I was in love with the movie “The Great Outdoors” growing up.
It was right up there with “Vacation” in terms of how it spoke to my family’s epic DIY vacations in the 80s. While Chevy Chase’s “Clark Griswold” nailed my father so much so that we’re still calling him that, 35 years after Vacation debuted (they even looked alike, for crying out loud)…
…if there was a second-place slot for a movie that could reduce me, mom, and sis to tears of laughter, and an equally lovable, well-meaning, ohhh-so-overly ambitious and uncannily familiar movie dad who juuust wanted to have that “perfect, fun-filled family vacation” –
– the movie was The Great Outdoors. And that dad was John Candy’s Chet Ripley.
Somewhere along the way growing up, I also actually fell in love with the real great outdoors. These movies – and all those family road trips and boat trips as a kid – might have had something to do with it. Heck – I even ended up buying a vacation home in the Sierra Nevada mountains very near the lake where The Great Outdoors was filmed.
But also somewhere along the way, my dad died. For a while, our adventures together as a family of three were muted… But in 2001 mom and I took a trip to Italy with friends, and I knew then that I could and should fill the very big shoes left for me.
And so I stepped boldly into my new role of “family vacation planner extraordinaire”.
I had to, you see –
I’m my father’s daughter.
I mean, everyone had fun on vacation growing up – thanks to dad – but I really had fun. I had fun during all of it. I had fun during the planning, during the plotting of the route on the road atlas, during the precision-packing of the car, during the scrapbooking to document our adventures when they were all over (especially during the scrapbooking!)…
I even had fun when things inevitably went wrong, and we had to problem-solve our way back on to the family fun track. I got a rush from watching how my dad did it; I knew I could do it, too. Those moments were precious to me; they might be the most valuable things I took away from all those trips. I learned that nothing was ever perfect, but that every imperfect thing could be amazing. It was all in how you rode out those moments of imperfection.
So along comes summer 2018.
It’s 30 freakin’ years after I first saw The Great Outdoors. I am 40 years old and, ironically, it’s exactly 25 years since my dad’s passing (on July 1, 1993). What does this Clark/Chet think we need?
A good old-fashioned fun-filled family vacation. At the cabin (complete with a screening of The Great Outdoors, of course).
Because “we’re a family, for crying out loud!”
Dad would be proud. It very nearly took plastic surgery to remove our goddamn smiles.
See all our pictures of our summer family vacation in the mountains here.