Our last family vacation was 15 years ago -- a week-long tour of the Grand Canyon and Arizona -- which my brother and I captured with disposable cameras. When my parents developed the pictures, they discovered that we had photographed nothing but urinals at the various places we visited.
Last week the four of us tried again at my parents' quasi-retirement condominium in Boca Raton, Florida to celebrate my father's 60th birthday. Now at age 27 and my brother at 30, we expected that a family vacation would be a little bit different this time around. After all, we were adults now. But it was the same as I remembered. The only thing that changed were our ages and the type of cameras we used.
My father, brother and I arrived in Fort Lauderdale on three separate flights while my mother, who arrived a day earlier, taxied around the airport in her 1997 Saab hatchback, a vehicle better suited for circus clowns than her and three grown men. She did her best Danica Patrick impression as she raced around the airport 15 times with giant sunglasses on, picking us up one at a time at separate terminals.
The condominium is a true life version of Del Boca Vista. You know how I know? Because the condominium board needed 17 votes to decide what color to paint the exterior of the building. And everything moves a little bit slower there, except the task force which militantly enforces the Turtle Bill, a law that requires each resident to install tinted windows to protect sea turtles' nesting areas from light.
Moments after arriving on a mostly empty beach later in the day, we innately snapped into an old beach routine that we hadn't practiced in 15 years: Mom walks around aimlessly collecting sea-shells; dad falls asleep in a beach chair, snores, and in two hours wakes up looking seven shades darker; my brother goes for a swim then reads a book; and I sit there juggling a football, observing all of them while periodically bitching about the heat.
On the way off the beach, mom showed off her brand-new move, which, I believe, only works in Del Boca Vista: she walked halfway onto a crosswalk on a busy highway and waved her hands wildly at traffic in both directions, her comical but frightening way of telling them to stop, because she wasn't going to. Fortunately, the cars did.
Something else that didn't change in 15 years was my mom's underestimation of our ability to clean ourselves after a day on the beach.
"Make sure you wash your whole body!" my mom yelled at my brother from outside the bathroom. "Use soap! Really get your whole body!"
"Mom! I'm 30-(expletive)-years old! I know how to bathe myself!"
The next morning, my brother and I took dad out for a round of golf. In the month leading up to this trip, he told us often about how much his game had improved thanks to lessons he had been taking with a 92-year-old man whom my dad proclaimed "an American treasure." I wasn't expecting an Arnold Palmer-like performance from dad, but I expected a decent shot from the tee and something that resembled a golf swing. Not quite. He looked like a five-year-old swinging a mallet at a carnival game. But he doesn't care, he just likes some fresh air and an afternoon with his sons.
Actually, the person who turned in the most incredible performance of the weekend was the waiter at the steakhouse for dad's big dinner. Vinny was about 5' 8" with speckled gray hair and the perfect demeanor, like the Sandy Koufax of waiters. He was in no rush with us at all but moved quickly and with purpose and kept our drinks filled. Of course my mom is bombed off two cosmopolitans, but my brother and I buried ourselves in whiskey and Mojitos.
We marveled at Vinny's grace while we waited the valet stand and watched a row of expensive cars arrive for other restaurant-goers who like that kind of toy. First a Corvette, then a Rolls Royce, and then my Mom's 1997 Saab hatchback. We stuffed into the clown car and eventually left on three separate flights.
Although my brother and I were adults for this trip, mom and dad still introduced us to neighbors as "the kids." It was actually kind of refreshing. No matter how old you get, you'll always be your parents' child. And if you're my mother's son, you'll always need bathing instructions.
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