When I was 14 years old, I went to Disney World with my family for the very first time. We made the trip from Michigan to Orlando in one straight shot, with my sister and two brothers and I riding in my brother Buck’s 1978, pea-green, 19-foot-long Mercury while my dad, stepmom, stepbrother and three-year-old nephew, Mario rode in my dad’s decade-old Oldsmobile ’88.
Though the trip was more akin to National Lampoon’s Vacation than a TV commercial (including the air-conditioning going out somewhere in the middle of Georgia in 95+ degree heat), some of the memories of that hilariously imperfect vacation have given us decades of laughter as we re-tell them again and again. Here are the five memories I most wish I could watch again, all these years later:
1. The time my dad hallucinated. My dad drove 22 hours straight through the night to get us to Florida, so by the time we arrived at our hotel, he’d been up for about 36 hours. Maybe it was a bad idea for him to have a cocktail or two at the outdoor pool in the blazing July sun – apparently, something about the mix of no sleep, hot sun and alcohol messed with his brain big-time. That night we went to dinner in Downtown Disney, where my dad abruptly left the table and never came back. We finally found him outside, sitting on the hood of the car, where he insisted he’d been accosted by a gang of colorfully-dressed Bavarian dancers. That night has gone down as one of the most fantastically bizarre moments in our family folklore.
2. The time-share pitch. We were on a strict (very strict) budget, so my dad had signed us up for a time-share pitch. The deal is that after you sit through the pitch, you get your free passes and go on your way. The very eager salesperson kept getting our names wrong, so then we all started calling each other by the wrong names just to mess with his head. Even though we got stuck riding around on a golf cart for what felt like hours, we were cracking up laughing the whole time, so none of us cared.
3. The breakdown. Shortly after arriving back at the hotel, my dad’s car decided it didn’t want to go into reverse anymore. This led to a convoluted series of parking jobs that required serious planning so as to ensure that we’d be able to pull back out after parking. One of the best things about my family? Nobody gets upset when stuff like this happens; we just roll with the punches and laugh even harder.
4. The muscle man. At the time of our trip my brother John was in his physical prime, featuring an impressive set of Army-issued muscles. We noticed that whenever we were around pretty girls, John would find something to point to in such a way that he’d flex and show off his pecs and biceps. So every few minutes, one of us would say, “LOOK, It’S SPACE MOUNTAIN!” or “LOOK, IT’S MICKEY MOUSE!” and point in an exaggerated strongman stance. In fact, we still do that, to this day.
5. Attack of the beach. Technically this part of the trip came after we left Disney, but it still ranks as one of my most embarrassing moments ever and would have made a fantastic video. While walking on a (rather dirty) roadside beach somewhere in Florida, I glanced down and saw a large black mass totally covering my heel. Of course, I immediately thought it was a squid or some other kind of ocean creature, and began freaking out, running up and down the beach scraping my foot on the sand and screaming “GET IT OFF! GET IT OFF!”
Nobody could tell what was wrong with me, and I wouldn’t stop long enough for anyone to get a closer look. Finally I submitted to my stepmother’s clutches, whereupon she took a closer look and pronounced my predator to be…a piece of tar. As you can probably guess, I have never lived that down.
In November, I’ll be traveling to Disney World with my kids, and I know we’ll make plenty of hilariously imperfect memories of our own. But I’m making sure to bring our videocamera to document the trip. Some memories are more priceless – and have even better blackmail potential – when caught on tape.
What hilariously imperfect family memories do you wish had been caught on video?
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