‘Restful’ vacation quickly turns to purgatory

We just got back from a week-long trip to Orlando, Fla.

The kids had a blast, but my husband and I would be content if we never visited another amusement park for the rest of our lives.

On the third or fourth day of our “vacation,” we knew ourselves to be trapped in some sort of amusement park purgatory. Similar to Sisyphus, forced to endlessly push a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll down again, we were compelled to forever push a stroller and herd two other children through a maze of people and attractions, to stand in long lines only to ride neck-jarring roller coasters, to stand in long lines to buy expensive but poor quality food, to wait
in long lines and pay ridiculous amounts of money just to park our over-priced rental car.

Yes, we were witness to some crazy sights at these amusement parks. The highlight of the trip (for everyone but my Muggle husband) was strolling through the imagined world of Harry Potter at Universal Studios. We tasted Butterbeer, bought chocolate frogs and Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans, and ate at the Hogsmeade Inn. It was mind-blowing, for nerds like us.

But the craziest sight by far was witnessed not at Sea World, or Disney World or Universal Studios, nor even at Gatorland. It was witnessed at an upscale Italian restaurant in our hotel.

My husband and I were happy to get out for a couple of hours one evening without the kids. It was blissful. Picture Lady and Tramp spooling spaghetti round forks, finding themselves nose to nose, batting eyelashes at one another while music played softly in the background.

We savored our freedom, until the family with two of the most misbehaved children we’ve ever seen took the table next to ours.

While the young father seated himself, the young mother proceeded to herd the two petulant boys – at a guess, around the ages of four and two – to their seats. As she wrestled the youngest into a high chair, the four-year-old chose the opportunity to bolt for a nearby door and open it a few inches, letting in cold air that cooled my very own food.

A man that I guessed to be the grandfather told him sternly to close the door and sit down in his seat. The boy took his time at the open door, but sit down he eventually did, only to get back up again a few seconds later.

Now I’ll have to cue the amusement park music to accompany the table’s high-jinks from here on out, because – I kid you not – the boy started to run laps around the table. In a nice restaurant. With paying customers nearby. He ran those short legs like he was in some kind of contest, as if someone held a stop watch and clipboard, as if he were being cheered on by a stadium of fans.

Meanwhile, the mother scampered back and forth from seat to seat, producing sippy cups and toys from her bag. And the two men stared at their menus as if their lives depended on it, neither lifting a finger nor uttering a word to the little demon blazing a trail around them.

Their orders were taken while the boy crawled through the rungs of their chairs, kicking and whining. Their food arrived, but the boy had no appetite for anything other than aerobic exercise. He eventually tired of running around the table and opted instead to run endlessly up and down an unoccupied booth that stretched half the length of the restaurant.

Plates and glasses and cutlery glittered on the nearby tables, ripe for the crashing. At the bitter end, he took to holding onto the back of his mother’s chair and wailing while his little brother accompanied him.

I tried not to stare, I really did. But my meal was forgotten, my prior bliss a fading memory. I didn’t understand how the adults could sit there and calmly eat their rather expensive suppers while their little boy was clearly in need of an exorcism.

Any sane parent would have never brought such children out to dinner, not even to McDonald’s. It was coming up on nine o’clock, after all, and from the looks on all their zombie-like faces, Orlando had taken its toll on them, just as it had on me and my husband.

And all at once, I felt kind of sorry for them. They too were trapped in vacation purgatory. True, it seemed to be a self-induced purgatory that might well last until their children moved out of their house if they didn’t learn how to discipline their children, but still, I shared their exhausted mind-set.

Once children enter the picture, “vacation” isn’t restful anymore, not even for the children.

Reynolds CC to host sculptor Paul DiPasquale

Reynolds Community College will host Richmond sculptor Paul DiPasquale Sept. 28 as he shares his presentation “Art Talk, Why Art Matters” from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Conference Center Gallery of the Workforce Development and Conference Center on the Parham Road Campus, located at 1651 E. Parham Road in Richmond. This event is free and open to the public. > Read more.

Free children’s clothing for those in need

The Children's Clothing Closet at Highland Springs United Methodist Church will be open Saturday, Aug. 27 and Tuesday, Aug. 30 to provide free new or nearly new children's clothing for families in need, prior to the start of the school year. The Clothing Closet will be open from 10 a.m. to noon both days. The church is located at 22 North Holly Avenue. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10

Beautiful fall weather is back this weekend! Don’t leave your favorite pooch at home – take the whole family to Canine Companions’ DogFest Walk ‘n Roll at West Broad Village or FETCH a Cure’s annual Mutt Strutt at Deep Run Park. Pets are also welcome at this weekend’s Central Virginia Celtic Festival and Highland Games. Halloween events taking place Sunday include the University of Richmond’s 18th annual Trick or Treat Street and Goblins and Gourds at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.


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Reynolds Community College will host a Fall Job Fair from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the commons area of Burnette Hall on the Parham Road Campus. The fair will connect participants to employers from a variety of industries, including business (sales and marketing), accounting, health care, technology, and more. The event is free and open to the public. For details, visit http://bit.ly/2aQd5cK. Full text

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