Emily Parnell — When writing that law, Murphy might have used our vacation as inspiration

03/25/2014 4:22 PM

03/25/2014 4:22 PM

As I type this, I should be sitting on a warm, sandy beach next to a cerulean bay with my family.

Our plane landed a couple of hours ago. We would have taken the taxi to our beach house, then tossed our clothes on our bed, digging through suitcases to find our swimming suits. We would have run out the front door, a bottle of sunscreen in hand, and my children would be feeling the lap of salty waves on their feet for the very first time.

My research tells me it’s low tide right now. What treasures might we find washed up? Shells? Conchs that someone brave could slice up and eat? Might there be sea glass? Starfish? Sand dollars?

I don’t know. We’re not there. We’re having one of those vacations where things go wrong.

It’s a trip to the Caribbean, heavily (OK, make that fully) subsidized by my in-laws, who are celebrating an anniversary. They told us about this generous gift to the family nearly two years ago.

“I’ll believe it when I see it,” I told my husband. I’m fortunate to have experienced much generosity, but this seemed too good to be true. Even as flights were booked, itineraries emailed and bags packed, I maintained my state of disbelief.

The day finally arrived. We packed all day long, and felt good about piling in the car, fully prepared, with plenty of time to get dinner and get on the plane. And then the texts started beeping in. “Flight canceled.”

Why? Weather in Dallas, they said. Snow showers, they mentioned. We immediately checked Dallas weather radar on our phones. We disagreed with their forecast, but apparently it wasn’t up to us. We set about a hasty reschedule, hoping to tack an extra day or two onto the end to make up for lost time.

But the dominoes had been set into motion, and began falling, one on top of another. Keys locked in a car. Overbooked planes with room for some, but not all, of our party. Hotel rooms promised, then snatched out from under us.

It was turning out to be one of those situations. Epic misfortune — the stuff Murphy based his laws upon. The rescheduling details were hashed and re-hashed and served up with potatoes and hot sauce. It would be worked out. It always works out, right?

It will be a lesson for the younguns, and one best learned early — that sometimes it’s the disasters that make for the best memories — the most interesting stories — the stuff of legends. Usually, plenty of good follows the bad. I tend to think that without the bad to hang in our memories, the good might be lost as well.

Growing up, my family and some friends endured a legendary camping trip — one fraught with torrential rains, a 14-hour sailboat ride (the wind died when we were at the far end of the lake), a gruesome spider bite, keys locked in cars, stolen sleeping bags and a plague of tiny frogs that invaded the cars and the food. For 30 years, this trip has bonded our families, providing laughs and memories and a particularly campy vision of hell.

“It’ll be OK,” I told my morose children. “Someday we’ll laugh about all this.”

“I’ll never laugh again,” they moaned. But they will. There will be more good than bad. There always is.

Editor’s note: Emily and her family did, indeed, make it to their Caribbean destination.

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