This summer, my family, together with several other families, took a mini-vacation to a Forest Service cabin in Oak Creek Canyon. Considering the fact that this “cabin” had two kitchens, three fireplaces and a picture window perfectly framing Cathedral Rock, I hardly considered it rustic. The kids, however, thought we were taking them on some kind of survival quest: There was no TV.
At first, the very concept was difficult for them to grasp.
“Is there a DVD player?” they asked.
“There’s no TV,” we replied.
“What about Game Cube?”
By this time, having long since slipped into my sarcastic mode (not a long trip under any circumstance), I replied that yes, as a matter of fact there was cable: The most glorious cable they had ever seen, with thousands and thousands of channels, one half of which were dedicated to cartoons and the other half dedicated to movies so new they hadn’t even come out in the theaters yet.
“Really?!” they gasped.
“Yeah,” I said, “but there’s one catch: You can’t watch it, because there’s no TV.”
This, of course, set up howls of protest and complaints of imminent death by boredom, something that completely contravened Vacation Rule #117: Never speak of boredom to women who are faced with the task of fitting an army’s worth of food into one refrigerator (especially if they are currently being hampered by husbands who insist that the top two shelves be used to store nothing but beer). Fortunately, the children were still cognizant enough to recognize the onset of an “If you’re so bored, then why don’t you…(fill in the blank with some disagreeable task)” lecture, and so quickly took themselves out of our sight.
What followed (after we had evicted nine tenths of the beer) was one of the best weekends ever. We played in the creek. We played board games (note to all would-be Scattergories lawyers: most people will not accept phlegm as “something you throw away” in the p category, no matter how many times you say “Oh, and I suppose you keep yours?”). In the mornings and evenings the kids watched nature shows: One night they saw a tarantula hawk hunt down a massive tarantula (who ever thought we’d be rooting for the spider?), and the next afternoon they watched emergency surgery on a turtle with a fish hook in its mouth. We even put on a play, Hansel & Gretel, where–by virtue of having the longest hair there–the oldest man present was appointed the role of Gretel (making our Gretel possibly the only Gretel ever to inspire witchly veganism).
We fell asleep exhausted each night and woke up eager and curious each morning. In short, it was everything a vacation should be: fun, relaxing, exciting–even educational. Returning home that Sunday evening I was feeling quite smug about the whole thing, proud of the newly TV-free children I had helped to invent. I even began to imagine how different our lives would be from now on: We would be one of those families, the ones who make peanut butter and bird seed pine cones in the winter (and actually remember to hang them up), and whose children can be called upon to recite the list of Presidents and their VP’s by heart.
But then, just as I began to really fantasize about what dress I should wear to watch a 14 year old graduate from Harvard, the soft fsst of the TV being turned on quickly put that fantasy to rest. Oh well–I can always daydream about what dress I’ll wear to watch a 25 year old receive their GED.