“The Grand Pause” by Dahlynn McKowen
This story appears in the anthology “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Family.”
There are some moments in life that stay with you forever. One such moment happened to me during a 1978 summer family vacation.
Our destination was North Dakota, where my dad’s family lived. He was born and raised there on his family’s farm. The six of us—Mom, Dad, three younger siblings and myself—would make the trip from our home in California to North Dakota in our old station wagon.
As part of our trip, Mom insisted on stopping in Utah for a few days to visit her family. She also insisted on making stops here and there so we kids could escape the car and run off some energy. Dad never liked to stop for anything—once he got behind the wheel, he would drive straight through. If he had his way, Dad would have driven night and day to make North Dakota in record time, regardless if we needed to stop to stretch or eat or even pee. But he gave in to Mom’s insistence to make frequent stops, which was a good thing—holding my bladder for hours on end would have been a challenge.
With the car packed to the brim inside and piled high on top with everything a family of six needed, including camping equipment since staying in a hotel was a luxury, we set off, crossing the Sierra Nevada into the vast wasteland of the state of Nevada. Thankfully it wasn’t too hot yet. Back in those days, air conditioning in cars was another luxury we couldn’t afford, so we kept the car windows rolled halfway down to let the air in and keep the bugs out.
During our trip, Mom planned on entertaining us with car games such as “I Spy” and the license plate challenge, where the first one to call out a license plate from every state would win a prize. But the Nevada desert was unforgiving—there wasn’t much to spy and very few cars traveled the empty interstate. Bored to tears and driving both our parents nuts, Mom finally gave us rambunctious souls a treat—Dramamine. The reason it was a treat was because we got to wash the pills down with Kool-Aid, one of our favorite drinks.
Needless to say, when evening came on the first day of our grand adventure, we kids weren’t very helpful erecting the tent. We were too tired and groggy from the car-sick medicine. But since I was the oldest—age 16—I was quickly put to work holding tent posts while Dad hammered in the stakes and tied on the ropes. Remember, this was back in the days when tents didn’t pop together like the lightweight tents of today. These were the days of non-collapsible, one-piece tent poles, very heavy tarp fabric and driving stakes into the ground and tying off the poles with thick rope. It was considered a miracle if we got the tent up in under an hour.
After breakfast the next morning, we packed up camp and headed across the Great Salt Lake. That night, we would stay with a relative just south of Salt Lake City. For this reason, Mom didn’t give us any Dramamine—she wanted her darling children awake and alert, not falling asleep at our host’s dinner table that evening.
After crossing the white vastness of the Great Salt Lake, Mom decided it would be a good idea to stop at Temple Square. Located in downtown Salt Lake City, the 10-acre Temple Square is the Mecca of Latter-day Saints and home of the Mormon religion. It had been years since Mom had been there, and Dad and we kids had never seen the place. The idea was to let us four kids explore the grounds and burn off some pent-up energy before heading to our relative’s home.
Dad found a parking space for the family wagon. After unloading and primping so we would be presentable, we all made our way into Temple Square. We were allowed to run—politely, of course—around the beautiful grounds. We looked at nearly everything and were disappointed we couldn’t go inside the actual temple—since we weren’t Mormon, we weren’t allowed in.
After an hour, the four of us were tired and wanted to sit down and rest. That’s when Mom had another idea—the family could attend a scheduled music recital in the famed Tabernacle. Itching to get back on the road, Dad wasn’t thrilled, but he agreed.
Entering the grand hall, we quickly found seats about 15 pews back from the front. We all stared up at the huge pipe organ, the one we had seen on television. As a kid, everything always appears bigger. And that was especially true in this case—the great organ, considered back then to be one of the world’s largest musical instruments, towered above us. We were in awe.
Suddenly, music blasted out of the monstrosity, making us jump. No one could be seen playing the organ, which bored my siblings and me very quickly. But wanting to please Mom, and also worn out from running around, we sat like good children in church. The organ droned on and on, playing hymns and famous works of music. The music hall was packed with tourists and worshippers. Some people sang along when a hymn played, while others listened intently.
As the monotonous recital drew to a close, the music became more intense. Catching our attention, the four of us scooted to the edge of our pew, excited at the prospects that the concert was almost over. The pipe organ sang like crazy then stopped for a few seconds before hitting its final, grandiose note. And it was during those few seconds of silence that the unthinkable happened.
Dad snored. Not just his normal I’m-napping snore, but a booming, you-can-hear-me-across-three-oceans, foghorn snore. We kids had no idea he had fallen asleep.
Mom was mortified. She quickly stared at us, warning us with her eyes not to laugh. But unable to contain our giggles, we laughed aloud, right along with the other recital goers. Startled awake by the burst of laughter—which drowned out the final notes of the recital—Dad was more startled by Mom’s glare. Needless to say, it was a very quiet ride to our relative’s home.
For the rest of the 3,000-mile, three-week family trip, every time we saw a church, we asked Dad if he wanted to stop and take a nap. True to form, he kept right on going.
Dahlynn McKowen is the CEO and publisher of Publishing Syndicate LLC. She, along with her husband, Ken, created the “Not Your Mother’s Book” series. http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com
Again, this story appears in “Not Your Mother’s Book…On Family.” The book is filled with 60 funny stories that confirm families aren’t always perfect! Purchase this book today from your favorite retailer, Amazon (http://amzn.to/1uWdwES) or Barnes & Noble (http://bit.ly/11HEQLy).
To submit your stories for consideration in future NYMB titles, go to http://www.PublishingSyndicate.com and click on the “Not Your Mother’s Book” tab.