This Is Why Family Vacations Don’t Count

It was the long awaited ski weekend with the family and friends this weekend.

We took on skiing as a family only three years ago, after much whining and complaining on my part: “We live in MICHIGAN!  We MUST ski!!” 

Having grown up in Hawaii, I couldn’t understand why my husband, who grew up in Michigan and is incredibly athletic, didn’t ski. He blamed it on his high school basketball career: if you play basketball, he said, you don’t ski; you could hurt yourself and be out for the season.

Paprikash, I said.  That’s rediculousmont.

So three Christmas’s ago, aiming to please (he’s a good man), my husband forked out the insane amount of dough that’s required to become a “ski family” of five.  Snowboards, skis, ski boots, bindings for all,  new ski jackets, a Thule for the car roof, blah blah blah, boom.  We were a ski family. 

Jump to present day:  Our third time heading up to adorable and beautiful Crystal Mountain, MI for a short, but always fun, family vacation. I spend days shopping for food, making sure everyone has snow gear that fits, getting the skis tuned up and waxed, making arrangements for the dog, getting all the laundry done so everyone has all their choices, pulling the house together,  and packing for everyone, while my husband rushes home from work, throws three pairs of boxers and a sweatshirt in a backpack and says, “are you ready yet?” 

It’s always the same.

The fascinating part of taking the same trip to the same place at about the same time every year is that despite the fact that it’s all the same, it’s always different.  The kids are a whole year older making the entire venture a complete crap shoot.  Who will be the ones that can’t get along (hint: all of them)?  Who will be ok with sleeping on the floor in a “nest” this year (hint: no one)? Who will want to go skiing by themselves and ditch the parents (hint: everyone)?

We arrive at our little ski cottage and begin to get ready to hit the slopes.  It begins:

My gloves are too small.

–Too bad.

Which helmet is mine?

–Just pick one.

Do I have to wear socks?

—   I’m not even answering that.

Where is my ski jacket?

SCREEEEEEECH!!  Pull the needle from the record!  YOU DON’T HAVE YOUR JACKET?  You mean, you showed up to the ski weekend without your jacket?? 

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME??? (is what I want to squeal, but refrain) 

Deep breaths. 

Seriously.  Take deep breaths.

I happened to have packed an extra jacket (yep, I’m that good), and we manage to avoid a complete losing of the squash. Except now she’s wearing my ski jacket and I’m looking ridiculous skiing in my stylish, not sporty,  puffer jacket.  But alas, we sacrifice for our children.

Little did I know, the worst was yet to come, and a forgotten ski jacket was going to end up mattering about as much as a pin hole in my distressed jeans.

The evening is enjoyable and once the kids get their ski legs under them, we let them go off on their own in a group. Complete and utter freedom. The adults gather, kick back, eat hors d’oeuvres, and cocktail it up.   This independent teenager thing does have it’s perks. It’s a beautiful thing.

Day two.  Wake with headache.  Shit, I’m too old for this.  Eat some advil and get the family on the mountain.  Kids are having a blast and it’s time to go back to the cottage to prepare lunch.  Looking forward to the hair of the dog.  As I pull out the vodka and begin salivating, my phone rings.  It’s my 14 year old.

“Mom,” she says, with an annoyance in her voice as detectable as a silent fart, “can you come get [12 year old sister]?  She hurt her finger. She’s just being dramatic.  I’m sure she’s fine.” 

I set down the vodka (I’ll be back, my love) and head to the base of the mountain, only to find that “come get her” meant “come get her off the ski slope because she took a gnarly spill, is crying her head off, and won’t come down.” I’m sure that’s what my 14 year old meant to say when she called me… Luckily, our friend was there to escort her down, my 12 year old daughter’s hand stretched out awkwardly from her arm, gloves dangling. I walk up to her tear stained, white-as-a-sheet face, take one look at her hand and know: this isn’t good.

I turn to my husband who looks like a cartoon character, red faced and steam coming out of his ears.  You see, this 12 year old girl of ours is, yep, you guessed it, a basketball player. And her middle school season that she has trained so hard for, is just about to begin. I whisk her off to first aid knowing that I better get her out of there before Yosemite Sam pulls his guns. All the reasons he never wanted to be a ski family are slapping me across the face like a backhanded compliment at this moment.  Shit shit shit.

We wander into the ski patrol first aid department where they literally whittle her a splint and sling out of a rolled up magazine, some egg crate, some duct tape and a ripped up sheet (not exaggerating). They send us 25 minutes further north to a hospital that might or might not have all the letters of its name hanging from the building; not feeling super confident about the level of care coming our way.  As we walk through the automatic sliding doors, I feel like we just entered a scene from Zootopia.  You know the scene with the sloughs at the DMV?  Yeah, that one.  As the slough doctor, I mean, provider, asks her what happened, she says, “I was skiing down the hill and I think I tripped on a piece of snow.”  This answer from a 12 year old didn’t phase Dr. Slough, after all it is Northern Michigan, but all I could think of was, you better be able to repeat this implausible story so they don’t call CPS on me. Because tripping on a piece of snow (while skiing) kind of sounds questionable.

Several exhausting hours later, we have a diagnosis of two fractured phalanges (medical word for fingers and so fun to say) at the base knuckle where the fingers, I mean phalanges, meet the hand.  She was fitted with a bona fide fiberglass splint, (without duct tape), and we head back to the ski resort to catch up with the rest of the family and friends and salvage what was left of our ski vacation.

This is the result:  No more skiing for the weekend.   The start of her middle school basketball season done before it began.  I have a husband who won’t stop stewing, I relaxed a total of three hours in three days on this so called vacation, and my ski weekend was cut short as I suddenly became babysitter of the injured. And as much as we wholly realize that things could have been a lot worse, I think we all can agree that this entire day was a complete shit show.

We’re home now, and I’m exhausted.  I need to unpack, do laundry and get groceries, make doctors appointments for the week, but I just don’t have the energy. This is why family vacations don’t count.  They are fun, wonderful bonding times with your people, but let’s be honest, they don’t count as vacations for anyone but the kids.  We’ll have plenty of “remember the time when…” stories, but vacation? No.  From now on, let’s more precisely refer to them simply as family trips.  Cuz, holy shit, this was a trip.

So for now I will sit my ass on the couch with a glass of wine in front of the fire and regroup.  Tomorrow I need to start packing again.  Because in a few days, I’m getting a real vacation someplace warm, just my hubby and me.   Where my kids, God love ‘em, won’t be forgetting essential shit, breaking bones, and generally screwing things up. I will go away for 4 blissful nights, reconnect with my husband, sit pool side and have people bring me drinks.  And I will finally have a chance to miss the hell out of my kids and long to come home.   And THAT, is what we call a vacation.


*In all fairness, the hospital in Northern Michigan did good by us and the care was excellent and the people were kind.  Speedy, no.  But kind, yes. Thank you to the staff, nurses and Provider that got us taken care of. Also, thank you to the caring (and ingenious) ski patrol at Crystal Mountain who were so gentle and concerned for my girl. 

4 thoughts on “This Is Why Family Vacations Don’t Count

  1. Once again my dear cousin you have discovered the real life. Trust me, your husband will get over this. He will constantly remind you of it, but he will get over it. The daughter will get to wear her injury as a badge of courage among all her friends and be the toast of the middle school. And you will be rewarded with a vacation in a sunny locale, where no one will be hollering “MOM” every 3 minutes. Have a drink for me. Love you.

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