Kim Henderson: Redeeming the family vacation

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Tuesday, July 9th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: And I’m Megan Basham. Sometimes, lousy family vacations can morph into something else. Here’s WORLD Radio’s Kim Henderson.

KIM HENDERSON, COMMENTATOR: Here’s something you might not know: Arkansas is home to the only diamond mine in the world that allows the public to search for and keep any gems it finds – for a small fee, of course.

Our family visited this tourist spot years ago during a week that boasted 100-degree temperatures. We rented the necessary equipment – shovels, pails, strainers – and our excitement grew with every display we stopped to read. Especially headlines recounting 7-carat wonders.

Even the sight of multitudes of bedraggled fellow “miners” digging in 37 acres of dirt didn’t deter us. We had visions of a great discovery. And since we had seven “miners” in our family and two diamonds on average were found each day, we figured our chances were pretty good.

Our enthusiasm, however, didn’t last long. Squatting hurts, and it was hot. After about an hour of digging, sifting, kicking, changing spots, and questioning why we ever thought this was a fun idea, my husband made an executive decision. (Vacations require a lot of those). We quit.

Actually, it was a decision with unanimous support, quite possibly the only decision receiving that designation during the entire vacation. We chalked it up as a learning experience. 

Now that I think about it, most of our vacations have had that “learning experience” factor.

Imagine our surprise at learning our child who had trouble with math could suddenly measure to the 1/100th of an inch when it involved his personal car space on the long road to Destin.

And who knew that the hottest place in the western hemisphere is the San Antonio Zoo in July?

It took a few trips for me to understand that although I am drawn to stops described as “historic” and “charming,” our teenagers are not. Even in Williamsburg.

Perhaps we should have been smart enough to figure out that the $8 turkey leg that looks so good at Disney World tastes no different than the one we pass up at Thanksgiving.

And the deer that motorists pull over to photograph in Yellowstone aren’t so very different than the ones we try to avoid hitting on roads here at home.

And then, of course, there’s knowledge that could only be acquired the hard way.

Do not go to Six Flags on Spring Break. Ever. 

And always set two alarms, especially if a tour of the White House is on tap that took three months to schedule.

So, vacation season has come. There will be close quarters, sandy car mats, long lines for the log flume, and plenty of opportunities for sanctification. And everyone who’s been anywhere together knows this for a fact: The worst vacation experiences will, somehow, become the best family memories. Eventually.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Kim Henderson.

Jeffrey Zeldman/Disneyland California

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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