A Family Holiday

I am in Switzerland on a camping holiday with my family. I am nearly 18. My brother is two years younger. We are going to Lutzern for the day. My brother doesn’t want to wake up in the morning. He doesn’t want to go anywhere with the family. My mother won’t leave him behind. My brother has hair down below his shoulders. My father would prefer not to be seen with him. My father starts shouting at my brother to get up. He should get a hair cut. He should wear different clothes. My mother tells my father to leave my brother alone. My father shouts at my mother – she always takes Andy’s side, she’s not doing him any good, can’t she see that it’s not OK for Andy to be like this etc etc. They don’t know that he’s stoned most of the time. My mother just contradicts what my father says – almost like an echoing bark back – in a gripped snapping voice. She doesn’t say anything to stop the argument. Somehow we get to Luzern and wander around the old town and across the painted bridge at the end of the lake. My father won’t speak to my mother. He tells me or my brother to pass information to my mother if he needs anything. He doesn’t speak to her for several days after this. My mother acts as if nothing is the matter. The atmosphere is frosty. No one is feeling very jolly. We get back to the mountain camp site on the edge of Grindelwald. Orders are issued and we have dinner at one or other restaurant we frequent. I drown care in fabulous food and go back to the camp site intoxicated with the food and wine and beauty of the place and avoiding my family members. A few days later, after another of these rows, I run away and hitch a lift into Luzern but am foiled by the kindly driver and his friend who take me to the police station. Eventually the camp site manager, also the local mayor, comes to collect me. He doesn’t recriminate. I am angry enough with my family at this point to not care about what comes next. He gently says all families have fights and it’s OK. My parents are abashed when I come back and say nothing about it all except that I can’t sleep in my little tent, I must sleep in the caravan with them and my brother. A few days later, back in France, my dad says, “When you write your memoirs, you’ll remember this.” This isn’t what I want to hear. I want someone to say we shouldn’t behave like this, or that it doesn’t much matter what Andy looks like, it’s not a reflection on his parents, or that there are other ways to deal with conflict. And no one makes a joke. Return to stories menu