In the early 1990s we were living in Oklahoma, far from both our families in Pennsylvania and Florida. We wanted to combine a vacation with a visit to Mrs. Poolman’s family in Jacksonville. The plan was to have the opportunity to visit, but not necessarily have to deal with family 24/7. (If you want to hear God laugh, just tell him your plans.) Our solution, which we thought was brilliant at the time, was to rent a beach-front condo in Jacksonville Beach, about a half hour drive from the in-laws home.
“Gee,” we said to ourselves. “We can combine a beach vacation with a family visit without being totally inundated with family around the clock. This is perfect.”
We were wrong. We totally miscalculated Mother-in-Law’s guile and talent for conspiracy.
I need to say that I loved my late in-laws. I really did. Overall, we got along fabulously. FIL was laid-back to a fault. MIL, on the other hand, made up for her husband’s low initiative by being a fanatical planner and instruction-giver. She was always well meaning, but occasionally got carried away with her plans. That summer was one of them.
A few days before we flew to Jacksonville, Mrs. P was talking to her mother on the phone about the upcoming trip. MIL enthusiastically told Mrs. P that she had come up with a wonderful idea. She had rented another condo in the same building for the same week. She thought our idea of a vacation sounded like such fun she decided they would join us. And she had invited her brother and sister-in-law, and her three other grandchildren, ages roughly seven to 13, to spend the week with them. And so they did.
Of course, the cousins all wanted to spend every waking moment together. The result was that rather than having a quiet week at the beach with our two children, we “enjoyed” a large group vacation with just about Mrs. P’s entire extended family.
It wasn’t terrible; I wouldn’t classify it as a “vacation from Hell.” But it certainly wasn’t what we had planned. I don’t think my mother-in-law ever really figured out why we didn’t appreciate her scheme.
We never “vacationed” in Jacksonville again.