It was a crisp Spring day when my parents surprised us with a last-minute family vacation. I was in the 8th grade and when my sisters and I came home from school one afternoon they told us we had one hour to pack our things and be ready to go.
The trip elicited a myriad of feelings from shock and disbelief to excitement and ultimately to deep disappointment.
My dad, my mom, my two sisters and I were packed like sardines in a 4-door Chevette with our luggage when we began our two-day drive to Florida.
It wasn’t a typical family to trip to Florida though. We didn’t visit Mickey Mouse, we didn’t see the animals at Busch Garden’s and we didn’t have any entertainment planned aside from watching the Detroit Tigers play in Spring Training. Granted the year was 1984 and the Tigers were hot, but we lived just outside of Detroit and seeing the Tigers play baseball was no big deal, especially for 3 young girls. Yet that was the sole purpose of trip and there was no use arguing with logic.
My dad did all of the driving and we made frequent stops. Not for fun, but for coffee and cigarette breaks and to sleep in cheap motels.
We made our destination with a whole 4 hours to spare. We were able to talk dad into stopping in Tampa Bay so we could see the water. Though we didn’t swim or stay at the beach for very long, we did take turns skipping stones into the water. Not exactly a thrilling experience for 3 pre-teens during a family vacation!
We arrived at the stadium early and were able to see the Tigers warm up. We got some of their autographs and pictures with a few of our favorites. We spent the afternoon watching the baseball game before we reloaded the Chevette and prepared for our return trip. Our afternoon in Florida was over as quickly as it began.
During the ride home we were desperate to salvage the trip and to get out of the crawlspace we had in the car. Lured in by the signs posted on the highway, we convinced dad to stop for a train ride. We drove for hours through thin, winding roads that took us through the mountains and eventually found the alleged tourist attraction. In reality, it was nothing more than a trolley that circled through a small, paved parking lot.
Disappointed again, we continued on the long drive home, stopping only for food, pit stops and to sleep.
At the time it seemed like a horrible family vacation. For years we razzed dad about the “vacation.” But looking back, I think he did the best he could on a very limited income. I wish we could have made the best of it and had some quality family time together before we outgrew each other and started our own families that took us in different directions.