Summertime makes me think of hot vinyl car seats.
Early July is when my family would leave on our annual summer vacation. We would scramble to pack the car, the camper would be attached to the hitch of our green American-made car, and we would head out. As my father felt the camper bounce off the end of the sloped driveway and onto the street he would announce loudly, â€œI’m on vacation!â€ And we were.
I was allowed to bring my book bag filled with whatever books I wanted to read, some pens and paper. When I was young I didn’t have much of an idea exactly where we were headed, but I knew I would have my book bag along and deciding what would go inside made me feel as if I had some control over whatever happened next.
I always thought I was lucky to have only one sister, as we both got a window and could draw a line down the center of the backseat delineating the LINE OF DEATH which the other could not cross, as the car heated up and the vinyl seats became sticky. But there were actually very few territorial disputes as I recall. Our small dog rode in the front and would only jump into the backseat when my mother opened the thermos of coffee, forever reminding her of the one and only time (long ago but never forgotten) when she had spilled hot coffee.
Because we wanted to cover a lot of miles during the day, we would have lunch in the car, picnics of tuna fish sandwiches and milk that was a little too warm (poured into green plastic cups) that we washed down with homemade cookies. One year we all got the stomach flu while camping in our little tent trailer and I have never been able to look at corn chips in quite the same way since.
There was no VCR or CD player but I don’t remember being bored. I remember watching the landscape go by: endless power lines and wheat fields and pasture. I made up stories and acted them out for my sister using my hands and feet as performers; nothing else was required.
I know we went to a lot of wonderful places. There are photos of us climbing in the mountains and visiting the National Parks, and driving all the way to the ocean. We camped and swam and saw lots of beautiful sights.
But the funny thing is, I don’t really remember much about the camping or the hiking, the mountains or the waterfalls. When I think of those vacations now, what I remember is getting thereâ€” wherever â€œthereâ€ was. It was getting there that made the trip. I remember dad’s singing and mom’s cookies, entertaining my little sister, and watching the landscape fly by with no obligation other than to sit right where I was and be reasonably quiet.
And I remember my book bag, the wonderful feeling of having a supply of adventures waiting for me, ready when I needed them.
I’m going to try to have that kind of July vacation. I’m going to try to capture the peace I felt watching the landscape go by, the unhurried fun I had with my sister, singing with my dad and eating cookies and milk. When I head out on vacation, I’m going to try to remember that it is the journey that counts.
I’ve got my book bag all packed and ready to go. I may not need to go anywhere at all.
Till next time,