It’s the night before I usually post and I haven’t written anything yet. And I’m tired. So no deep thoughts, just highlights from summer vacations through the years.
As a girl I could count on going to North Carolina for about a week every summer. All our extended family was centered there, and it was usually the only time we got to see them. We packed in visiting as many of them as possible, ate lots of good food, created our own versions of a southern accent, and played with our cousins from dawn til dusk.
Far fewer were the actual family vacations we ever took.
Just like in my childhood, we have taken the occasional special trip for a long weekend, but grander plans are few and far between.
I have jumbled memories as a child of going on three big family vacations. In no particular order, the first of the big three that I always think of was a trip to Mackinac Island. I had no idea until many years later how far from home we traveled – half the distance of going to North Carolina!
If I’m connecting the right memories with this trip, we started driving north and stopped for the night at one of those drive up to the door motor inns. There was an old metal swing set, like in our backyard, and a sandbox in the courtyard surrounded by the u-shaped drive. We played outside until dark, and then we went down the road to a drive-in theater and watched movies late into the night for the first time.
The next day we must have driven over the famous bridge, though I don’t remember that part. We took a ferry to Mackinac. There were no cars allowed. They had horses and buggies and bikes.
We walked all over the place, and rented bikes for a while. I remember my older sister going ahead of me down a long hill that ended at the water of the great lakes, and I thought for sure she was going so fast she was going to sail right off the dock into the cold waves.
I’m sure we ate at least one meal on the island, and got taffy and fudge, but I don’t remember if we slept there or took the ferry back at night. There would have been at least one more night on the road, no reservations, just stopping when Dad got tired and there was a flashing vacancy sign.
I’ve held onto the free feeling of that trip my whole life. For once there weren’t meetings or church services to plan around. We could go where we liked. Dad could smoke openly. We could be filthy dirty and not worry about being clean before we climbed into bed, our head full of the adventures of the day.
Even now I love the days we can be aimless like that. Countless times we’ve set off just to be together, the kids demanding to know what we had planned, and my answer: we’re going wherever the wind blows us.
They don’t seem to like it, to crave it like I do.
A second vacation we took to Myrtle Beach. This one had to be planned a little farther in advance to secure a room in a hotel on the beach. We stayed high up in a suite that seemed bigger than the downstairs of our house.
We swam and dove into the waves of the Atlantic, not even conscious of any danger other than the undertow. This was before “Jaws”. I loved collecting shells and pretty rocks, and I could spend hours in the sand and water. I couldn’t get enough of the waves knocking me around.
One of my favorite parts was the outdoor shower at the top of the beach. I’d rinse off as much of the ocean and beach as I could, then go through a gate to the pool for more water time. I was always the first in and the last to get drug back up to the room.
I don’t remember how old I was, but I was young enough to not be embarrassed carrying my shell collection around the hotel in a personal hygiene bag from the bathroom.
There was some sort of carnival going on, maybe it was seasonal for the summer, and we walked around it at night when we couldn’t be on the beach, swooping up and over the ferris wheel, glimpsing the lights reflecting off the waves beyond the buildings.
We ate seafood and lazed around the room at night, everyone reading books or watching tv, feeling like millionaires at the top of the world.
That trip didn’t create my love for the sound of water, the feel of moving in it, salt or fresh, but it cemented it as one of my favorite things to do.
The third adventure was when I was a teenager, and the highlight was visiting Williamsburg, VA. There we really enjoyed the seafood! We toured some restored settlements, and since I loved history and stories, my imagination was filled with the sights and sounds.
Historic Williamsburg made me wonder where exactly my ancestors landed, and whether I had any native American blood in me as I always suspected. In the role playing that went on all around us, I could imagine myself as many of the characters, and I felt I would have loved living in those long ago days.
To this day I still want a fireplace I could stand in, with swinging arms to move huge cast iron pots over and off of the wood fire, cooking gallons of stew for whoever the wind blows in through the hand hewn door of the cabin.
It occurs to me that each of these vacations were to places people thought were worth visiting. But I can’t give you many facts about them.
I’d much rather remember the feelings of sharing the experience with the people I loved most.