|Cruise ship fire drill --|
I love how Andy's life preserver is swallowing him whole
There are two kinds of parents: parents who travel with their kids, and parents who don't. Fortunately my parents were the kind that took us on every vacation they ever planned, and they planned a lot of them. This meant I was lucky enough to go places that many, many people never get to experience, from Europe to Russia to Scandinavia to more. Some trips were better than others, of course. I would consider crossing the turbulent North Atlantic while being trapped on a dingy for 7 days not one of my personal faves. On the other hand, visiting the bright and bustling city of Istanbul was one of the highlights of my life.
In lieu of all the drama surrounding my last blog entry (and I really can't take much more drama right now - seriously, taking away Teddy's pacifiers was enough for a while!) I thought I would write about some of the Kirk family's most endearing and preposterous moments together while traveling.
The first thing that comes to mind is this cruise we took as a family when I was about 16. My grandfather always was taking us on cruises around this time, as he was getting older and it was kind of self-contained sightseeing. You could go to the filthiest place on earth, step in dogshit, get food poisoning and then get threatened by a homeless vagrant, but at the end of the day you could go back to your clean little perfect stateroom, dress for the early dinner seating, and see a corny magic show at the end of the night. It was truly absurd. Anyway, on this one cruise, in which we were traipsing around the Greek islands, my brother (who was 11 at the time) won the snowball jackpot in bingo. Let me explain what this means: bingo on cruises takes on a whole new level, like, truly cult status. There are three magic components to this: 1) most people on cruises are old, and bingo is a legitimately worthwhile activity, 2) there is really nothing better to do aboard a giant floating hotel, and 3) gambling is perfectly legal when you are at sea. So here comes this irritating 11-year-old punk among all the serious hard-core bingo fanatics (who have been playing bingo aboard the ship religiously every day) and he wins the final snowball jackpot, worth $1600 (probably about the equivalent of $5000 today). People were outraged! There were wails like, "It's not fair!" and "Children shouldn't be allowed to play bingo!" I mean, come on! It was like someone had just told them that their Dr. Scholls were actually aliens eating away at the soles of their feet.
Meanwhile, on this particular day I had opted out of bingo, and instead decided to go to the cruise toga party (um, this is getting really embarassing). I'm wearing, like, this white sheet tied at my shoulder and have lots of kohl eye makeup on and am feeling pretty good about myself. After the bingo extravaganza and the toga thing are through, Andy and I reconvene in our stateroom, he with a wad of cash in his pocket and me in my ridiculous sheet and eye makeup. All of a sudden, for some God-forsaken reason we start fighting over the cash: he thinks I took some, I insist I didn't. At this point our adrenaline, which has been raring to go all day with our extreme cruise ship adventures (I'm thinking that could be a TV show), takes over and we start fistfighting each other, and I mean hard. I knock Andy down, he hits his head on the corner of the table, and begins massively hyperventilating! I totally panic -- I had never seen anyone hyperventilate before -- run out to the hallway in nothing but my toga and kohl, and start screaming, "I need a doctor, a doctor! Help, Help!" The steward immediately sets off the emergency alarm (for our entire floor!)), and, of course, like, five men come running all at once. We all tumble and scramble into our stateroom, only to see Andy, standing up and breathing fine, totally blase, saying "I'm fine now, thanks." Oh...My...God...I seriously wanted to kill the little turd. I then send everyone away, ask the steward to shut off the alarm, and turn to Andy. I look at his face and anxiously await for him to thank me for trying to save his life, even at the risk of my own personal and humiliating Greek tragedy. He earnestly grabs both of my hands in his, looks deeply into my eyes, and says, "You still owe me my money, sis."
One year later, at a stuffy hotel in London, Andy locked me out of our room in nothing but my underwear. That was fun. My parents still laugh about this story each time it is told, as if it is the ultimate laugh riot. Meanwhile, I am haunted by the memories of the uptight bellhops walking past me, trying not to make eye contact as I'm trying to play it cool by crossing my arms and acting nonchalant, while simultaneously growling, "Andy! Open up the door, NOW!" Good times.
There are also amazing, slightly less embarassing memories: bottle-feeding baby sheep in the English countryside, fly-fishing in Scotland, touching a glacier in Alaska, learning to Russian folk dance, and quite simply experiencing cultures outside of my own.
The truth is, I really came of age during these trips. I got drunk for the first time on on a cruise ship (my mom still insists the waiter slipped something in my drink), I was proposed to by a piano player named Cezar, my father was offered 5000 camels for me in Morocco, I went snorkeling and saw castles and ate crazy delicacies. And I feel so blessed for all of it. Now, with the world the way it is, I worry that I won't be able to take my children to the kinds of places I was exposed to, but I dearly hope this isn't the case. And I suppose I feel as if I always have a little deck of cards in my back pocket -- each card representing one of the amazing memories I have from my childhood family vacations, and I simply have to pull out a card to revisit it again. And again.