Lisa Kogan
Illustration: John Ritter
Allow me to paint an idyllic little picture for everybody: The father (sort of rumpled, sort of sexy) holds branch-skewered marshmallows over an open fire as his two sleepy children nestle in their mother's (aerobically fit) lap. They've spent a sunshiny day swimming in an azure blue lake. They've picked wild blackberries and climbed apple trees. They've torn up stale hot dog buns and tossed them to the ducks. They've taken turns burying each other up to their necks in the warm, sugary sand. Look...I know you don't find sand at a lake, but for God's sake, work with me here.

I'm trying to say something about the proverbial summer getaway, about tire swings and drive-in movies, hot August nights and motels with an ice maker and soda machine down the hall. I'm giving you the secret to achieving the perfect family vacation, which is really just a simple matter of (spoiler alert: don't read on if you don't want to know) making yourself part of the perfect family.

It turns out there's a shockingly long waiting list to get into the perfect family; apparently there are only seven perfect families currently residing in the U.S. and they rarely have any openings. In other words, if you haven't already filled out the paperwork and gone through the interview process, you're pretty much doomed to a lifetime of trips chock-full of tick bites and sunburns. Unless...

"Johannes," I call, in a futile effort to wake the love of my life, the father of my child, the man who strongly believes that the world has become entirely too commercial, "we're going to Disney World!"

"Huh? What time is it?" he murmurs, rubbing his eyes and burrowing deeper into the quilt.

"We'll see Space Mountain and get Goofy's autograph and—"

"Wait, why would we go to—"

"Of course you're right, my love! Why would we go to Disney World when we can go on a whole Disney cruise? You really are a genius, darling. I totally agree. A cruise it is!"

"But..."

"Honey, it's really late, you've just got to let me get some sleep now."

"But..."

The poor bastard never knew what hit him.