It’s summer vacation time! Each day Facebook postings include photographs of friends at points of interest around the country from Disney World to Disneyland. On the highway I see cars and minivans bearing all the signs of a family vacation.
When I see those photos or the vacation-bound cars I am reminded of our vacation trips when my children were young. We could not afford lengthy trips to the coasts but we did try to take a trip every summer. Every vacation left us with some precious (and some not so precious) memories.
One summer we vacationed with my youngest brother and his family at a brand name motel in Independence, Missouri. We had stayed there a few years earlier and found the motel to be a good value. Things had slipped, however, and when we prepared for bed the first night we discovered that our bed was wet. Apparently earlier in the day housekeeping had put fresh linens on a soaked mattress. Upon close inspection the odor convinced us that the moisture was not a spilled soda.
The folks at the front desk were reluctant to do anything about the problem but after the volume of my voice had increased sufficiently they found another two-room suite in the hotel… around 11:30 p.m.
When I spoke with the manager the next morning I discovered he had the communication skills of a bowling ball.
My son has long been a die-hard Chicago Cubs fan. Actually, he’s a die-hard baseball fan period and we attempted to include a professional baseball game on every vacation itinerary. On this particular visit to Chicago, the Cubs were playing the St. Louis Cardinals and, we quickly learned, our seats were among those of a large delegation of Cards fans.
We also quickly learned that the elderly woman sitting next to us had been a St. Louis fan since the days of the St. Louis Browns. The delightful lady regaled us with stories from her years of baseball fandom including the time she saw Babe Ruth play. Her memories gave us wonderful vacation memories.
A trip to St. Louis included a visit to the Gateway Arch. In spite of some phobias in the family (my son hates heights and I suffer from claustrophobia) we purchased tickets for the ride to the top of the arch. The female members of the family enjoyed the experience much more than the guys. Upon returning to terra firma my son and I agreed to never do that again.
Keeping the kids’ minds on something other than fighting on long drives can be a challenge. On one trip I told the kids I would give five dollars to whoever spotted an Alaska license plate or a Hawaii license plate. Within a couple of hours they had found both. I was ten bucks poorer but enjoyed the temporary lack of fighting in the back seat.
Over the years my wife and I had several times invited our two adult children to join us on a vacation but the invitations were politely declined. After their mother died in January 2013 I suggested that we needed a family vacation more than ever. They agreed.
I asked them to select a destination. Like their father, both are history fans and in early July we headed east toward Gettysburg and Baltimore. We arrived in Gettysburg a couple of days after the big 150th anniversary of the bloody Civil War Battle that took place there. We took the bus tour and then spent time exploring on our own.
The Port of Baltimore is where my then 10-year-old great-grandfather and his parents entered the United States in 1867. That fact, a visit with a delightful niece and many points of interest made for a great visit.
Perhaps the time we spent together on the highway is what made that vacation so special. Throughout the week, especially during the drive, Cindy’s absence was agonizingly palpable. Shakespeare wrote, “To weep is to make less the depth of grief.” Though we did not wallow in grief, tears were shed during that vacation and those tears were truly therapeutic.
In spite of their mother’s absence, my children and I remember that vacation fondly.