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Let's Talk About...Summer Vacation

Ok. Where did you go for your summer vacation? It's a question wrought with landmines, isn't it? Every spring the pressure to plan an epic summer vacation for you and your family begins. The kids are out of school, the weather is good and so it's a great time to get out and spend some family time together and make some memories you will look back at with a smile and a story.

And you also know you have that distinct responsibility to give the kids something to write about when asked on the first day of school to write the proverbial essay, "What I Did On My Summer Vacation."

What ever happened to staying home, playing in the yard and exploring on your bike with your friends? Those are the summers I remember best.

Although I do remember when I was a kid my parents packed all eight of us into our VW bus, took out the middle seat so we could all sit on our camping gear and sleeping bags (who needed seat belts?), camped at the beach, ate Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup and played pinochle in our tent.

I had a ton of fun. However, I am sure my mom wanted to run for the hills.

These days, especially post-Covid, big summer family vacations seem to be a requirement. Just look at the jam-packed airports. It's a good thing my kids are grown because I don't think I could handle the pressure again.

Let me tell you a story. I remember one year thinking it was a good idea to rent an RV, complete with the words "Explore America" and a photo of the Golden Gate Bridge emblazoned on the side (nothing screams "Tourist Inside" better), and the whole family setting off to Mount Rushmore and the Oregon Trail.

Great idea, right? So, we gathered our camping gear, stocked up with burgers and snacks from Costco, researched how to drive, hook up and empty the thing, packed it all up and set off up I-25.

For the next week, I never worked so hard in my life. I now appreciate what my mom went through.

Here is what I remember from that trip. It was hot. A camper gets small fast with five people in it. I listened to Jim Dale read "Harry Potter" five times. I peeled a lot of apples. I learned that hooking up a camper to a sewer system in the middle of nowhere isn't intuitive.

I also remember the kids were unimpressed when we pulled off the road to stand in the Oregon Trail wagon ruts while I rambled on about pioneers and the history of the West. We snapped a lot of photos of Washington, Lincoln, and some other chiseled guys. We visited Chimney Rock and Independence Rock while I continued to drone on about their significance. We ate Lipton Chicken Noodle Soup. We saw the biggest corn cob in Nebraska.

When we got home, I spent a day scrubbing the smelly camper so we could get our deposit back. I was exhausted from that vacation.

After our Rushmore "vacation," a mother at school told me what a fabulous vacation her family had on the "Windstar," a 50-foot fully crewed sailboat, exploring Fiji and Bali. After describing in great detail the whales and dolphins frolicking next to their boat, the thrill of swimming with manta rays, eating exotic foods and feeling the gentle spray of the sea on their faces together, she asked the inevitable, "What did you guys do this summer?" I mumbled something about sleeping on the dirt and visiting rocks and then I quietly wandered back to my minivan.

But I bet our family's memories are as sweet as those made bobbing in the Pacific. However, memories are tricky. I remember saving all year to take the kids to Disneyland (Disney World was too pricey), one year and like many, we came home bedecked in mouse ears, Tinkerbell sweatshirts, cute backpacks, and memories of "The Happiest Place on Earth." But, today, if you ask my youngest son about that trip, he would say, "Mom, we never went to Disneyland." Sigh. And I bet that other mother's youngest child doesn't remember Bali.

However, my son would tell you he remembers playing lots of miniature golf with his friends at Gateway Park, going swimming, and riding his bike around the neighborhood.

Memories are made wherever you are. Enjoy your summer wherever it takes you.


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