It’s not a vacation without suffering | Dennis Box

The middle weeks of February prompt thoughts of family summer vacations. I think that is the case, anyway. I never go anywhere or have fun, but I imagine folks who go on vacations start imagining running off to somewhere to do something – I’m not sure what.

The one great family vacation I recall is when I forced my kids to go to St. Ignatius, Mont., to drive around the National Bison Range.

The memorable moment of this vacation came when I had to drive like mad to make it from Helena to the bison range before it closed at about 6 p.m. My son, Chris, wanted to go through it (he was about 7 at the time) and my daughter Katy, who was 9,  did not want to do anything except leave Montana as quickly as possible.

One of the true parental joys in life comes when you get to drag your kids to a place they hate and will always remember as a psychologically scaring family outing. This is what makes having children worthwhile.

We made the bison range just at closing and didn’t see so much as a sparrow for nearly the entire drive. That is, until we came around a bend in the road and suddenly were surrounded by an entire buffalo herd. The bulls blocked the sunlight from the windows of our car as they rubbed

up against it with their big butts. It was a great educational moment.

Katy did what all good girls do. She said we were all going to die and it was all her “stupid brother’s fault.” There is nothing like a family outing to bring everyone together with happy postcard memories.

What made me think of this Hallmark moment was some research I was doing about Medieval literature, particularly Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales.”

The little pilgrimage Chaucer was describing was the family vacation of its day. People would gather together and make a pilgrimage to a some holy place where there was a dead guy or two. In Chaucer’s tales the group was going to Thomas Becket’s shrine.

Medieval pilgrimages were often headed to Jerusalem. Kind of the RV trips of the day with no RV.

Margery Kempe wrote a book about her pilgrimages around 1400. She is best known for her mystical conversations with God and driving everyone nuts on the pilgrimage with her constant harping when anyone had too much fun. Apparently after 14 children she was done with family fun.

Sounds to me like family vacations haven’t changed much in 800 years or so.

Now that my kids are grown and I have no one to aggravate by dragging them to Montana, I think I will stay home and read Margery Kempe’s book. Maybe I will come up with some new ways to whine and complain just in case I find myself on a Medieval pilgrimage to Helena.