Saturday, June 7, 2008

Family vacation: Mile 257

It was right about Breezewood on the Pennsylvania Turnpike that it dawned on me that my youngest daughter was destined to be either an umpire or an opera singer. She’s the loudest kid on the planet.

Her wail, which has been ceaseless for the past 30 minutes, sounds like one of those two-toned Cadillac car horns that’s loud enough to startle a passing freight train into turning its head. I’ve heard Hollywood screen sirens capable of impressive screams, but I’ve never seen or heard anyone who can scream uninterrupted for 30 breathless seconds in two different octaves.

At a lesser, more distant volume, it might be a pleasant sound, sort of like what Daryl Hall & John Oates achieved during the crescendo note in their fine 1973 song, “She’s Gone.” But unlike Hall & Oates, Lucinda’s just one tiny person, she’s not even 2 years old and she’s straining against the bondage of her car seat just 36 inches behind my ears.

We’re at the 257th mile of an eight-state, seven-day, family vacation that I’ve calculated will include more than 28 hours in the car traveling more than 1,500 miles.

Circumstances worked out that I could couple a family vacation and two or three assignments with an invitation to visit the Wintergreen Resort in the lovely Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, my brother and his family in Nashville and the town of Santa Claus, Indiana.

I’m not going to whine about the rigors of a family vacation when this is something we will all enjoy and, to me, involves actually wage-earning assignments and other potential stories.

But it is a lot of togetherness and at times, I’m sure, we’ll all be sick of one another.

I’m reminded about the time last summer when my wife, Valerie, and our daughters, Lucinda and The Outlaw Josie Rodell, 7, drove away from the house I’d have to myself for four long days.

The two girls were teary-eyed about missing their Daddy. Mommy looked anxious and as I waved goodbye I remember thinking, “How can it be that three people I love so much can make me so happy by leaving?”

Right now, I’m just hoping Lucinda will opt for umpire. I love baseball and would enjoy hearing her shriek, “You’rrrre oouuuuttttt!!!” from, say, the upper deck in right field about 450 feet away from home plate.

I might grow to love opera, especially if my beloved daughter was the one belting out Madam Butterfly, The Barber of Seville or anything else I remember them doing on Gilligan’s Island or Bugs Bunny.

But I try and put those thoughts out of my head and focus on the motivation that keeps me driving. on and on and on: In five more hours, I’ll be sitting on a scenic porch at a fabulous resort, sipping some bourbon on ice and ignoring my wife’s gentle warnings about drinking too much on an empty stomach.

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