Monday, August 26, 2013

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I really did have to write essays in elementary school answering that question, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.”

Sometimes, answering the question was easy. “We went to Pensacola, Florida,” or “We went to Gatlinburg, Tennessee” (this was before Gatlinburg was discovered and made over as a tourist mecca).

Those were the times when my parents had the financial resources to take a vacation. When they didn’t, my answer to the question might be “I spent a week with my aunt in the Ninth Ward” or “I spent a week with my grandmother in Shreveport.”

Except for my trips to Shreveport, our vacations were always by automobile. I can remember long trips to Washington, D.C., North Carolina, the Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains, and Parris Island, South Carolina when my older brother “graduated” from Marine boot camp. I can also remember short trips to Dallas (Six Flags!), Galveston (revisiting the one family vacation my father knew as a child), and Pensacola.

And on those long trips, I can remember asking – many times – for something to drink because I was thirsty. My father’s response was to hand me a cup of “imaginary water.”

Because me and my siblings were rather chronologically spaced out (eight years between me and older brother and ten years between me and my younger brother), there were a lot of vacations as an only child or as the oldest or youngest child by a wide margin. The benefit of that was a lack of sibling rivalry and fighting in the car. What I remember most about those long car rides was spending a lot of time reading or napping.

The memories I have of those vacations are largely good ones. I loved the mountains, and wading in mountain streams, and hiking up a nature trail in the Blue Ridge to suddenly come upon the entire Shenandoah Valley laid out before us. I also remember the massive traffic jams in Houston and Washington, D.C., and the severe sunburn in Florida. But vacations were good times, fun times, things I remember as fun and different, and things I could write about in September for the inevitable essay question.

Vacations have changed. Now they seem to have to be planned with all the strategic and tactical details of a battle plan. Life seems more complicated, or we’ve allowed it to become more complicated, including how we have to keep the kids from getting bored (which, of course, is the major horror of 21st century culture – boredom).

In The Secrets of Happy Families, Bruce Feiler describes how he talked with the game maker Zynga about what to do to keep children occupied on vacations, particularly for those times when plans might go awry (traffic jams, delayed planes, thunderstorms closing the beach). But tension can happen even when things go well, and Feiler has some good ideas for that as well: “…worry less about eliminating the negatives and focus more on maximizing the positives. One easy way to do that: put away your phone, get down on your kids’ level, and play.”
I like that. Get down on your kids’ level and play.

This month at The High Calling, we’ve been discussing The Secrets of Happy Families. Check the site today to see what Seth Haines has to say about the final chapters in the book, covering vacations, sports, and family reunions.

Photograph by George Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Martha Jane Orlando said...

Your post today brought back so many memories of long drives from Georgia to Massachusetts to spend several weeks with family. No such thing as boredom back then - we just dealt with it.
And, I, too, love Bruce's advice to simply get down on our kids' level and play. Do it all the time with the grandchild!
Blessings, Glynn!

SimplyDarlene said...

"chronologically spaced out" <--- that tickles my funny bone.

did that imaginary water ever lead to imaginary potty breaks? i'm sorry. you don't have to answer, it's just that my mind's eye has come up with all sorts of scenarios after reading this piece.



Laura said...

I love the imaginary water. Sounds like something my dad would have done. Only not so nicely :). We weren't entertained on the long drives. And we were expected to behave despite. Things are different now, aren't they?

Louise Gallagher said...

I had to write those essays too! Except, my trips didn't include names like Ward 8 or Shreveport -- all so romantic sounding to my Canadian ears.

Though I did get to include names like Paris and Nice and Prague, the trips were always fraught with anxiety if only because my father had a hair trigger, and we never knew when it would go off! He was also always up for breaking the rules, which could end up being fun... or not!

Thanks for the memories Glynn -- love your stories.

*Dark Angel* said...

We allowed ourselves to make our life complicated. We are actually responsible for it, we can't blame others! Life was fun while we were growing up, now everything got serious suddenly!

zionriverresort said...

Summer vacations are always something that we look forward to when we are children. However, little do we realize at the time how much work can sometimes be involved in booking the perfect family destination vacation, especially if you are on a budget.

vacation ideas for kids