Gimme a smile: Summer Traveling

Summertime in Juneau — the snow is gone, the irises are blooming, hiking and fishing opportunities abound. School’s out, the days are long with almost endless sunshine. It’s the time we’ve all been waiting for through the long, dark months of winter. Time to get out of town.


Ironic, isn’t it, that just when the tourists flock to Juneau to enjoy its scenic wonders, we Juneauites flock to the airport in our quest for the perfect vacation. Never mind that we live in a land so lovely that people dream about visiting it their whole lives — summer wanderlust hits us and we’re off. I guess we have to go when the kids are out of school, but it does seem silly to leave Alaska to go to Florida in July, just when the Floridians are abandoning their sweltering state for cooler vacations in, you guessed it, Alaska. Go figure.

Of course, traveling out of Juneau means flying, and flying is always a big project. Back when the kids were little and the first two checked bags were included in the price of admission, our family would show up at the airport with no less than 10 pieces of checked luggage, ranging from car seats to strollers to the all-important playpen. It was a proud day when we arrived at the airport with only one suitcase per person.

These days, we don’t take a mountain of kid luggage with us when we travel. Heck, we don’t even take the kids. Or more accurately, the kids don’t take us. This summer, one traveled to New Orleans with a music group, another’s going to Europe with a student ambassador group, and the third gets to go with Dad on a short jaunt back east. Once those three trips are completed, it will be time to go back to school. So much for the family vacation!

As each child prepared to leave on his or her own separate adventure, I handed out the required motherly advice on preparing for a journey:

1) Don’t forget the sunscreen (maybe I should show them how to use it—it’s not like they get much experience with the stuff here in Juneau).

2) Pack a pillowcase to use as a dirty clothes bag, so your stinky socks don’t mingle with the clean clothes, and

3) Clean your room before you leave.

They tolerated the first two suggestions with a minimum of eye rolling, but the third was met by three blank stares. They must have thought their mom was slipping into early senility. Why would anyone clean their bedroom when they were about to leave?

I must be failing in my duty to uphold the standards of motherhood. It’s a mother’s job to repeat all those hysterical reasons why it’s important to make your bed in the morning and wear clean underwear. Forget about basic cleanliness and good hygiene. What if the house catches on fire — what will the firemen think if they see an unmade bed? What if you get hit by a car and have to go to the hospital — what will the doctors think if you’re wearing threadbare underwear? There are certain basic rules of comportment designed to save you from embarrassment in the face of emergency, and cleaning the house before heading to the airport on vacation is Rule Number One. Who knows what calamity could befall your house in your absence, requiring rescue personnel to enter and behold your slovenly ways. Just imagine the story in the police blotter: “Residential fire extinguished at 3 a.m. today in the 2000 block of Main Street. The unmade bed and unwashed dishes sustained heavy smoke damage.” Oh, the shame!

Mothers everywhere have been intoning these messages for generations. And the result? More tasks on the to-do list when preparing to go on vacation, producing more stress on the would-be traveler. It’s not enough to stay up to the wee hours packing and paying the bills, you have to clean the house and catch up on the dusting as well. Really, you’re better off just staying home and enjoying the splendors of summer here in Juneau.


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