Clark Griswold and Me

When I was about 8, I think I started remembering most things that were joyful. Life was pretty good. Although, we didn’t have central AC. Back then there were words thrown around like “ozone” and “Freon” and I think the President said there was no such thing as an ozone layer. Oh, the 80s….

Sometimes we would camp on our balcony. We had this awesome concrete balcony, covered with a fully shingled roof. It was the house we rented from Grandma and Grandpa, and my favorite house of all time. I’m getting a bit veklempt just thinking of it.

There was a green nylon hammock always hanging up on it, plus a large rope hammock that two friends or siblings could fit on. We had the coolest weirdest stuff at this house: bumper pool table, giant green chalkboard, a drafting table, and this balcony.

In the summer we’d spend time out there. We could chalk on the concrete or we could swing on the hammock. It’s where I thought I’d toss my cookies trying to eat a trout while the head was never removed before cooked. It’s where I remember my mother’s friend Dawn smoking cigarettes, explaining she had no desire to quit. It’s where we could climb up from below to get in through the sliding glass door when we didn’t have the house key. Dad would let my sister, the lightest, step on his femur then hoist her onto the concrete ledge. She’d shimmy over the wooden rail and go into the house, down to the front, and let us all in.

But the balcony was way cool. No one else we knew in the neighborhood had one. We could even roller skate out there, and be outside when it rained, which was a big deal if you had summer in PA and no central air. A few times dad would let us all camp out there at night. We’d grab camping pads and sleeping bags, and try to avoid the bugs and sleep in the open air. It mostly was giggling and talking, excited that mom and dad were in the same spot as we three kids. For me, anyway. It was just exciting to do something different and have everyone together. That’s how I Clark Griswold everything now for my family.

Ah, yes, I schedule day trips and week long trips, vacation days tagged to business days so we can all be together. I love when we all go to Peanut’s softball tournament with bottles of bug spray and sunscreen and a cooler of snacks. I like to invite everyone to travel to our house for Thanksgiving. I like the neighborhood ice cream joint after a ball game. I have such high hopes and expectations, and often am left wondering why no one else had fun, why it ended in tears and poopy diapers, and a lot of grumbling.

Yet I still crave the joy of the family time. I have a sneaking suspicion Peanut and Pumpkin like it, too, and Hubs thinks I’m borderline insane, but we’ll try it again with a week on the Upper Mississippi River. We’ll try it with the local music on the Village Green. And I’ll make everyone catch a plane at some absurd morning hour to go to the Happiest Place on Earth…in the middle of summer. Because I am sure each of these things is going to be a blast, and we’ll only remember the good and fun parts of it.