Thursday, April 2, 2009
Everybody happy – a perfect vacation
OK, I admit I’ve been a bad citizen. Instead of running up my credit card and going skiing for spring break, my family and I stayed home, had a blast and paid down a big chunk of Visa debt.
Other than the tremendous guilt I felt for helping to contribute to the global recession, it was perhaps the most pleasant spring break we’ve had in a while. Watching the Visa balance decline was the icing on the cake.
I am a classic American. My bumper sticker should say, “I owe. I owe. It’s off to work I go.” For a while there, I thought I was rich. Oh well. Easy come, easy go.
I and another hundred million household heads are accepting reality, tightening our belts and cutting our household debt. It’s killing the economy. Japanese exports are down 15 percent.
Oh, the irony. For years Americans were lectured to about our decadent spending habits. Now we’ve got religion en masse and our newfound thriftiness is a disaster.
“Are we poor, Dad?” my 10-year-old boy asked when I announced our low-key vacation plans. That’s when I realized this recession is probably the best thing that ever happened to my children. Growing up in the go-go years has created absurd expectations among our youth.
In reality, we have more toys to play with and things to do in our homes than we ever have time for. Less is more.
I would have spent every day at home gazing at the beautiful azaleas, but the children kept asking what they would write about when they were assigned their annual post-vacation “What I Did Over Spring Break” essay. So we loaded up the 1997 Chevy Van and headed to Baton Rouge to visit Ginny’s father.
I’m getting better at packing for a family trip: First off, Benadryl and Claritin for my allergy-prone children. Sunglasses, cell phone, headphones and Nicorette gum for when I start to get sleepy behind the wheel.
Only one of the three portable DVDs works any more. That’s OK. They were worth every penny back in the old days. Now the two older boys take books and read. Only six-year-old Ruth needs videos to pass the time.
Got to have the Garmin Nuvi programmed with an address. How sweet it is not to fight with Ginny over directions as we dodge traffic on unfamiliar roads.
As we head south on I-55, I breathe a sigh of relief. The Emmerichs are off! I am amazed at the number of cars on the road. Doesn’t look like a recession on the interstate. Then, of course, the rattle begins.
No Emmerich family road trip is complete without some automotive breakdown, rooted in my disinclination to trade in a perfectly good old car for a higher monthly car note.
The hood latch broke, leaving only the backup safety latch with its two inches of play. Every time we got behind a truck, the disturbed air flow would rattle the hood, creating a racket and eventually causing the ornamental plastic grill to fly off. Oh well. Life in the fast lane.
We got to Baton Rouge just in time to grab an awesome meal of sushi before heading to the old Baton Rouge High School to hear Johnny Rivers play.
It was a gorgeous night. The first night of spring. The concert was a benefit to save the beautiful, enormous old Baton Rouge High School building, where Johnny Rivers attended.
The live oaks in front of the school are enormous. You could build a house in the sprawling branches. The South is a beautiful place on a moonlit spring night.
On the drive over, I sang all three verses of “Secret Agent Man” but nobody believed that was his hit until he sang it as the encore.
I couldn’t believe how many huge hits Johnny Rivers made, many of which are still sung today, like “Baby I Need Your Loving,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” “Poor Side of Town.” And you can’t believe the amazing physical condition of this 67-year-old. He rocked the joint!
The audience was quite old, but that didn’t keep the place from standing up and dancing to “Rockin‚ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu.” I thought one 90-year-old man was going to fall off the balcony as he did a jig on the aisle stairs.
Rock and roll is ageless and my young children loved every minute. They never stopped dancing for the whole show. Walking out at the end of the show, six-year-old Ruth announced to the exiting crowd, “We partied hardy!”
The next morning, we ate at the Farmers Market in downtown Baton Rouge and bought many locally produced items. Make a note: Quit going to Wal-Mart and start going to your local farmer’s market. Small-Mart, not Wal-Mart.
Next stop, McComb, where Lawrence, the tennis fanatic, played in a tournament, winning three matches and losing one against older players (not to brag)! The weather was gorgeous and the Fernwood Country Club is a great spot for a tennis tournament. Tennis director Jon Stitt does a great job and makes everybody feel at ease. In between matches, we visited the family grave site. Kneeling under the cedars, blue sky and cirrus clouds, we said a prayer. It was good to be back in McComb.
Long ago, Ginny and I realized that staying at a hotel was the main thing our children like about vacation. The brand new Hampton Inn didn’t disappoint, with an indoor pool for Ruth and high-speed Internet access for John. Dinner at Ruby Tuesday was a perfect family dinner.
Trophy in hand, we returned to Jackson late Sunday, just in time for a delicious meal at my mother’s. We sat on the porch and enjoyed the perfect temperature and the spring beauty. San Diego weather without the smog. Is there anything more beautiful than Mississippi in late March?
What a rarity. Everybody happy. A perfect vacation. Sometimes less really is more.
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