Friday, January 7, 2011

Vacation Clothes

While in California, my brother unearthed the tapes of our family vacation to Canada and New York, 1999. 2 tapes. 2 hours each. 4 solid hours. About three of those hours are of landscape rushing by the window of our rented Astrovan. We watched it all.

My husband James, and my sister's husband James (I know) were gently encouraged to watch it with us. And they did.

So we started off. And we're thinking 1999, I mean, how bad could it be? We're all out of our super awkward years? Right? Wrong. Big time.

Silvia is freshly home from her mission and sports overalls through most of the trip. My brother has an 11 month old back in California and is wearing a goatee and much bigger jeans on his much smaller frame. I am quiet and angsty, practically squirming I'm so uncomfortable in my own skin. Annie nearly looks like a different person; she wears her jeans high and also a pair of short overalls. She wears what Silvia calls "cheer hair" through the whole thing. Annie points out as we're watching that she has just returned from cheer camp.

It's kind of extraordinary, how quickly I remember exactly those moments. Not those moments in Canada or New York, but that moment in my life. Annie had grown up considerably while Silvia was gone, and when Silvia returned from Argentina, everyone made this big fuss about how much they looked alike. So, that left me, the odd sister out, which wouldn't have been such a big deal, but the 25 pounds I'd packed on in the year since I'd graduated made me touchy and easily injured. Taylor (my niece, my brother's daughter) had just been born, and our family was in a time of flux. But then, when is a family not in a time of change?

There are other parts of the video (there are 4 hours, after all); there's Silvia, in her overalls, being super wacky and laughing more than I remember. There's my brother, filming as Annie gives a walking tour of every motel 6 we stayed in while in upstate New York. There's me and James and Silvia laughing as Annie steps out of the van with one pant leg rolled up. In explanation she states calmly, "I was warm." There's a shot of my mom wearing socks with her sandals, which, in her defense, I have never in my life seen her do. And there's my dad, with hair long hair and bigger glasses, most often seen in the footage bent over a map, planning our route.

We were all surprised to remember that only my parents drove, the whole time, despite all four of us kids having licenses. We were surprised at how high girls wore pants in '99, and how low James wore his. We all had troublesome hair (except my brother, who was, at that time, in addition to sporting a goatee, also shaving his head. he looked like a thug), Silvia's really big (she blames the humidity), my bangs were too short (James [Best] made fun of them and I nursed hurt feelings the rest of the night [I think watching the video put me back in that mind-set]), and Annie, as mentioned, had cheer hair--complete with a bow.

Also notable, as the days pass, is how clothing gets passed around. I'm wearing a shirt at Niagara Falls (and a kerchief in my hair, for some unknown reason), and then Silvia's wearing it at the Joseph Smith home in Palmyra (I think she gave her overalls a day off). Next thing you know, Annie's wearing it on the boat to the Statue of Liberty, where you can see the World Trade Center towers rising up in the background.

Vacation clothes are like that. That's what I started writing this post about, before it wrote itself into a close examination of August 1999. Vacation clothes. About how you pack thinking about how you want to look, but, if you stay away long enough, you just end up wearing whatever is on the top of the pile on top of your suitcase, or, what you wore the day before, if you didn't have it on for too long. Annie used the vacation clothes theory to explain away most of what we wore, including my mom's socks/sandals. I added the following pictures, again, before this post wrote itself, and I'm keeping them. It's me, wearing the same shirt, on three different days. Vacation clothes.

I'm glad my brother took all that footage. Well, most of it. I could probably do without quite as much east coast scenery. But I'd keep the shot of Utica, New York, taken from the balcony of Motel 6 (my brother still remember that he hates Utica because the McDonald's refused to serve breakfast at 11:04 am), the footage he got of some Amish folk at Niagara Falls, and all the footage of our family.

In the last photo Annie is being a badger. I think. And that's not cheer hair.


  1. So many things to say, most of them probably more appropriate for a personal email than a very public post. But i do need to publicly defend my overalls. I loved/love them. they were a very thin denim with a nice wide leg. If i still had them, i'd be wearing them right now.

  2. I'm just busting your chops, sister.

  3. I could take similar pictures of myself wearing the same shirt day after day, and the thing is, I'm not even on vacation.