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The final family vacation

By By Leada DeVaney, Hartselle Enquirer
It's summertime and the living is easy. Everywhere you look, people are headed off to vacation, enjoying a trip to the beach or an excursion to the mountains.
Family fun on a first-rate scale.
Well, at least that's how it's supposed to be. I think the idea of a family vacation is far removed from the reality of heading out with your family, all piled in one car, to some distant location where you're destined to have fun, fun, fun.
I remember very clearly one of our family trips to the beach. I was about 7 or 8, just young enough to ride in the hatchback part of my mother's dirt brown 1977 Toyota station wagon. (Before safety experts start yelling, let me point out that this was the 1970s, a time when a lot of people actually removed seat belts from their cars.)
My father would be driving, with mother in the passenger's seat, spending most of her time negotiating a truce between me and my brother.
"Mom, he's on my side of the car," I would yell.
"No I'm not," he would yell, just as he poked his invading finger across the imaginary backseat line my mother had drawn somewhere around Opp.
This exchange would land one of us, usually me, into the hatchback part of the car. This was a good spot for one thing: you could make faces at the people driving behind you. It was a bad spot for another reason: it was right in the sun and it didn't seem as if the Toyota's air conditioner could manage to blow air all the way to the back of the car. What you end up with is a hot, sweaty child whose making faces at people. It's not a pretty picture.
We weren't a real sophisticated bunch, and although my mother denies this ever occurred, I do remember stopping at a shark museum once on the way to Florida. Maybe my parents just wanted to give us a chance to stretch our legs. Maybe it was a chance for them to look at something even more frightening than being stuck in a car with your screaming children.
We begged my dad to stop at Stuckey's, pleading for pecan logs and Alabama thimbles. My brother and I ended up spending our scraped-together money in the Stuckey's gift shop, leaving ourselves penniless for the trip to Florida.
By the time we arrived at the beach, my parents looked like they'd been through a war. It was then we would head off to the beach, with dad carrying armfuls of beach toys and mom painting our faces with sunscreen.
They spent their entire vacation making sure we weren't eaten by sharks, stung by jellyfish or killed by one another.
For some reason, that was the last family vacation.

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