The Vacation Jinx

(Originally appeared in The Beach Reporter on 4/22/93.)

Every family has its vacation horror stories; its own quirky idiosyncrasies that haunt them throughout their lives. One family I know always misses their airplane. Another always has horrible weather no matter where they go, no matter what time of year.

In our case, our family is jinxed by one of our family members getting ill either just before we are about to leave for a vacation, or getting injured or sick while on vacation.

A case in point: As I write this column (at home), I am supposed to be on a plane returning from Maui, where I was supposed to have spent the past week having a relaxing dream vacation with my family. A vacation that we have been fantasizing about and talking about and shopping for for weeks on end.

At 6:30 p.m., the night before we were to leave, I ran a bath for my son. Our suitcases and carry-on bags were packed, a neighbor had Swimmy and Astro (our goldfish), another neighbor was in charge of feeding Edward (our cat), and the newspapers and mail were on hold. I was dreaming of pina coladas. and of reading an entire book. In the midst of my reverie I checked in on my son, who was sitting in the tub itching. Yes, itching. Itching red bumps, which my experienced eyes told me were chicken pox, and which had literally materialized out of nowhere.
I almost couldn’t believe it, but then I remembered. The Stevenson jinx.
The Stevenson jinx started years ago when my husband won a trip to Hong Kong, all expenses paid, for both of us, through an incentive program at his job. The day before we were supposed to leave, he fell ill with a terrible flu. He didn’t get out of bed for the next five days and we missed the trip.

The next time the jinx struck was the day before we were supposed to go to Hawaii for our first vacation alone since our children were born. My mom had flown down to stay with the kids – a baby and a toddler at the time. All that day I tried to ignore the tickle in my throat that rapidly progressed to a high fever, chills, and a gut-wrenching cough. I went to the doctor and got antibiotics the next day and went anyway. But the entire time away I coughed like a woman wracked with tuberculosis. I’m sure my husband was ready to put a pillow over my face and hold it there for an hour or two. I reminded him of the trip we never took to Hong Kong.

If one of us doesn’t get ill, we are bound to experience a mishap while we are away. On a trip to Lake Tahoe when the kids were toddlers, they decided to hold a jumping contest from one level of our condo to the other, a seemingly innocuous matter of three low steps. Ten minutes later my husband was driving our son to the emergency room to have his foot X-rayed for what turned out to be a strained toe. We had to carry him everywhere for five days.

The next year we went to a family camp for the Christmas holidays, and at dinner I looked at my son, who had fallen asleep sitting straight up in his chair. He had a temperature of 104 degrees and a sore throat. Which he gave to me, and I passed along to my husband and daughter.

Last spring break I took my children to Lake Arrowhead for a short ski trip. On out first run my daughter fell and pulled a knee ligament. The ski patrol had to take her down the hill. Back in the emergency room of yet another resort town. She was on crutches for eight weeks.

As I peered at the red spots on my feverish, and now-sobbing son, I told myself I should have seen it coming. We went to the Urgent Care Center first thing in the morning. Our plane was supposed to leave in a few hours. The doctor said he had both chicken pox and strep throat. We went back home and sat on the family room couch for the next four days watched game shows and cartoons.

When the pox crusted over we drove up to Solvang and stayed in a motel for two nights and ate Danish pastries and bought weird Danish souvenirs. The best part was that nothing happened to any of us while we were there.

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