The Privilege of a Vacation

Every time I’ve ever vacationed at Disney World, I’ve cried. (Yes, I’ve been there enough times that I need to say “every” time. My family wasn’t terribly inventive with its vacation destinations, but we took one every summer.) As a child, I cried from sheer exhaustion or from wanting a toy I couldn’t have or from frustration. As an adult, I cried as I saw the light in Little Jedi’s eyes as he sat atop my husband’s shoulders, mouth agape at Cinderella’s castle lit up at night, fireworks behind it.

I realize that in telling you all of this, I am indicating a certain sort of privilege. For a very long time, I didn’t understand this in the least. As an adult, I’ve only just begun to understand it.

Once upon a time, we took huge, huge family vacations. When I say huge, I mean that there would be a caravan of several cars, my aunts and uncles and cousins and grandmother and brothers and parents and all of our luggage stuffed into vans and cars, stopping for picnics and bathroom breaks at rest-stops on the way the Florida or maybe, on occasion, the Smoky Mountains or Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

Vacations were important. I think that for my dad, a man who started working around 11, bagging groceries and taking home his pay to to help support his family, taking a vacation each summer was a sign that we’d made it. Middle class families took vacations together, spent quality time together. For me, these vacations were sometimes, but not always fun. They were rife with underlying tension, unacknowledged but lying somewhere in wait. Every vacation was like that, even our most recent trip to Disney World in 2014, Little Jedi’s first pilgrimage.

My family is a complex web in regards to class; if I were able to fully untangle this web, it is likely that we’d see a microcosm of the macro-level class struggles in the United States. It’s hard, so hard to untangle this web though, hard to break through the silence that has built over years, the layers of scar tissue that have formed over old wounds. (On every occasion that this silence has been broken, ugliness and meanness have boiled up, family members accusing other family members of snobbery, or of laziness, of ignorance, or of selfishness, or of ungratefulness.) The wall of silence around money and finances was made louder because of its irony–my father was a banker, a career chosen in part because it was a desk job that allowed weekends off. It was also a job he did well, working his way up to branch president before his retirement.

Naturally, this left me incredibly confused as young adult who was out on my own. My wings weren’t clipped, but I couldn’t fly. I didn’t know where I fit, not on any level: because if the silence around money wasn’t confusing and constraining enough, there were the absolute decrees that I go to college, that I choose a white-collar career, that I be a good Christian and find a good husband and live a morally upright life: in short, that I maintain my parents’ hard-won, middle-class standing from the points of both economic and social standards. (Imagine, then,  my poor parents’ disappointment when I turned out nothing like they’d planned, getting a late start in my career and being pretty much the exact opposite of a genteel Southern lady.)

And so here I am, years from the last vacation I took–that 2014 trip to Disney World, funded by my parents, who wanted to take Little Jedi to Disney for his first time. I’m now planning a family vacation of my own, the very first vacation that Little Jedi and Sam and I will go on together of our own accord. We’re heading to Universal Studios in December. It may not be the best time for us to do this from a financial perspective, but it’s the best time for us to do this in other, perhaps more important, ways. We’ve spent the last several years trying to get onto our feet, and it hasn’t been easy. We’ve weathered job changes, moving a few times, and the loss of a few significant and beloved people over the last few years. Little Jedi is 9 now, and he’s only growing older, as are we.

And yet I still realize, that because I can say this, I am in an enviable position. Because we can’t all travel, even to an amusement park that is within driving distance. One of the things I hate the most is this ever more ubiquitous idea that anyone can travel if they just want it enough. Because that’s just not true. For legitimate career and financial reasons, we could not travel until now.

But I’m so excited y’all. I’m going to get to take my nerdy child to a nerdy place, and my nerdy husband is going with us. We’re going to have 3 glorious days to spend together with no work to do, and what’s more is that we get to have this experience with friends who have become, through time, family. I know it’s still 4 months away, but I’m already planning.

And maybe, just maybe, Universal won’t make me cry. 😂😂😂😂

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