The Vacation Contract


As most of you know, we just got home from our annual 4th of July vacation. We always have a great time at our river house.

I have written and told the story before about the contracts we have always written with the kids about the rules at the river. On the way to the river I write the contract as the kids and I discuss which rules each of them thinks are important. We usually have a list of about eight or 10.

We started writing this contract with the oldest grandkids about 30 years ago. Item No. 1 is usually “Clean your bed and body.” Then we move on to such things as one game at a time.

Then we get into safety items like no going on the dock without a life jacket, and wear sunblock and water shoes. I love when the kids come up with new rules to add to the contract, like be respectful, be nice to one another and be helpful.

Rule No. 8 is always no running in the house. My great grandson, Hayden, is such an active little 6-year- old, that this rule is a difficult one for him to follow. He’s constantly running, jumping or hopping. Even here at home, all I have to say is, “Rule No. 8”, and he stops dead in his tracks and says, “sorry”, and instantly starts walking. We also added rule No. 1,000 this year, which is “no crybabies.”

After we finish our list, each kid signs the contract. It has always been a fun way for the kids and I to discuss the rules, and they know that if they want to come to the river with us, they have to follow the rules.

This year we didn’t get around to the contract until the third day. We had two groups of 10 staying with us overlapping by just one day so I guess my mind was going in too many directions to write our contract on the way there like we normally do.

A very tender thing happened with Hayden. His mother couldn’t go with us and he hasn’t really been away from her before. They are very close. He and his mom decided to exchange pillows and blankets with each other so that when they slept, they would smell each other and feel that they were right next to each other.

On the first night, as soon as he smelled her blanket, his eyes got all teary and he was unable to speak. The second night, the same thing happened and tears ran down his cheek. I cuddled him and we talked and he was fine, but I just thought it was so tender.

When we got home and he was telling his mother all about the trip, he explained to her that we hadn’t written the contract until the third day so the “no crybabies rule” didn’t count on the first two days. He wanted her to know that he didn’t break the rules.

It was a whole lot of fun for everyone. Boating, skiing, tubing, and lots of just sitting in floaty chairs, splashing and laughing.

I would like to say that everyone was a joy but honestly, without mentioning any names, one group was way more fun than the other!

I’ve come to realize that all my warm, loving stories that I have written in the past are stories of my parents and my siblings. This vacation has made me see things, or at least admit things, are very different in the present generations. Let’s just say that there are a lot of mixed nuts in my family now.

As much as I love them all, I miss the way things use to be.

Gail Earl is a member of the writing class offered through the Cerritos College Adult Education Program. It is held off-campus at the Norwalk Senior Center.

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