A Summer to Remember
Is it June already? Is school out? Is Mom making lists,
while Dad consults the maps?
It’s time for summer vacation!
I make it a point to not take summer vacations. Fighting
crowds and traffic and paying double what I’d pay for the same room in
October or April does not appeal to me.
None of that used to make one bit of difference. I don’t
have to dig too far back in my aging mind to remember fondly the Vacations
of Summers Past.
Maps? Those were Daddy’s job. He would carefully plan a
route and then write it down. The map and directions would then become Mom’s
job. That’s where things often fell apart. I recall bouncing around in the
backseat — the right side was mine, divided by pillows from “the far side,”
which was my sister’s. Still today, my sister and I treat vacations
differently. Her plans can include sleeping near the Lost River in a tent
and riding a mule from campsite to campsite. Mine include down pillows and
Maps puzzled Mom, but she remained quiet and pleasant
during her navigation duties. Daddy? Not so much. Mom would have the maps
turned every which way, sometimes upside down. She was small, and often the
map was wider than her reach. I guess our favorite bit of family map lore is
when Mom happily suggested, “Why don’t we swing by and visit Harry and
Imogene? It’s only two inches out of our way!”
Daddy was also in charge of packing the car. To this day,
I have never seen anyone so adept at car packing than my father. I like to
think I have followed in his footsteps, but without a family of four to
dress and feed, I will never know.
As I sit here at my desk, I gaze out on the screened
porch, and there is Sanibel Sam. Sam is a 10-foot driftwood stick that looks
exactly like some sort of benign sea monster. He rode home from Sanibel with
us with his head sticking out one window of our bright-orange Hornet, and
his tail out the other. It was difficult to enjoy the backseat ride with
Sam, but heaven forbid anyone should complain. How Sam, or we, survived the
1,000-plus-mile ride, I do not know.
Once, Daddy decreed that we would no longer each have a
suitcase for vacation. We’d pack everything in a giant old metal trunk our
grandparents gave us. It was lined in bright-blue fabric.
It rained mightily during our drive to Okracoke Island.
When we reached the Pony Island Motel, Daddy carried that huge trunk up the
steps, bent under the weight like some pipe-smoking Sherpa. Imagine our
dismay to discover, upon unpacking, that the trunk had leaked and every
stitch of clothing was splotched with bright blue stains. Thank heavens
tie-dye was just coming into fashion.
I hated Okracoke. There were sand fleas, and crabs, and a
seasickness-inducing ferry ride to reach our destination. There was nothing
whatsoever exciting for a 16-year-old to do. The family vacation lore from
that trip is this: “Margo lounged in the room and ate Lifesavers for two
weeks.” I was indeed addicted to wintergreen Lifesavers at the time. I
haven’t had one in years, but don’t get me started.
We had some excitement about an hour after we checked in.
Mom was putting groceries away, and discovered a couple of handguns and some
cash hidden in the cupboard. Daddy, Mr. Career Lawman, was beside himself
A few hours later, two scruffy dudes knocked on the door.
Daddy, wearing his shoulder holster and gold badge (these items traveled
everywhere with us), opened it.
“Forget something, fellas?”
“Uh, no … wrong room. Sorry.”
No one in our little family will ever forget “The Okracoke
Hat.” It was a horrid thing, the type of fashion fathers adore, but that
makes teenagers cringe and hide in the room, eating Lifesavers. We detested
that hat. He wore it on every subsequent vacation. And, on every subsequent
vacation, my sister or I would sneak it into the freezer while he was
Thus began a family vacation tradition of freezing various
people’s possessions overnight. Or worse. One morning, my sister and I awoke
to discover our bathing suits were floating in a cooler filled with icy
For some reason, right this minute, I am sitting here at my computer and I
cannot stop laughing.