4.1.2020 – spring break broke this year

spring break broke this year
but the trips we used to take
, good, bad

As far back as I can remember and before that, I have taken a week off for Spring Break.

When I was a baby, 8th in a family of 11 kids, my family took off on Spring Break and did something, I am sure.

When I was in grade school, my older brother had married and moved to Washington, DC and my family would drive off and visit him and his wife, Judy.

We also got to tour Washington and the museums there.

Our family trips were memorable.

My Dad wanted a quick getaway the Friday night we got out of school.

Somehow my Mom packed up all our clothes and was ready.

The Friday night getaway meant we would be going to church somewhere that weekend so my Mom also had to pack Sunday clothes and shoes.

As it was Spring time (by calendar if not in fact) we all got some new spring clothes.


NOTE: This was a later trip – maybe 1972, but the clothes … We were posing to look like Civil War Reunion group.

You had to grow up in the hippy era to understand what those clothes were like.




For some reason it seems to me that we all got a new spring jacket and new sneakers.

And so we were off.

Mom and Dad and 8 or 9 kids or more, depending on the breaks, from babies to college age, packed into our Ford LTD Station Wagon.

Three in front, three or four in the middle, Mom in the middle, right hand door.

And the rest of us dumped in the back.

Not a seat belt in use.

My Dad wanted to do one thing once we got started.


Maybe it was a World War 2 veteran thing.

Garrison Keillor also remembered that on family trips, his Dad wasn’t happy if they didn’t put 500 to 600 miles on the car each day.

One year my Dad came up with this great idea.

Instead of stopping for dinner along the way, we would eat in the car.

My Mom would make a picnic lunch of sandwiches and we would eat as we drove.

In a stroke of luck, my Dad discovered that our local KFC sold those 8 ounce cardboard cartons of milk.

The type of carton of milk we all got at school.

What could go wrong?

He stopped at the KFC the day before we left and bought out their supply.

The year I am thinking of, 1972, my Grandma came along and we would drop her off for a visit with my cousins in Kingston, NY.

The route we were taking took us through Detroit, across Canada to Niagara Falls, to Kingston and then down to Washington, DC and on the way home, stopping in Carlisle, Pennsylvania to see my brother Bobby and his wife, Jan.

According to Google Maps, a trip of 1,745 miles.

Friday arrived, school was over, we were on Spring Break and off we went.

We left about 4 o’clock.

When we got to Detroit, my Dad announced he was hungry and could use a sandwich.

And in his moment of glory he added, “And give me one of those milks.”

There was a rustle and bustle in the car as the lunch basket was opened up.

Understand that my Mom had certain ideas about eating.

Sandwiches in baggies were not passed out.

She got out paper plates and paper napkins and made up a plate for eveybody.

Each plate had a sandwich.

Of course Mom made a selection of sandwiches and there was much time spent in selecting what to eat.

My Mom also had the interesting habit of making sandwiches using raisin bread.

Which was fine if you were expecting it.

But it could be a surprise to get a PB&J with raisins if you didn’t know my Mom.

Anyway, we all got a plate with a sandwich, some grapes and celery sticks.

And a carton of milk.

All went well and by the time we crossed over the Ambassador Bridge to Canada, dinner was over.

“And no time lost!”, my Dad announced proudly as the trash was packed away.

A few hours later, we were coming up towards Niagara Falls, Ontario, my little brother Steve, who we called Eddie, leaned over from the back of the station wagon to the middle seat.

“Mom?’, he said.

“Mom, I feel … sick”

Then he barfed.

Thinking about this later, I think Eddie must have tried to avert his head from my Mom as he spewed an arc of vomitous mass across the middle seat into the back of the wagon.

Talk about a bomb going off.

Dad got over and off the road.

Somehow the car was cleaned up enough to go on.

Really what else could you do?

Middle of the night in Ontario with a car full of people.

A car full of people now all acutely aware of their stomachs and smells.

Smell of well, you know, AND the smell of slightly sour milk covered cardboard from the trash.

On we went through the night to our destination of St. Catherine’s, Ontario.

I can’t remember much more of that night but the next morning we drove into Niagara Falls, Ontario.

My Dad found a 1 hour dry cleaner for our new coats and we went off to breakfast at some place overlooking the falls.

Where my little brother Al, threw up.

Another great commotion but with Canadian accents this time.

We got through that and for the most part we made it to Kingston, NY without incident.

It wasn’t until I was married and had in-laws that would come over for dinner that I understood what it meant to host a visit from a traveling horde like my family.

What do you do when 10 or 11 people drop out of sky into your dining room.

My Dear Aunt Mernie was ready for us with a lasagna dinner.

We had recovered enough, we were excited enough at seeing our cousins and the thought of dropping Grandma off for a month that we had a great visit.

Then off to Washington.

Again this part of the trip was without inncident.

We got settled in a hotel and went over to my brother Paul’s apartment.

