes, privately and away from prying and judgmental eyes and ears of family members.

For instance, after “did you get enough to eat?” and “don’t forget to wear a hat!,” my mother’s most-used phrase was “are you sure?!!!” Well, no, Mom. I’m not actually.

I love you all, but see ya!

Source: Clipart Panda

And so it’s been this way for pretty much all of my adult life. Whether out of guilt and obligation, or sincere joy and excitement, I have hopped on planes from the many places I’ve lived to go back and be with family and loved ones. I’ve even done so during those dreaded times of harsh weather conditions, all to be a part of milestone birthday celebrations, weddings and anniversaries, sudden accidents and hospitalizations, and sadly, funerals.

It goes without saying that for each visit, I still diabolically calculate the amount of time I know it will take before family members, specifically siblings, start to lose that outer shell of camaraderie and transition to familiarity. Without going into any embarrassing details here (even family can be litigious, you know), I’m pretty sure you all must know and appreciate the intricacies of such a familial dynamic. Watch for the fault lines and careful not to spill on the carpet; I’m speaking metaphorically here, but do feel free to take this as literal advice too.

Families are complicated organisms. All that appears to be fine on the surface usually belies an undercurrent that will become more transparent as minutes turn to hours, and hours turn into days. Or as an old friend of mine likes to describe his own family visits: “We go from the ‘nicely drunk‘ phase where everyone loves one another, to a more caffeine-laden and accusatory ‘now see here!‘ finish.” (Hi, B).

My own family isn’t quite so confrontational. We operate more like a carefully played chess match, with nuanced openings of topics that are sure to elicit differences of long-held opinions. While Social Security is considered to be the “third rail” of American politics, in my family it’s usually any discussion of my parents’ final years. It’s a topic best avoided, but somehow we skirt the very edges of it before someone deftly changes the subject. Rook to Bishop 4.

Thankfully though, there’s still lots of laughter and hugs, plus the retelling of old stories which you haven’t heard since, well, the last visit. There are cousins to see, an aging uncle whom I never seem to call enough during the year, and old school friends if I can possibly sneak in a side stop.

My visits are always brief — three days tops, specifically designed to ensure that I not smell like fish as I take my leave. Nor will any of us become victims of contempt, bred from that common thread of our familiarity. Keep things as light as possible and take your leave with everyone hopefully wanting more, as the show business types might say anyway.

So, I do wish you well on your own family visits this summer. Don’t over eat or drink, watch the kiddies as they light up the sparklers, and avoid all talk about politics unless you’re absolutely sure about everyone around you. Those undercurrents are dangerous.

Until next time…

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27 thoughts on “Jaunts, Junkets, and Kin

  1. I laughed when I read this. My husband and I too do some family stuff individually. All 4 of his kids live in Colorado and it took a while until I got them to understand that 3 days staying with us was the max before I go batshit crazy. My hub is going out there (without me) this summer. For 3 days! My family is local so he does more of those but I do spare him the funerals of distant relatives and some other things I know would make him batshit crazy! Have a great trip and let’s hope no one goes batshit crazy!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Batshit crazy is never good, Kate! Yep, I really think three days is tops, though I’m always amazed at the number of people (a sister of mine, for instance) who can’t wrap their head around the concept. It sounds like you and the Beloved Husband have a handle on it — good for you. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have a lot of “visitor” stories I can’t blog about because of feelings! Like the time the son-in-law “forgot” to close the freezer door on the fridge (after getting ice) and everything defrosted by morning. I have tons of those. I hate guests therefore I prefer not to be on either.

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  2. Thank you for wrapping up the post with the image of one of my very first LPs (which was purchased with S&H Green Stamps!) You and I have VERY similar approaches to those family visits. And mine have finally accepted that I will spend two thirds of the time with them and one third with friends I met as an adult (and who my family has come to like). Safe travels to you both!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Animals, Eddie! Sometimes you just have to put on headphones and groove with Eric Burdon. A complicated soul who would have been far bigger if there had never been a Mick Jagger.

      Yep, visiting family is always about compromises. And sometimes those decisions aren’t always popular. But I’m awfully glad your family accepts your choices.

