What’s a Mother to Do?
by Ann Edwards Cannon

Chapter 40
Wimps Need Not Apply 

[p.129]I thought I had a pretty good idea before Ken and I got married about the kinds of things that couples usually fight over—money, kids, in-laws, toothpaste tubes, and toilet lids. I knew so much because I took an Achieving Success in Marriage class while we were engaged. Also I’ve been reading Ann Landers since I was nine. So naturally I figured I had the causes of marital discord pretty well pegged.

That is until I took my first vacation with my (then) new husband and his family.

Here was my family’s idea of vacation. First of all, we loaded up the old station wagon with plenty of Cheezits and Snickers bars. Then we all got in and drove to some place hot—Southern California, Arizona, or (in a pinch) St. George. We found a motel that had the following five items in order to meet our rigorous standards:

1. A television.
2. A swimming pool.
3. A drink machine.
4. An ice machine.
5. Magic Fingers.

This set-up was pretty much our collective idea of heaven, especially if the place also came with heavy black drapes that you could draw shut until 1:00 in the afternoon which seemed like a pretty good hour for most of us to roll out of bed. Once we rolled out of bed, we turned on the TV set and watched Donahue or Star Trek reruns while we scrounged around for a towel and some thongs. Then we all schlepped around the pool for the rest of the day, making periodic trips to the drink and ice machines. Sometimes my dad left for awhile to go buy us some more Cheezits. At night we all went out and had pizza. In my mind, that was a vacation, and I figured everyone did vacations more or less the same way.

Not so.

[p.130]Let me tell you about my first vacation with Ken’s family. Ken’s family decided it would be fun to go some place cold—Bryce Canyon in the middle of winter no less. And instead of loading up their cars with junk food and crossword puzzle magazines, they strapped crosscountry skis and poles to the roofs of their cars. We drove to Ruby’s Inn at the mouth of Bryce Canyon and checked into rooms with kitchenettes which Ken’s family stocked with food from all four of the basic food groups after Ken’s mom first cleaned the fridge. Then everybody woke up at six the next morning and got ready to ski for fourteen hours. “What do we do now,” I asked that night as I dragged my body through the doorway. “Have a yodeling contest!” Until I married Ken, I had no idea a person had to be in basic training just to survive a vacation. I had no idea, in fact, that there is a variety of vacation for which wimps need not apply.

The real problem with traveling with the active person is that you have to take along a lot of paraphernalia. For example, all I need on a vacation is a swimming suit and a pair of thongs. And if I forget the thongs, I can always buy a new pair at a Payless somewhere. Active people, on the other hand, can’t leave home unless they take at least five different kinds of foot gear with them—running shoes, tennis shoes, golf shoes, hiking boots, and waders. They also take along binoculars, field guides, fishing rods, and video cameras to record how much fun they’re having. Sometimes Ken even likes to take along a steam iron—just in case we get in the mood to do his shirts while we’re gone. .

Ultimately this difference in vacationing styles boils down to a fundamental difference in philosophy. One group of people thinks a vacation ought to improve them in some way— culturally, physically, intellectually, or socially. They think a vacation ought to broaden their horizons, not just their hips, and they attack each day as though they were storming a hill. Rambos of Leisure I like to call them. This, of course, is just the opposite of the other group, which basically wants to slide a few rungs down the old Evolutionary Ladder and see what it feels like to be an amoeba for awhile.

Still, things aren’t entirely hopeless. An amoeba married to a Rambo can learn to get along. Over the past twelve years, for instance, Ken and I have perfected the art of compromise—I’ll climb a mountain with him if he’ll eat something unhealthy with me after-[p.131]wards. Sometimes we even switch places. On a trip to Jackson Hole last summer, the fresh air must have done goofy things to me because I suggested we go for an early morning bike ride. Ken looked at me, smiled feebly, and said we’d have to do it later in the day.

He wasn’t getting out of bed before noon.