Sunday, June 24, 2007

Our First Family Vacation

Katherine at Raising Five
reminded me of our first family vacation. When we married, Wick was working construction. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of working for a construction company, I offer the following information:
1. Yes, the pay per hour sounds great.
2. Except that you have no benefits.
3. No insurance.
4. No sick leave.
5. And no paid vacation.
6. And when the job ends, you are out of work.

So, all the time you are working, you bring home a nice check, but you had better be filling your pantry and freezer, and saving up for the intervals between one job ending and the next beginning.
We had two babies in less than 3 years, and moved about 13 times. When I was pregnant with #2 (daughter Jeana), we finally settled down in a small Texas town, and Wick went to work at a foundry. Now if there is anything worse than working construction in the summer in Texas, where outdoor temperatures may reach 110 in the shade, it is working in a foundry. Imagine handling molten aluminum at a temperature of 2,000 degrees. In Texas. In the summertime. Sometimes for 10-12 hours a day.
And if there is anything Wick hates, it is being hot.
But he is and always has been committed to providing for his family, so he did what he felt he had to do.
After a year, he got a week's paid vacation. We were so excited! A week off, and he still got paid! Some of his buddies at work were planning a fishing trip, and invited him. He said only if the babies and I could go too. They agreed to provide all the food, if I did the cooking.
So off we went, with our babies and our German Shepherd Wolf packed up in our station wagon, with a tent and ice chests and suitcases and playpens and cots and fishing poles and bait boxes and cups and plates and pots and pans, and about a cajillion diapers. Have I mentioned we had two babies?
When we got to the lake, on the border between Texas and Louisiana, the guys said they had reserved a camping spot right on the water, with lots of shade, and close to the restrooms and office. It looked lovely when we arrived, in the middle of the night, to set up our tents and get the babies ready for bed. In the rain.
The next morning, I discovered that there was not a level spot as big as a card table in the whole place. The card table, which was my outdoor kitchen, had to be propped against a tree to keep it from falling over. When I started frying bacon and sausage, there was about two inches of grease on one side of the skillet, and none on the other side, because the Coleman camp stove was so unlevel.
I have to give the guys credit: we ate great. They brought all kinds of good stuff, like steaks and pork chops, stuff that we usually couldn't afford. I actually enjoyed cooking for them. They were very grateful and complimentary, no matter what I concocted, and helped with the cleanup after each meal, hauling water to wash dishes, heating water on the Coleman stove, and washing up.
Fortunately for me, the office/store/restroom area provided a clean place to bathe the babies, a small stock of canned goods and milk if we ran low on something, and wonder of wonders, a paperback library. Every morning the babies and I went to the showers to get cleaned up, rinsed out clothes, and picked out something for mama to read during afternoon nap times.
They guys fished. Every day. All the time.
The only problem was that they didn't catch anything.
But they had a great time fishing.
Oh. I forgot to mention that it rained.
Every day.
Every blooming day.
Now this may not have occurred to you, and it had not occurred to me, that when you are staying in a tent, on a slope, and it rains every day, the tent starts to fill up with mud. The mud flows downhill, into the tent, across the tent floor, and accumulates against the downhill wall. Six to eight inches deep. Inside the tent.
And although you can wash clothes in the nice clean shower house, and hang them inside the tent, they don't get dry.
They never dry.
They start to mildew.
And so did the babies and I.
Heat rash.
Diaper rash.
Mosquito bits.
Here we are, on our first paid vacation in three years.
With two babies.
And a German Shepherd, with a tail as thick as a cable, and paws the size of saucers, and ticks as big as grapes from all the bushes he has been running through, and probably carrying about 5 pounds of mud at all times, because honestly, how do you keep a German Shepherd clean, when it rains EVERY DAY?
I thought I was bearing up well, until the last day before we were planning to leave. That day it rained all day long. No letup. I spent the whole day in the tent, with its muddy floor, and the muddy dog, and the babies who had by this time a major case of diaper rash because, have I mentioned, IT RAINED THE WHOLE WEEK?
So when the guys came in for lunch, I took Wick aside, and as nicely as possible explained to him that I had had all of the fishing camp fun I could stand for this year, and we were down to our last set of clean dry clothes, and if something didn't happen soon I was going out of my ever loving mind, and he, in the goodness of his heart, told the guys he was not going fishing with them that night, because his wife was going crazy.
He helped me bathe the babies and we all put on our last set of clean dry clothes, and he took us to town for dinner.
I don't remember where we ate, or what we ate. What I do remember is that he gave up his last fishing opportunity to take me somewhere clean, cool, and dry, and entertained me for two hours with stories of the size of the mosquitoes, the thickness of the mud, the lost lures, the hung-up hooks, and the big fish that got away.
When we got back, the guys were waiting to show us the fish they caught.
The only fish that were caught the whole trip.
And my darling missed out, because he took us to town for supper.
I felt just awful.
And so very thankful that I had married such a man.
He never complained, just laughed at the irony of it all.
And two days later went back to work in the foundry.
Love is patient and kind, and does not seek its own satisfaction. I'm sure he would much rather have been fishing with his buddies that last night. I' m also certain that going back to work in that foundry was not his first choice of how to spend his time, but he did it anyway.

4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8Love never fails.
I Corinthians 13:4-8

When we married, along with the usual vows for better or worse, in sickness and in health, the minister read these verses. I had no idea at the time how well these verses described the man I was marrying.

Even on vacation.