Now just 10 people, with Grandma left behind, my sister-in-law Judy was all set for us.

We sat down to a lasagna dinner.

The plan the next morning was to stop for a quick breakfast with Paul and Judy and then into Washington, DC and the Smithsonian!

Moon Rocks!

Lincoln’s clothes!

Washington’s teeth!

I remember feeling a bit off that morning and stuck with a little glass of OJ for breakfast.

We drive into the city and wonder of wonders found a parking place on the Mall about 5 blocks from the Smithsonian.

It was a guidebook to Washington morning.

Sunny, bright and clear.

Richard Nixon was right over there in the White House.

We were right in the heart of DC.

It was real.

It was almost too much.

We walked over and went in the Museum of American History.

This building was packed with anything and everything about you would want to see.

We ran in and stopped at the first thing inside.

If you have been there, it was a giant pendulum swinging back in forth to demonstrate the rotation of the earth.

Placed directly in front of the original Star Spangled Banner from Fort McHenry, you couldn’t miss it.

The pendulum swung back and forth over a circle that was lined with little red blocks.

Every five minutes or so, the pendulum would move enough to knock over a block.

With the museum right there, after all that trip, we just stood there, watching these blocks fall.

(I learned today, the Foucault Pendulum at the Smithsonian was removed in 1998)

All we had gone through to get there and us kids wouldn’t move on.

It was a museum equivalent of watching cement dry.

We were mesmerized.

Back and forth, back and forth the pendulum swung.

I became more aware of my stomach.

My Dad dragged us away and we moved through the displays.

I have a very distinct memory of being in what was called, ‘The Hall of Elections”.

It was at this moment that my stomach decided it had had enough.

I broke out in a sweat and said to my Dad, “I think I am going to be sick.”

My legs went rubbery and a went down on one knee.

My Dad was used to me ‘telling stories’ as it was called in my family, but he took one look at my face and ran off.

To this day, I don’t know if he was running away from me, but I stood up and ran after him.

He went up an escalator and I said to myself, “NO NO NO.”

Besides the motion, I could not figure out how, if I barfed on the escalator, would they clean it?

Scrub on the way down, then run to the top and clean some more on the way down?

Then it happened and one my family legends was written.

My brothers and sisters had followed me and my Dad as we ran away.

I am not sure if they heard me tell Dad I was sick or not but this chase through the Museum promised to be more excited than anything you could see on display.

I was halfway up the escalator when my stomach heaved.

“NO”, I said to myself.


I shut my jaws and forced the contents of my stomach back down.

It came right back up.

My body convulsed.

I wanted to cough.

I was choking.

I stood firm and with both hands, all ten fingers, I grabbed my lips and forced them together.

Try it.

Try it and look in the mirror.

My stomach heaved and I held my mouth shut and forced it back down.

I look across at the down escalator and all I remember is all these faces with eyes as big as baseballs, staring at me in horror.

I didn’t care.

My stomach heaved and through my lips, a jet a orange juice spit out for a second, but went right down the sleeve of my coat.

I thought it was going to come out my ears.

I swallowed again and made to the top to see my Dad standing by a Men’s Room door and waving.

I made to the stall with fingers still locked over my lips.

For the rest of my life my brothers and sisters would yell at me, “Hey MIKE” and close their lips together with their fingers and laugh and laugh.

That was the end of that day in Washington.

Back at the hotel, I spent the day with my Mom getting sick over and over again.

The rest of the family went to some family fun park in the Maryland area.

Fun maybe for them, but not a visit to Washington.

I recovered nicely by the next day and I led the charge back downtown to prove I was no longer sick.

After another day or two in Washington it was off to Carlisle, Pennsylvania, where my brother Bobby was stationed during his time in the US Army.

He and his wife, Janet, had an apartment there and it is where my niece Joann was born.

We arrived just in time for what?

A lasagna dinner!

After that, it was back home.

It seems to me that the rest of the trip was uneventful.

I do think several of my siblings got ‘queasy’ along the way and maybe skipped some restaurant meals to just sit in the car for a bit.

But no more vomiting that I can recall.

I have to admit that I might be confusing some memories with another family trip out east where we went to Hershey, Pennsylvania and Dad ordered the ‘ASSORTMENT BOX’ at the Hershey Factory store.

He walked away with a box of 12 different candy bars, Hershey Bars, Hershey’s with almonds, and such.

6 of each bar.


These went into the back of the station wagon in summer time and it seems like a lot of motion sickness set in on that trip as well.

We survived.

Survived to make other family trips.

Two things do stand out in my memory.

After we got home, my Mom checked up on the people we had visited along the way.

We learned that at all our stopping places, after we left, everyone came down the stomach flu.

We blazed a trail of barfing across the eastern United States.

The other thing is that for most of my life after that, I was plagued with what I called, ‘Barfphobia’.


The fear of throwing up in public.

No spring break this year.

No spring trip.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

I do have lots of memories.

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