My parents loved to go on vacation without me. Okay, I don’t know if love is the right word, but I don’t think they particularly missed me very much. Back when there was still a gaggle of us rapscallions around, the road trip was THE thing to do during summer vacations. The time honored tradition of shoving everything we owned into a small vehicle that we would then spend hours upon hours in was important in our household (and it was a good way to shut us up about being bored and tired of playing outside all the time).
I really enjoyed taking road trips with the family, and I guess I figured that it would be something I would be a part of until I was an adult. But, boy , did I get a wake-up call—in the form of my dad walking into the living room one summer afternoon when I was 17 and telling me that I had to get up, right now, and go find a job. Like, just go out a pick one; he didn’t care what it was, just to get off of my lazy ass and find employment. Oh, okay, dad. No problem. Throw your child into the brightly lit afternoon alone in her car (that I needed to borrow five dollars to put gas in) to fend for herself in the real world. That was when I knew how much you really loved me. Get a job…Seriously?!
Oh yes, it didn’t get more serious than dad showing up and laying down the law. Fifteen minutes later and I was heading to the employment center at the local (dying) shopping mall. The place that was only partially lit inside because they only had fifteen functioning work spaces (they used to be these things called stores) in an area built to house fifty. The place that you wouldn’t want to walk inside alone because it was creepy and if you made one tiny sound it would echo throughout the entire mall corridor. The place that you only visited anymore because there was a Furr’s Cafeteria attached to the outside that the family still liked to eat. Yeah, that place. Thanks, Dad!
After perusing the “wall of jobs yet to be fulfilled” I grabbed a postcard that held all of the information for a position at a nearby warehouse that was looking for “assemblers” and took it to the woman sitting at a desk near the front of the room. I was very surprised to note that she was very animated and, well, perky for a person that had been required to remain sequestered in such a gloomy place with such an interesting assortment of characters filing in throughout the day. I handed her my card and she gave me an encouraging smile. I wish I would have been nicer to her but she was just a tool in my dad’s plan to get me out of the house—I didn’t smile back.
Grabbing the phone and making a quick call she then notified me that I was hired and that I would be required to show up for my first day in exactly one week. Yeah, let that sink in. In what amounts to less time than what I spend on an average shower I was employed. As an “assembler.” For a company that I didn’t know anything about. What in the hell just happened? I have to work now? No more hanging with my friends, or swimming at the local pool, or my favorite past time of lying outside reading and getting a tan? I was just going through the motions—I didn’t think I was going to get hired!
I guess I should have been happy that I got a job and that my dad would be satisfied. I mean, I did think of that as the silver lining, but my life was about to change, big time, and I knew it. Armed with a handful of paperwork to fill out and instructions on where to go for my first day on the job I went home and let everyone know what was what. Yeah, they were happy. Damn it.
The last week of my life as an unemployed youth was, well, I don’t actually remember it—I was too fucking worried about my job. On the plus side I found out that was even closer to home than I thought and that I would be putting together framed posters. They’re kind of unusual to explain but they were pretty popular back in the day, especially if you liked to shop at places like local flea markets. People who wanted artwork for their home but didn’t have a lot of money might purchase a three piece collection of posters to hang on the wall. A popular example would be a poster sectioned off in three pieces where one smaller piece would be a picture of a trumpet sitting on a piano; a bigger middle piece would be the piano keys with a rose sitting on top, and then another smaller piece with a filled champagne flute sitting on another picture of a piano. Cost about ten dollars if you got the big set. It was high class all the way baby.
I could go on and on about that time in my life (and I probably will—stay tuned) but I wanted to get back to that one thing I talked about way at the beginning of this story—the parents taking the rest of the family and a close family friend (instead of me) on vacation. The fact that I now had something to fill up all of those hours that I used to have fun created a new family scenario: I got to have the house to myself. I bet you’re thinking that was good news, right? It was tragedy—straight up. Not only was I not going to go to Yellowstone (and I am still a 42 year old woman who has never been to Yellowstone) but I was going to be in my big, bad scary house all by myself. I was going to have to be responsible for lugging my butt out of bed every day and make sure that I made it to work on time. I was going to have to (gasp!) make my own meals!!!
It wasn’t the ideal scenario for me. Not sure if you picked up on that. I watched everyone scamper around finding all of the things they would need for their journey north and felt sorry for myself because I didn’t get to go. I don’t remember but I probably hated on the friend that got to go in my place. I worried and I worried and then I worried some more. I didn’t want to be alone by myself. Didn’t seem to matter too much to the parental units, and they loaded up the crew and headed out. It’s amazing how different a house feels when no one is around. It was going to be a long five days (yes, I know I’m a wimp).
So, I went on my merry way and acted the grown up. I made it to work every day and came home to a dimly lit house that very quickly melted into a thick darkness. I grabbed a notebook to doodle in and stuck my ass on a recliner in the corner of the den where no one could sneak up on me from behind and where I could see the majority of the kitchen and living room. Once I sat down it took something really important to get me to get back up again. Have to pee? Not happening. Have to check on that popping sound that just came from my parent’s bedroom? Oh, hell no. Get more Cheetos? Ummm, okay, but what else can I grab while I’m over there ‘cause I’m not going back later. Cheetos, Pepsi and a handful of cookies later I was good to go.
Mom would call and check up on me (of course) and I would hear about all the fun things they got to do that day and that they would be home soon. I always felt left out after the calls but I felt good too. I was being an adult all by myself (albeit a very dysfunctional one) and I wasn’t dead yet. Hooray! I would try to make each and every day full with amazing adventures (which usually consisted of working and spending my hard earned cash) so that time would go by quickly and things could get back to normal.
The parents came back exhausted but content and I would hear about everything cool that they all did on their trip for at least the next few days. It was no problem really because I was actually in the right kind of mind set to absorb everything they would tell me. I was just so happy to know that if someone decided to break into my house anytime soon that I wouldn’t die alone, and I was willing to hear lots of details about their fun. But my interest did break off eventually and I was ready to continue on with life. And it was pretty easy to do until the pictures got developed (listen up kids, there was once a camera that didn’t take instant pictures) and it all started over again–the photographic equivalent of turning the knife in my gut. Okay, I get it, you had fun. Let’s all just move along now.
The funny thing is that as much as I hate that I didn’t get to go on these types of vacations I was happy for all of the things that I had to learn to do by myself. I didn’t feel like I was ready to be a grown up, but my parents did, and that got me moving in the right direction. I’m even happy that my friend got to go on that trip without me. I’m sure that it was a great experience for her as well as my family and I would never really begrudge her going. It was a tough lesson to learn, but I made it through pretty well. Now, I just need to talk to my parents about trying that trip to Yellowstone again–with me this time.
© DRB 2015