Brian McGrory

Staycation, all I never wanted

By Brian McGrory
Globe Columnist / February 25, 2011

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Please forgive any typos today. Forgive bits of bad punctuation, the curt tone, sentences that may not be grammatically correct.

Any moment now, I expect agents to kick down the front door of my house, point Taser guns in my direction, and frantically scream, “Department of Children and Families. Up against the wall.’’

“What’d I do?’’

They’ll point to the two young girls at the kitchen table sipping V8 Splash and eating buttered rice cakes as they draw pictures of happy ponies, and say, “Kids, home, February break? You are despicable.’’

They’re right, I probably am, but believe me when I say I’m paying for it. You see, we are trying something at my house that I don’t think has ever been done in my town before, something so daring as to be virtually unmentioned in public. We are staying around for vacation week. If the kids wanted Disney, that’s perfect: they’ve got a whole channel of it on TV.

So far, it’s going great — great enough that I’d like a few minutes alone with the sick, twisted freak who invented February break. That person probably has the last name Killington, or maybe Stowe.

I’m new at this, new at kids, new at suburbia. But am I really the first to notice that the novelty of winter is long over? The snow has turned from white to black, the wind whips in from the Plains. This is a good time to take a week off?

It is if you can get away, which most of my town appears to have done: Colorado resorts, Florida theme parks, Caribbean beaches.

We tried something different. We tried applying a little common sense. We tried taking a stand against every airline and hotel chain that jacks up prices on vacation weeks to the point of searing physiological pain. The kids’ mother also tried making fresh mango smoothies with Coco Lopez, turning up the thermostat, and telling them to pretend we were someplace warm.

No luck.

Truth is, I was fueled not just by dollars, but by sepia images of February breaks of yore, weeks that were spent merrily shooting baskets at the gym, or sledding down gently sloping hills, or doing everything in my limited power to stay out of my parents’ hair.

Back then, boarding a plane for vacation was as likely as joining an Apollo mission to the moon.

My mother and father knew exactly what they were doing; they knew I didn’t need a passport to have a sense of place.

Even the noblest experiments can fail, and so it was that by Monday of this break, people were beginning to crack. Caroline’s strep was giving way to Abigail’s headache. There was whining and crying — though that was mostly me. The wind whipped against the windows, the yard was crusted in ice, and the same “iCarly’’ episode seemed to be playing for hours at a time.

“Why not call Claire,’’ I’d ask the kids. She’s in the Rockies. “How about Eliza?’’ Vermont.

Seriously, you could drop a bomb in the center of our town and there wouldn’t be anyone around to care.

By Wednesday, all good intentions had given way to the staggering reality of uninterrupted time at home with even very good kids. Their mother, Pam, is the most patient person I’ve ever met. She had also chewed through her nails and was starting on her actual fingers.

So I announced from the computer, “I’ve found $200 fares to Fort Myers.’’

She looked over my shoulder and said, “That’s Fort Wayne. And those are buses.’’

Small details. I wasn’t the one going, anyway. But I’d already lost them. SpongeBob was making Krabby Patties on the television. The forecast was for wind-whipped rain. And in my head the song kept playing, “Fly Me to the Moon.’’

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at