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by Philip Gulley


    When our son Spencer was six weeks old, I said to my wife, “It’s time for a vacation.”

    “Not a good idea,” she cautioned. But she went along because she believes in letting me learn from my mistakes.

    We went to a lodge four hours away Spencer slept the whole way there. I was gloating. Checked in. Went to our room. I was gloating some more. Having kids is a breeze. Mothers are such alarmists.

    Then Spencer woke up.

    In the book of Revelation, John writes about the seven plagues of divine wrath, ranging from bodily sores to earthquakes. John missed a plague: crying kids. Spencer stopped crying long enough for us to eat dinner. Grandmother-types looked at us and smiled. Before I had a child, I thought they smiled because they liked children. I now understand that they smile because their children are grown.

    We went back to our room and went to bed. Spencer cried all night. The next morning at breakfast we tried to slip out of the restaurant without him, but the manager blocked our escape. Mary and Joseph once left Jesus behind when they were on an out-of-town trip, too. Kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

    What happened on the way home can only be attributed to sleep deprivation. In an effort to salvage our first family vacation, I drove home on a designated scenic route. The state calls them “scenic routes” because it can’t squeeze “twisty-road-that-adds-three-hours-to-your-trip-and-makes-your-kid-carsick route” on one sign.

Mary and Joseph once left Jesus behind when they were on an out-of-town trip, too. Kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
    The next year at vacation time, having forgotten our previous vacation, we drove to a lodge eight hours away Spencer didn’t cry once. He slept soundlessly every night. He rode in his car seat without complaint. We didn’t hear a peep from him, but then earplugs have that effect.

    That family vacations don’t turn out as we’d hoped can only be blamed on television and its inaccurate portrayal of family life. I remember a Brady Bunch episode when the Bradys traveled for an entire week without once having to stop to use the bathroom. Florence Henderson sang across three states without anyone pushing her out the car door. When I was growing up, we wouldn’t be out the driveway before my brother Glenn had slugged me for breathing on him.

    We do ourselves a disfavor when we expect family life to be the Brady Bunch revisited. Truth is, most of our families lurch from one mess to another. And that’s not an altogether bad thing. Otherwise, how would we cultivate the fine art of forgiveness?

    My wife even forgave me after our first vacation. She said at the time, ‘You can’t help it. You come from a long line of men who don’t listen to their wives.”

    I said, “Excuse me, what did you say?”

    We’re saving up for our next vacation. We’re thinking about the mountains.

    “There are all kinds of places to lose a kid there,” I told my wife.

    But she knows I’m just kidding. Actually I thank God every day for my children. Every day — just some days more than others.

      From the book Front Porch Tales, by Philip Gulley. © 1997 by Multnomah Pub., used by permission.

      Title: ""
      Author: Philip Gulley
      Publication Date: June 7, 2001


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