Strange things happen on my family vacations, haunting things.

I can’t forget the night my cousin – as a joke – woke the rest of us with a kitchen knife, a Jason mask, and a gait that made the whole appearance seem legitimate. As I type this, I’m not sure I believe it actually occurred.

Don’t misunderstand, cousins made vacations fun. It was really the neighbors we had to look out for. It seemed that whatever neighbors we had acted dubious and creepy. One neighbor wore a mask that covered half his face, and was also sending eerie handwritten letters to the children. Unfriendly to say the least. (Unfortunately, those letters were a conniving trick by my cousins, but I’m sure that man made it to a prison somewhere for doing something else).

Another neighbor, years later, watched us from afar through his binoculars. What he was looking for is not clear, but he definitely had an interest in the people of my family. Only us returning the deed seemed to scare him away. Fight binoculars with binoculars.

Movies haunted us too. What a terror we had when the television went fuzzy right after we watched The Ring, which doesn’t need any extra scares. And when one cousin told the tale of The Blair Witch Project, we thought that was enough for us to grapple with for a fortnight. But the next day, my cousin played fright games with us, involving smeared blood on a doorframe and a hunt through the neighborhood.

And yet, I miss vacation. Growing up, it was like my second home – it was the best two weeks of every year. It’s the first time I have missed it in 21 years, and I’ll probably miss vacation next year. I’m not sure when I’ll go back.

I’m not relieved to have missed this year’s hauntings. Losing vacation might be more haunting than keeping the tradition.

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