on vacationing with three generations of my family

Part One.

We have landed home, after 7 days spent sunning-and-swallowing-pride, with not 2 but 3 generations of my family. It was utterly delightful - Internet and textbook-free, a sweet reminder that I actually have a husband (not just a graduate-school roommate) and that I truly, without a doubt, have the best parents. At some point in the last 2 years - since our last family vacation, when my dad, husband and I stumbled sweaty into a dive bar on the beach in St. Maarten and split a (moderate) number of cheap beers in the salty air - vacationing with my parents has become mostly an exercise in drinking with my dad. Which is, of course, awesome. Less for my liver than for my soul, but I'm not sure we would have survived such a healthy dose of intergenerational conflict without an equally healthy dose of whiskey and wine.

Part Two.

Vacation with my family, in one example. 5 AM, Day One. The ship's emergency alarm goes off. The captain sounds as grumpy as I feel, half-awake and explaining that there is a small fire in the crew's quarters. You can feel the collective shudder throughout the ship.  Images of Carnival's hell ship and the outrageously over-dramatized CNN coverage flash through my mind.

We go back to sleep. All is forgotten until the end of breakfast, when we share what went through our minds.

Me: At least we were only a few hours from Ft Lauderdale. We would have been home in 12 hours.

My mom: I was just worried about the people fighting the fire. I hope they are ok.

My dad: Free cruise!

Part Three.

Vacationing on what my dad calls a "mature demographic" cruise line has its advantages. Clearly, there are disadvantages as well (so.much.bingo.) but as my husband reminded me at several times when intergenerational stress threatened to steal my joy - ONLY HAPPY THOUGHTS. We are on a free (for us) vacation. And happy hour is not that far away.

Some advantages of cruising with the mature set:

1. Many of them are afraid of the sun. This means deck chairs are not a premium (for examples of premium seats, see: slot machines, bingo tables, and my favorite - free 'technology' classes where you learn to 'upload your cruise photos'). This means I am not fighting a drunk Jersey girl for the best chair on deck, as I would be on other cruise lines. And if there is a race between me and another passenger, I am definitely faster.

2. We stand out, because we are very young. This means lots of unsolicited marriage advice that usually starts with "are you happy yet?" and ends with "well it won't last!" and a wink and a chuckle. (I do not wink back.)

3. Some unsolicited marriage advice that goes like this:
Drunk middle aged woman- Are you lovely young people married?
Me - We are.
Drunk middle aged woman - Do you have kids yet?
Me- No.
Drunk middle aged woman- Well, you should start drinking now! Enjoy yourself while you can!

This is the kind of marriage advice I appreciate. I take it to heart, and find my dad for another round of beers.

4. My normally outrageously low body image gets a temporary boost. I may not jiggle in the right places, but I don't jiggle in the wrong places either. This temporary high ends quickly though, when I am told too many times by my grandparents that I am 'too skinny'. I eat my weight in cruise food to prove them wrong. I do not gain weight, but I begin to belch like a sailor. This continues the entire trip.

5. I realize just how awesome we will be as old people. We go to bed early. We make it to breakfast in the main dining room every morning. We read books, and wear SPF 50 sunscreen. The only American news we get is Fox News. We watch it. It makes me sad.

Part Four.

And speaking of Fox News, I hold my tongue a lot on this trip ... And yet, I only hold it about a quarter of the time I actually should. My pre-planned defense for any comment about our current president is shot to hell the first time I use it.

Grandparent: That Obama is (insert reference to Hitler, Stalin, Satan)
Me: Well, at least you only have 3 more years of him!
Grandparent: I read on the Internet that he's getting rid of the Constitution and making himself a dictator for life.

I walk away.

Later in the week, Hugo Chavez dies. Apparently, he was better than Obama.
Face-palm.

Part Five.

I swallow my uncomfortable conscious-American feeling. It's weird eating more in one meal than I usually eat in a week, and then visiting poor islands full of poor people. I make myself feel better by wondering what their economy would be without tourism. I wash down my middle-class-guilt with another class of red wine. I try not to waste the food that a very nice Indonesian man brought to me, as my dad explains to him that we never eat this way at home. We don't. I smile across the table at my grandfather who was born in a coal camp in West Virginia. I don't agree with everything he says. I don't know half of what he knows about the real world. I love every minute of this week at sea. This is a treat for him. This is a treat for me.