We had never been on a vacation before. Yeah, we’d been out of school for Christmas and summer, but I mean we’d never really gone anywhere. We sometimes made plans, but when it came near time to leave, Mom and Dad would change their minds and say they didn’t have enough money and maybe we could go next year. But this time, they weren’t making the arrangements.
Jim was getting married! He was 36 and he had never been married before. He is Mom’s oldest brother, but he gets mad at us when we call him “Uncle,” so it’s just Jim. His wife was also 36 and she hadn’t been married before either, so Grandma and Grandpa wanted to have a big family thing to celebrate. They planned another wedding reception just like Aunt Deb’s, except that this time Mom didn’t have to make the dresses.
Anyway, Jim lives in New Zealand and his wife, Naimah, is from Singapore. So they got married in Singapore and then they came to Utah for another wedding and reception. They said their vows in Aunt Laurie’s backyard and the wedding reception was at a church near Grandma and Grandpa’s house.
The reception was pretty much the same, stand in line, shake hands, smile and pretend we’re having a good time. That wasn’t the part I was excited about. Back in December when Jim announced that he was getting married, he also invited the entire family on his honeymoon. I know that sounds weird, but he thought that we all should get to know Naimah while she was in the United States since they would be going back to New Zealand and we wouldn’t get to see them that much.
I didn’t care about that part, but the idea of a real vacation sounded great. Jim put Aunt Laurie in charge and she started making arrangements for everybody. She wanted money in January for all the rooms, so I knew if Mom and Dad paid up front, they wouldn’t back out at the last minute. We were going to Yellowstone first; then we would go to Wyoming and spend some time in the Tetons and Jackson Hole.
We were supposed to leave the day after the reception and drive all day. Then we would get to Yellowstone late in the day and spend our first night there. It started out kind of fun. Grandma rode with us and some of my other aunts and uncles traded cars so we could spend more time together. We stopped at a rest area just before we left Utah and Nathan’s shoe fell out. Dad picked it up and set it on top of the van. That was the last time we ever saw it. Don’t ask me why he didn’t just toss it back in the van! Mom teased him about it for the rest of the trip.
We played the license plate game and the alphabet game until we stopped in Idaho Falls for lunch. By then we were getting tired of riding. Kiy was just learning to crawl, so she hated being stuck in the van for that long. Luckily, we bought a little TV and VCR that kept Nathan entertained, but the rest of us were pretty tired of watching Barney.
We wandered around the Idaho Falls LDS Temple for a while and watched the water slide off the edge of the embankment. It was really cool. It wasn’t really like a waterfall, because the water just kind of dropped off the edge and down into the canal. Mom was really nervous because Nathan liked the water too much and she was afraid that if we let go of him for even a minute, we’d never see him again. In fact, Mom’s little paranoia at the temple set the stage for the entire trip. I don’t know, I guess she just thought that one of us would die somewhere along the way. First it was the temple, but it got worse when we actually got to Yellowstone.
The first night we stayed at the Canyons. The rooms were pretty small and our family and Grandma squeezed into two rooms. Since we didn’t want to spend very much money, we also took coolers with food and drinks and stuff. We didn’t want to attract any animals to the van, so we drug all of it into our room. We didn’t have much room anyway, and having to trip over coolers and boxes just made it worse. We were so crowded!
But I was excited too! We finally went somewhere on a family trip and it was even better than just our family. We had everyone with us. Mom has seven brothers and sisters and they were all there with their families except Gary, who wasn’t married and lived in Japan, and Aunt Deb and Uncle Layne. They didn’t come because their baby was due any time and the doctor didn’t think that they should leave town.
Anyway, we had a pretty big group. Our new aunt was nice, but we didn’t really get to spend much time getting to know her. She rode the whole time with Grandma and Grandpa in their car and other than a little bit of time in the evenings, she and Jim stayed in their room. I think she was tired. She had that huge wedding in Singapore that she planned all by herself. Then she came to Utah and went through another wedding and reception. Then she got in a car and listened to Aunt Amy gab for hours. She must have been exhausted!
We got up that first morning after finally sleeping for a few hours. I was staying with Grandma in her room about 30 feet from Mom and Dad’s cabin. We opened the door and when we got about half way over to the other cabin, we noticed three buffalo standing about 50 feet from us! Neal was scared, but he wouldn’t admit it. I had read books on buffalo, so I knew how fast they could move. I started walking faster, and I sort of pushed Neal in front of me. We finally got to Mom and Dad’s door and I don’t think those buffalo even glanced at us. Mom and Dad had the door locked and we finally roused them out of bed about ten minutes later. Those buffalo could have eaten us in the amount of time it took for Dad to find his glasses and step over coolers and boxes to get to the door.
