As we move into June, I am reminded of my idyllic childhood vacations. Since both my Mother and I followed the school holiday schedule (she was a school social worker), each summer we would take off in one of the cardinal directions to visit family and friends. I remember a red Ford station wagon in the 50's, a blue Rambler wagon in the 60's, and later, a white Rambler Marlin with red interior that Mom let me choose from the used car lot! Heading out west we would camp along the way. Any other trip we would stay a night in a motel.
One such accommodation reminded me of the Bates Motel in Psycho (which I watched as a child with my best friend one night). I timidly checked behind the shower curtain, and was relieved to find it clean and empty. Even so, I was a bit uneasy during our stay. Thankfully, we left without incident, and headed towards our destination.
We stopped often to take a break, and ended up many times at Stuckey's (we never did figure out if the u was short or long). There we enjoyed all things pecan; my favorite being pecan pie. I remember a shop with all sorts of souvenirs; ash trays, toothpick holders, diaries - all stamped with the state we were traveling through. Then there were the pecan goodies: pies, tarts, brittle, and candies.
Our trip to from Chicago to Alaska one summer was memorable, not just because of the distance, but because of the fact that my Mom, in her late 50's now, took a friend along to help with the driving. Nothing unusual about that, except her friend Alvina, had a broken leg. Thankfully, it was her left, so, we were okay, but Mom did most of the driving.
Well, for awhile anyway, until the return trip. We headed down the AlCan Highway, which just happened to be under construction that summer. I don't know if she wasn't paying attention to the road, or lost control, but Alvina drove our red Ford station wagon over the boulders heaped up in the median strip, ripping out the entire underside of the vehicle. Somehow, out of nowhere, a semi came into view, and ended up rescuing us. What an adventure it was for me to sit in the upper bunk of the 18 wheeler as we drove to our lodgings for the night! A missionary family, the Crabbs, whom my mother had contacted in our plight, took us in for the night. We ended up staying with them while our car was being repaired.
In my early childhood, we had an ugly army green Hudson that crawled up the curb and hit a light post with myself and my cousins from NY crammed inside. It seemed that Mom was distracted with something, and didn't notice that one of us was sitting on the shift, and it had launched the car into the drive position. No injuries, just a bit shaken that's all!
Mom loved to be on the go. She drove on the interstate, down country roads, and through fog up in the Rocky Mountains at night. One summer we drove through Yellowstone National Park, and as a large black bear approached the car, I screamed, "Shut the window, shut the window"! She calmly passed it by and moved on. Mom was invincible!
Mom traveled to Europe in her early teens with her own mother, and then later, with me in my early teens. It seemed like a right of passage. I didn't want to go to Europe. I wanted to stay at home with my friends. But, what an experience and education I had! I wouldn't trade it for anything.
We visited family in Bratislava during the summer of 1968. I remember feeling the tension in Czechoslovakia - something in the air. I was afraid for some reason that we would be stuck in that country. My worst fears were soon realized. At the border on our way out, we were detained by the Communist guards because we did not have the correct papers. I sat down and cried, "I told you so!" as Mom deftly but firmly negotiated with them. She had no fear and no foes - only the desire to turn wrongs to right.
Thankfully, her Slovak cousin, John, a communist sympathizer (only to keep his job), vouched for us, so they let us go. A week later, sitting in Wimpy's Burger restaurant somewhere in London, Mom opened the newspaper, only to discover that the Russians had invaded Czechoslovakia. We escaped none too soon!
Every four years, we would take a trip to the World's Fair. First Seattle, then, New York, Montreal and finally, New Orleans, which were spread throughout my childhood summers. Mom took reel after reel of Super 8 movies, but, unfortunately, she moved the camera so fast, that we became car sick reviewing it. Add to that her penchant for cutting heads off in the process and you get the picture. Not much quality footage, but an awful lot to laugh about!
One year we took the Santa Fe railroad from Chicago to California, where we visited neighbors who had moved west a few years before. I vaguely remembered our trip, but did enjoy the challenge of walking from train to train, across the gap between the cars. Here, too, Mom filmed the rolling countryside with her movie camera, scanning the scene instead of holding the camera steady. What resulted was enough to make one cross-eyed.
What adventures we had! I've continued the tradition through the years with my family, and we've had our own brand of misadventures to remember.
What family vacations do you remember with fondness? Do you have a "dream vacation" yet to plan? Let me know in the comments below . . .
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.