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  3. I’ve lived in my hometown almost my whole life (so far 🙃) so I’ve never had to deal with this issue, thank goodness. My MIL lives up north and we try to see her at least once a year… but always with the three-day rule in full force. I wish I could talk him into going alone now and then; not that I don’t want to see my MIL, but I’d be completely giddy with three whole days of alone time.

    Enjoy your time with your family, there is nothing quite like the feeling of being with a group of people with your shared heritage. Just don’t talk about… you know… that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, now, see, I didn’t even go into the alone time I get from my wife’s travels. It’s partly because I already posted about that once, and partly because I always worry about never being able to end anything! But, yeah, I’m seriously looking forward to that alone time. There will be REALLY bad meals eaten along with equally bad television shows watched. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I moved away from where I grew up when I was 18 and never went back there to live again. Considering all my relatives did the same thing, it’d be weird for us to get together in our “home” town. That being said, I’m all about your 3-day rule whenever I visit anyone anywhere. That’s plenty of time to reunite, irritate, and depart while still on speaking terms. Enjoy your vacations, remember that we want to read all about what really happened when you get back home.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have to relive it all after I get back home??!!!! 🙂

      Yes, three days and what I didn’t really mention in the post itself (but I’m apparently more than happy to pile on with snark here in the comments area) is to always stay at a hotel if possible. You enjoy getting back together with people that much more the next day.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I visit the fam 2x/year. Summer and winter. Back to Cleveland. I like it. The kids like it. It’s cheaper than a proper holiday although I’d rather go to London or some place like that. We stay in a hotel so as not to intrude on their personal space. I’m sure they appreciate it.

    Do you like taking separate vacations? No hard feelings? I love traveling alone. I don’t get to do it much anymore and I miss it. I never feel lonely. It’s freeing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My parents are no longer alive, but I have two remaining siblings back in Michigan + some cousins. In theory it shouldn’t matter because siblings should be as important as parents, but I seem to only go back every other year. Maybe they’re not as important? I guess I’ve apparently made that decision!

      All things being equal, I really prefer to go back with my wife. I discovered during my divorce that it’s more fun traveling with someone than without. But sometimes it’s just easier; at least that’s the conclusion we made this time. Maybe my wife just wanted some time alone at home. 😉

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  6. Like a postcard from the beach, this post has me yearning for the sunshine drenched horizon of summer, still months away. Cheers, Marty.
    My last couple of interstate family visits were made tolerable by building in time to visit the record shops carefully researched before departure. Worked for me. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  7. We have all moved away from our hometown, so visiting of siblings for me is a 2-day/3 night event (arrive late day 1, leave early day 3). Yes, I am the one that seems to go there, not the other way (so far) so it’s usually once every 2 years. Hubby’s family is all local and we see them much more regularly, so he feels obligated to come with me sometimes, but not always. This summer we are doing both of my siblings (different directions)…and he’s coming for both. With increasing age and the poor health of both my siblings, I sometimes think any visit might be the last. Lends a different perspective to the time together.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can appreciate how age and health changes the dynamic tremendously, Pat. One of my siblings has been in “precarious” health for many years, but somehow always revives enough to get back into a regular and normal rhythm (driving, shopping, etc.). But I’m never quite sure at any time how she really is. Currently I’m on an every two year schedule myself, but I suspect that will change as circumstances change also.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. En pointe, Marty. My husband has seven sisters (he’s the only male sibling) so family gatherings are an endurance test – for me – as the only sister-in-law. The notion of separate family visits is genius: I’ll have to pick the perfect moment to suggest it. I like the three day visit idea too. Take care and enjoy when you do get together 🙂 Linda

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seven sisters?! Did you know that’s also the name of a wonderful Polish cake?! No kidding! Anyway, I digress (sorry!)… OMG, that must be sheer torture for you. I mean, yes, we all love family. But SEVEN SISTERS????!!!! Surely you’ve earned brownie points (note: not a Polish cake to my knowledge) by now and have earned the right to take separate visits to family. Go for it! 🙂

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