We were sitting around eating pizza in a Park City, Utah pub after a day on the slopes. The topic of family vacations came up and story telling began about memories of our worst experiences as a kid or teenager. Admit it?we all have them. Parents and teens are the equivalent of oil mixing with water. I too was a rebellious, idiot teenager, who tormented my parents. More slices arrived and our stories escalated from Steve’s 3000-mile southwest car trip in a station-wagon, with no air conditioning to horrific hair consequences if you missed the bus. My friend Deb described losing a large chunk of her dark brown mane as a result of getting a curling brush caught in her hair. We listened intently as she described a fateful school morning, when too much coiffing made her late. Her Dad took the matter into his own hands (with scissors) to relieve her of her problem. She lost some hair but made the bus! We all erupted with sighs and laughs of disbelief. I too was scarred by experiences as a teenager and was in a constant state of trying to act cool and be seen doing cool things…unsuccessfully, I might add. The ultimate horror in my late teens was realized in the form of a family summer vacation, where my request to stay home and work, was vehemently denied. I was almost 17 that summer. I told this fated story to my friends and we agreed it was one of the worst (or at least infamous) family vacations ever.
(Taken from the book, I’ve Gotta Pack and the chapter, My Introduction to Travel)
As I made my way into my rebellious teens, the family vacation was taken to new heights with the addition of a 24-foot used RV that my Dad had proudly purchased. We had graduated to RV camping and my parents promptly started planning the ultimate destination. To my horror, they announced that the family would take a week that summer and visit Charlotte, North Carolina to stay at the PTL (Praise the Lord) headquarters, Fort Heritage Resort and Waterpark. I was shocked. I was about to spend my summer vacation in the vicinity of the crazy Tammy Faye Baker, who cried, prayed and spewed black mascara all down her face, all on national television. Despite my angry protests and comments saying, “Can’t we go somewhere cool?” I was unsuccessful in deterring my parents. The RV was stocked then loaded and I pouted, but tried to make the best of it. We arrived in the blistering hot south and drove into the entrance of the PTL and followed manicured roads into the campground area. Camping there was not so rustic but in the midst of a teeming city with smiling parents and energetic kids everywhere. I volunteered to chaperone Ben and Charla at the kids’ area and waterpark most everyday and did everything I could to avoid activities that were anywhere near the PTL Worship Center Complex. I was mostly successful, but my mom and grandma who had joined us on this trip, announced one night at dinner that they had gotten tickets for the whole family to see a live taping of the Jim and Tammy show the next night. So, of course, we all had to wear our Sunday best for this event, and my Mom marched us all over to the facility amongst hundreds of others, all of whom apparently looked excited at the prospect. I was the doubting Thomas of the group, having decided that the whole thing was just “too much” and too “over the top” to be real. My theory would prove to be true years later, but at that moment, I sat and watched, Live – PTL evangelism and money making in its heyday. As I fidgeted in my seat, I witnessed tearful testimonies and prayer, hand-clapping hymns, impassioned messages and hands held high in spiritual acknowledgement. And true to form, Tammy with microphone in hand, blubbered on about forgiveness and love through her tears, all the while patting at her mascara-stained cheeks. I was moved, as were many people were in the audience, but I was moved by the absurdity of this spectacle. Luckily, that night was near the end of the week, so shortly after, we packed up and headed north. I could not wait to get back home and get back to work at my summer job and something more normal.
Thankfully, I (and my family) can look back now at laugh at that trip and recognize its place in our family’s impressive collection of trips. Today, I can appreciate the fact that I saw PTL live and the now disgraced Baker’s have played a small role in shaping my opinions, as they exist today. The word forgiveness comes to mind and I will always remember it to be one of the pillars of the Christian religion and faith I grew up with. I have since forgiven my parents for forcing me to go on an evangelical summer vacation as a teen and I have also forgiven the Baker’s for taking some tithe money from dear grandma. I hope my parents have forgiven me for being a sassy, challenging, mouthy, know-it-all teenager.
My only regret about my time spent at PTL that summer was forgetting to buy this t-shirt.