Kinsey and Kiyna were very excited to see the buffalo, but Mom and Dad made us keep our distance. Then Uncle Randy came over from his cabin to see what all the fuss was about. He started walking toward them like they were in the zoo and there were iron bars to keep him safe! He’s lucky they didn’t gouge him in the stomach. We finally got him to move away from them and we all piled into the vans and cars for our first real look at Yellowstone.
I think Mom’s first real look at Yellowstone was enough! We drove a few miles to see one of the waterfalls. I don’t know what she was expecting, but she put Kiy in the backpack and grabbed Nathan’s hand. We all kind of skipped ahead on the path and Mom and Dad followed. The path was well used, but the walls were short and really wouldn’t keep anybody safe. The cliffs were high and they dropped two or three hundred feet to the river bottom. That was the good part. By the time we got to the waterfall, I thought Mom was going to be sick. She wouldn’t let us get close to the wall to look over at the water. Nathan’s hand was practically purple because she was holding it so tight. Mom took one peek and hustled us all back to the van.
The second place we stopped was at the geyser basin. Grandma helped Nathan into his stroller and started down the path. Mom was changing Kiy’s diaper and she told all of us to stay put until she was finished. It took us about ten minutes to realize that Nathan and Grandma were too far ahead and we weren’t going to catch up with them before we entered the basin. Mom was terrified of the geysers and the pools of burning water that always went with them. I thought she was going to faint when we couldn’t find Grandma and Nathan. Grandma never remembered to fasten the seat belt in the stroller and Nathan liked to climb out whenever and where ever he wanted. Because he couldn’t talk and understand things, “danger” was not something that bothered him. Most of the time, “HOT!” didn’t even mean anything.
We took the short path through the basin. Mom had Kiy in the backpack and I could tell that Mom’s leg was bothering her. She was very upset and after about 100 yards, she found a bench and sat down. We waited there for about 15 minutes. Dad found Uncle Glen and asked about Grandma. They hadn’t seen her either. Aunt Laurie’s family joined us on our bench and we all waited.
Finally, we heard Grandma coming before we saw her. Mom sent me down the trail to make sure she was OK. She still had Nathan in the stroller and she was patiently pointing out things to him as they passed. Nathan was looking around, content as could be with his little tour of the geyser basin. As soon as we reached the rest of the group, Nathan climbed out of the stroller and started to run. Mom grabbed at him and caught him, but luckily, Uncle Glen was close by, because as she grabbed for Nathan, Kiy nearly fell out of the backpack.
Of course we left the geyser basin right away. Mom was a basket case. I think that was the last time she got out of the van to look at anything. When we stopped at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone I heard her ask Dad to please bring us all back. She stayed in the van with Nathan and Kiy. I think one of the reasons Mom was so upset was that at one of the bookstores, Grandma bought a book called Death in Yellowstone. It talked about all these kids who had been mauled by bears, fallen into the geysers, or toppled off the cliffs. Most of them were just plain stupid, but it was kind of scary how quickly something can happen. I read the book too, and I remember one story about a guy who had his dog with him. He was supposed to keep the dog locked in the truck, but he didn’t and the dog fell into a geyser. The guy was stupid enough to jump in to try to rescue the dog. Of course he and the dog both died. The temperature was way above boiling.
Another story told about a mother who was standing there with her five-year-old son watching Old Faithful when the boy took one step backward because he was scared by the spray. He fell off the boardwalk into a geyser pool and was scalded and died instantly. That’s the one that scared Mom. I think that ever since she found out that Nathan had problems, she just knew that something bad was going to happen.
As it turned out, the only injury anyone suffered on our vacation was a bite from a vicious buffalo gnat. It got Neal right on the upper lip. Within an hour, his lip was so swollen; it looked like he’d been in a boxing match and lost big time. He could hardly eat and his lip cracked and bled. We didn’t know why his lip was swollen until we were in a grocery store and a lady who had had a similar problem told us what to do for him.
The Tetons were more enjoyable. Mom relaxed a bit and we were all able to have more fun. We took a boat ride around a lake and we drove into town to a cowboy ranch for dinner. Our cabins were much bigger and more comfortable. Mom even said that we could come back to the Tetons sometime if we just skipped Yellowstone.
We made our way home through Jackson Hole. We had lunch there and then we shopped at some of the tiny stores. Dad bought us doughnut holes from a street vendor who made them right in front of our eyes. We also saw all of the elk horns stacked up at the park.
The ride home seemed even longer than the ride to Yellowstone. Everybody was tired and ready for a nice hot bath. It was late when we finally got home, so we just all kind of fell into bed. We didn’t even unload the van. Mom didn’t care, she was just glad to be home with everyone still alive. I didn’t care, as long as I could sleep in my own bed and listen to my own music. Nathan was just glad that he didn’t have to wear clothes all the time and Mom was so tired, she even let Kiy sleep with me.