Memories of Summer
By Robert Smyth
e all look forward to summer vacation, a time to relax, unwind, and forget about life for a while. Well, at least that’s what all the TV ads try to sell you. Have you ever noticed that the overweight, haggard people with umpteen kids never go to the beach in TV ads? It’s always this incredibly fit couple with their perfect tans. It’s never the two people who look like they have done a tour of duty in a war zone, dragging a wagon full of beach toys through unforgiving sand, while holding a cooler and a six year old who “can’t walk because her legs are tired.”
My kids are spoiled when it comes to vacations. They usually go with us to conferences that are held in resorts with all types of luxuries. When we go on family vacations, my mom is kind and crazy enough to rent the whole family a beach house. We once told one of our daughters we were going to have to stay in a small hotel the night before we went on a cruise. She asked for a list of hotel amenities. My wife and I just laughed and told her it had a bed and AC. She was appalled.
When I was a kid, we went on a couple of vacations a year. They were both weeklong visits to family. I was lucky enough to have a great-aunt in Tampa, so we got to go to the beach. Later we would make the haul to Ravenna, Kentucky where my dad grew up. We drove in whatever station wagon we owned at the time. I usually rode in the jump seat that faced backwards. For those of us in the car sick club, it was a nightmare.
We stayed with my aunt or grandparents at their homes, never in a motel or a resort with amenities. We didn’t pay for endless activities or eat out much, for that matter. Mom always packed a cooler for the trip and when we got to our destinations we ate at the house. My dad only stopped once for gas and once to eat, so we had to time our bladders. We did not have phones, WiFi, or in car movies. We listened to the radio, played car games, or aggravated our siblings. If I had been one of the lucky few not in car sick club, I could have read. If I had tried that, it would have been a bologna and cheese sandwich explosion of biblical proportions.
After what felt like days of travel over a barren wasteland, we arrived at our destination. The adults sat around and caught up and the kids were expected to entertain themselves. Can you imagine telling kids today to entertain themselves without cell phones, WiFi, or cable? They would meltdown faster than a Popsicle in July. Every minute of every waking hour was not planned with activities like we do for our kids. We only occasionally went somewhere like an amusement park or zoo.
I remember my Momma Nell’s carport that we all sat in at night and the stories our relatives told. I remember the meals she prepared and her wonderful biscuits, gravy, and fried pies. There was a little store and diner down the street called The Wigwam where Momma Nell used to send me for the best chocolate doughnuts. I remember my great aunt Ruth in Tampa playing her Hammond Organ and the drive over to Clearwater to spend the day on the beach. I remember her fish dinners and the fact that they would not run the A/C at night, even though it was 1,000° in her house. The list of memories goes on. That’s what vacations are for, the memories. I hope my children have fond memories of their vacations with us when they grow up, even if they were full of amenities.