I don’t have much vacation time since I’m in a new job, so I take a day here or there when I can. Over Father’s Day weekend we took our first family vacation from our new home base. We went on a seven-hour road trip through Pennsylvania.
It all started when my seven-year-old daughter asked an innocent but hilarious question about one of her favorite musical acts, The Wiggles. We started putting on The Wiggles because the songs captured my toddler son’s attention like nothing else. Even though the show gives everyone in the family the ear-worms for days, sometimes it’s worth it to get something done while the boy watches Fruit Salad, Yummy Yummy and Do the Propeller.
I knew The Wiggles from when my nephew was a child (he’s nearly grown now). Back then there was a totally different line-up. The only one left is Anthony Wiggle, who gets teased for being the Old Wiggle since he has gray hair. One day when someone on the show made a joke about Anthony being old, my daughter turned to me and said wistfully, “Mom, do you think we’ll get to go see The Wiggles before Anthony dies?”
After I got finished laughing, I looked up tour dates. I discovered that there actually was a tour this summer, and also that The Wiggles hadn’t been to the U.S. in five years. So it was now or never; in another five years they won’t give a damn about The Wiggles. But the closest the show was coming to us was Philadelphia. It would be insane to drive over six hours to see The Wiggles, wouldn’t it?
Probably. But I thought the kids would really like it. And there is a pretty sweet place to make a pit-stop on the way. Literally sweet: Hershey Park.
So I proposed to my spouse that we pack up the gang and make the drive. He said “You’re insane.” (I don’t know why he even points this out since it’s obvious?)
I appealed to his sentimentality. “But they won’t be back while the kids are little! If we don’t take them to see The Wiggles, they’ll never get to go, and they both love The Wiggles!”
He still said “You’re insane,” but he knew I’d pester until he caved, because once an obsessive-compulsive has a Good Idea, good luck trying to talk them out of it. I think what really convinced him was Hershey Park. He’s never been but he is a chocolate fan. Who can say no to a whole theme park dedicated to chocolatey goodness? So plans were made.
I took Friday off and we set out as early as we could get the kids in the car. They did remarkably well in the car, and we made it to Hershey around 3pm. I thought maybe the kids would ride a few things, we’d do the tour, and go to our hotel by nine or so. Instead we stayed until it closed.
We had a blast. Dan took our oldest on roller coasters while I took the toddler on all the things I could ride with him. He isn’t a really smiley kid when we go out places, but he was giggling, grinning, and even dancing a little on the rides. We ate too much chocolate, played games, rode stuff, and power-walked out of the place with minutes left to spare for the gift shop where we bought even more candy.
On the way to the hotel that night, both kids were loopy from the excitement and sugar. My daughter was bumming Hershey Nuggets so I gave her one. She ate that and said “Can I have another one?” I handed her two and said “Here: these are the last two for the night. These are pretty…” I was going to say substantial but wasn’t sure she knew that word. “These are pretty big, so you only need two.”
She giggled and said “I thought you were going to say…” in a deep booming imitation of my voice: “I thought you were going to say ‘These are pretty damned sugary!'”
I laughed so hard. It made me remember moments like that with my mom when I was a kid, the deliciousness of saying forbidden words, the delight in making my mom laugh. That’s the sort of thing I was looking for from a family vacation. Not the rides or the candy or the show. Connecting and making memories with my babies.
The next day we made the trek to Philadelphia. Driving in Philly is nerve-wracking and so is parking. If I lived there I’d be riding public transit wherever I could. We were so on edge we forgot to put shoes on Rory! (He gets carried everywhere anyway).
But we made it in time, and we got a pleasant surprise when we went to find our seats. The usher looked at Dan, who is very tall, and told him he would not fit in the balcony seats. So they gave us a box! This sort of thing usually doesn’t happen to us. I was elated to have extra room to corral my squirmy shoeless toddler while we watched The Wiggles. They played most of the kids’ favorites and my personal favorite, Papadum, which is just silly (literally, the only word in the song is Papadum). My daughter was chair dancing all over the place and my son was alternately watching, trying to explore the box, and trying to throw things over the side (unsuccessfully; I played goalie—but if he had lobbed his new Reese car, he could’ve bonked a Wiggle in the head! That’s how close we were).
We didn’t do anything else in Philly because everyone was just totally wiped out from Hershey and the show. We hung out in the hotel room afterward, and we ended up ordering in (I had a genuine Philly cheese steak) instead of going out, because Rory took a nap after fighting it forever and nobody wanted to poke the bear.
The drive home was long and arduous, and I owe Dan a redo on Father’s Day since we used it up in the car. But I’m glad we took our quickie vacation. Going adventuring with my family, even if it was chaotic, was so refreshing.