Remembering family vacations
Column by by Kay Frances
Summer is upon us and the nation’s highways are bulging with travelers. It reminds me of my own childhood and those long, LONG family vacations.
We traveled by “station wagon” which was a cross between a mini-van and a hearse. My siblings and I didn’t have much to do on those trips except hound my parents. There were no cell phones, iPads, DVD players, video games or electronic devices of any kind to occupy our wandering minds.
We just had to play “The License Plate Game.” It was pretty primitive since there were no personalized plates back then. There were other games which usually involved the winner getting to punch the loser on the arm. I came back from family vacations looking like I had been put into a clothes dryer for two or three hours. (My older siblings have actually put me in a clothes dryer, but that’s another story.)
Since there were no seat belts or car seats, we were just crammed together in the back seat. We spent the majority of our time battling over territory with arbitrary lines drawn down the car seat. Even when we weren’t physically touching, we found plenty to wail about:
“MOM!! He’s looking at me!”
Dad was always in a huge hurry to Get There and our stops were few and far between. Even though we saw seemingly thousands of signs for “Lookout Mountain” — and begged to go there — Dad said we “didn’t have time” to stop. We were lucky we even got to go to the bathroom. Lord help you if your bladder wasn’t synchronized with the rest of the family’s, and it seemed mine never was. We would pull over for gas and to use their restroom and it seemed I never had to go. But, 5 miles down the road, nature would call. Oh, Dad would pull over alright.
Even at the age of 5, the humiliation of having to use the side of the road as a restroom was enough to make me whimper, “I don’t really have to go anymore.”
But, Dad mysteriously found time to stop at every Civil War battlefield.
Every. Single. Battlefield.
We would stand and look out over a grassy expanse as Dad would somberly tell us how many people had died in that particular “bloody skirmish.” After those stories, I had nightmares for days. I still do.
I have to admit, when I see kids in the back seat of a car with headphones on — able to tune out the world — I am a bit jealous. Sticking your fingers in your ears and singing “La La La” was useless.
Still, I wouldn’t trade those family vacations for anything. Kids today will never know the joys and pains of having to use your imagination to endure unpleasant circumstances. And, as an adult, I have been to “Lookout Mountain.” Mom and Dad were right; there really isn’t much to see there. But, at least it didn’t give me nightmares.