The great American family vacation. What images does that thought conjure up? A packed car on the way to the beach or the mountains. Rushing to the airport to catch a flight to far away lands. Lying around the backyard pool. We all have our own destinations, but what these trips have in common for all of us are the memories made. Some are good. Some are not. And some form more long lasting memories than others. For me, some years blend together with similar trips to the same place, visiting other family members. They roll into one larger experience of how I see my family now. Regardless of good, bad or indifferent, these trips are all a part of what being a family is about. And all are part of the personal history of each family member.
Mostly we remember the good parts of these trips, but it’s interesting what else we remember. There was a summer when the trip to the Cape was filled with rain and rain and more rain. I don’t know what year it was, or even exactly where, but I remember two things very vividly about that trip. Well, including the rain, it’s three. My mother and father and I went to an auction where my mother bought me a wooden boat model. A pond boat from Camp Calumet. It wasn’t the first one she bid on. The other thing I remember was my dad picking up a hitchhiker. He was a soldier, in uniform, with a duffle bag. And yes, it was raining. I was very surprised because hitchhikers, even back then, could be dangerous. But my dad had no reservation. Maybe because it was during the Vietnam War. Maybe because my dad had been a soldier. That memory has long stayed with me. But I don’t pick up hitchhikers. And I was a soldier too.
We build ties and learn about each other during these trips. And learn about the world and ourselves. I am amazed when I watch my children. Now not so much children any longer.
This will be our trip to the beach. Seven hours in the car. We’ll stop often for me to stretch my back. We will be five people and a load of beach chairs, umbrellas, sand toys, surfboards, a few clothes, and kites. I’m the one who likes the kites. Every year I take them hoping the kids will want to help me fly the kites. But it’s boring for them. Up it goes and then what? I tie it to my beach chair and relax. I’d like to learn to fly.
We’ve made other long trips. The two-day drive to see my parents up north. The long overseas flight to Italy. And a long, overnight train ride to New York. Each different, but each an experience to remember.
I’m not sure exactly what we’ll do on this trip, but it will be special. Partly because it will be our last together as parents and children. Next year they will both be in college, and thus independent grownups. At least they will think so. But we’ll still be family, and we’ll be together making memories. It’s been a while since I’ve been on one of these outings, and I will savor it. Save your family’s personal history. For the future.