I am off for the summer and am lucky that I am part of a profession that gets a few months each year when we are not in classes. I like the extra time to write, read, do a few workshops and conferences, and prepare for fall classes. But I also love the time I get to play with my kid, go to a few movies, and relax a bit. (And yes, I realize that I am lucky and that many folks have very little time off throughout the year. I also realize that some have the time but no money to go anywhere.) Folks give me a hard time about my summers off. My spouse reminds me all the time that having this time off means “I don’t have a real job.” But I do – I love my job and also enjoy my time off. With this time I hope I am making memories with my family like I have from my childhood.
I remember summers at my Grandparents’ house in Dumas, Texas. We would ride horses, work in my Grandma Wiseman’s garden, ride the tractor with my Grandpa, and eat amazing food from their farm. We had some wonderful times. We also spent time with my Nanny, my Mom’s mother, in Slaton, Texas. We walked to the local 5 and Dime, listened to creative “stories” by my Aunt Edna, went to the park to swing, ate chicken spaghetti and red Jello with fruit in it, and played with our cousins. What great times! My mind is full of memories of these extended family visits.
Some of my most vivid vacation memories, though, come from my Mom, Dad, sisters, and me on family vacations as I was growing up. I remember my dad surfing in California and losing his glasses when he wiped out. I remember having a snow ball fight with my sisters in Canada in June. I remember my Mom sitting in the boat when we went water skiing terrified because she did not know how to swim. I remember walking in the woods and playing in creeks in New Mexico and Colorado. I remember my sister, Kim, getting so sunburned that she had four inch blisters on her shoulders. I remember playing board games and cards in the evenings with my family during summer thunderstorms. I remember going to see Old Faithful as a family in Yellowstone. I remember 6 of us driving from Texas to Florida to see my sister after her family moved there—and stopping at the Battleship Alabama on the way. What great times we had … most of the time. These memories will stay with me always.
But more recent memories as a mom are precious to me as well. I remember the first time my son saw Disney World and jumped up and down looking for Pooh and Tigger. I remember taking my parents to see the Statue of Liberty when we lived in New Jersey and seeing the awe in their eyes. I remember watching my nieces riding rollercoasters and water rides with my young son at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri. I remember hand feeding sting rays in the Bahamas with Shelby when he was about 6. I remember seeing New York City’s Times Square through a little boy’s eyes. I remember taking my spouse to a few Broadway plays and feeling like it was THE place I was meant to be. I remember watching with my best friend of 30 years as our kids built sand castles together in Delaware at the beach. And I remember walking across the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado and thinking it was the most beautifully scary place I had ever been. I have some amazing memories and am working on making more this summer.
All of these memories are important to me – whether they are new memories or older ones from my childhood. But it is not the places we went, the sights we saw or the trinkets we brought back with us that are important. What was and is important is the time we spent together. I live too far from my extended family to see them more than once or twice a year, but the memories we share are a constant reminder of how we have lived, laughed and loved together in good times and in bad. My summers off mean spending time with the people I love. So this summer we are heading to North Carolina, Ohio and Chicago for some down time. We will be in the car too much and will not eat the healthiest of foods. We will ask repeatedly for our son to turn down his music and may argue over what to listen to on the iPod. We will pack too much and still get there without stuff we need. We may even get a bit tired of being away from home even when we are gone for just a short visit. But the point is that we are planning time together—intentionally.
We are going to make memories—good ones and maybe a few not so good ones (hopefully not too many bad ones but some oops are bound to happen). We are going to tell stories and create some new ones. That’s the point of summer vacation. And I will cherish those memories forever.