When my husband Chris told me he wanted to take a family vacation during our children’s winter break, I resisted.
I told him I didn’t need to spend oodles of money traveling to some faraway place just to retreat from society, lounge in sweat pants and gorge on fattening food. I do that every day without leaving the house.
If we stayed home, I contended, we could vacation for next to nothing by using iTunes gift cards to bribe our teenage kids to make us meals, retrieve us drinks, and give us mani/pedi’s.
He looked skeptical. Then I told him the truth: that during these fiscally conservative times when we are forced to reprioritize, we must learn to focus on categories that provide the greatest payoff. For me, that meant purchasing a new set of silk drapes for our bedroom.
So after two decades of marriage, three kids, and a recession, I convinced my husband to take a “staycation.” And I ordered the drapes.
We chose a beautiful weekend to kick it off, beginning with a family hike at the Delaware Water Gap. We spent the afternoon running from pesky animals— poisonous snakes, hungry black bears, and drunken hikers—while trekking through unchartered wilderness and scaling sheer vertical cliffs. As the temperature dropped to 38 degrees we no longer prided ourselves on how clever we’d been to dress for the unseasonably warm weather in cotton shorts and T-shirts.
We capped off the day with a stop on I-80 at Dairy Queen for chili cheese dogs. When we returned home we enjoyed more family bonding time while we removed brambles and clinging nettles from each other’s hair. Then we climbed into bed and promptly fell sleep.
At 4:00 a.m., Chris awakened to a raging case of heartburn and sent me out for antacids. At a nearby gas station I grabbed the Tums and pulled out my wallet.
“Hello,” said the clerk. His nametag said, “Tom.”
“Hi, Tom.” I handed him my credit card.
He held my card with blackened fingers that indicated he also did car repairs. He glanced at my card. “Gas, Lisa?”
“Heartburn,” I replied.
“Are you buying gas?”
“Uh . . . no, no.” I said, my face flushing red. “Just Tums—for my husband.”
“Personally, I prefer Maalox,” Tom offered. “Or if you don’t want to spend money, just have him drink a glass of milk.”
Who knew gas station clerks were now licensed to dispense advice on octanes andmedical conditions?
I considered calling home to ask Chris his preference but realized I had left my cell phone at home. By the time I pulled into my driveway with the Tums, Maalox, and a gallon of milk, Chris was gone. He had left a note on the kitchen counter saying, “Feeling worse. Drove to the emergency room.”
I prayed it wasn’t a heart attack and raced to the local hospital. The doctor took me aside and explained the situation. In the treatment room, they removed his shirt and brought out an electric shaver.
“No!” I yelled. The medical staff ignored me and proceeded to shave off his chest hair.
“Why, why couldn’t you wax?” I cried silently, knowing he preferred a clean look.
The staff had moved on—a sonogram, an EKG, a nuclear scan, and an enema (for good measure). Then the doctor told us that as he had suspected, Chris had acid reflux. We were handed a bill for $2800.
On the drive home my car began to falter. “What now?” I growled. I considered calling Tom for advice, but was half afraid he’d tell me to pour some milk into the carburetor. Or if I wanted to save money, just drink the milk myself.
“Your transmission needs an overhaul. That’ll run you $2500,” my mechanic said later that day.
Back home I drew myself a relaxing bath. As I ran downstairs for a glass of juice I noticed water cascading through the ceiling light fixture into the mudroom below. In response to my screams of dismay, Chris yelled from the next room, “Turn off the water!”
“Okay, Okay! Don’t have a heart atta . . . er, acid reflux!” I yelled. An hour later, the plumber had come and gone, along with $275.
It had only been two days and all Chris and I wanted was for our staycation to end. We fell into bed, exhausted. I turned to Chris. “I guess a staycation isn’t all its cracked up to be.”
“No,” he said, and took a sip of milk. “But at least my acid reflux is better. By the way, next year we’re vacationing in Hawaii.”
“Why Hawaii?” I asked.
“Because it’s cheaper than staying home.”
Special announcement: It is with mixed emotions that I announce that I will be scaling back my Musings from once a week to once a month in order to pursue other writing endeavors. The good news is I am now also working as a Parenting and Lifestyle blog contributor at Manilla (the company, not the similarly spelled country). I will also be taking a fiction and nonfiction creative writing course that will help me achieve my long-term writing goals. The bad news is, I already miss you . . .
It’s not goodbye, it’s see you again next month!
When Jersey Girl Lisa Tognola traded her job as freelance writer for that of full-time mother of three children, it didn’t take long before her writing was reduced to grocery lists, notes to school nurses excusing her kids from gym class, and e-mails to her husband reminding him to call his mother. Daily life as a suburban mom was fraught with challenges and unexpected dangers like adult dinner groups, town hall meetings and home shopping parties. Rather than fight her fate, this mom embraced it by unleashing her inner columnist. Her monthly column, Main Street Musings, reflects on life in the suburbs—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Visit her blog http://mainstreetmusingsblog.com/ Follow her on twitter @lisatognola