It’s warming up, at least here in Texas, and it’s making me think about summer vacation. Even if you are someplace where the snow is still falling, join me for just a moment and daydream of summer. Travel along with me into the memories of our childhood summers. When I was a kid summer meant long lazy days out playing with my friends, and arguing with my mom it was too soon to come in for dinner.
Summer also meant the annual family road trip. At various points in my childhood I lived in New York, Amsterdam and Vienna… and while the destination of the road trips naturally varied accordingly to their starting points, much about each trip remained the same; dad squeezing one more bag into the intricate Tetris puzzle that was our car’s trunk and never stopping for directions; mom smearing suntan lotion on our faces; and my brother and I bickering in the backseat.
Which leads me to this summer. I’m the dad now, with a wonderful wife and a sweet daughter who’s just become a teenager. Is it some sort of amnesia that makes me forget or at least minimize the challenges our parents faced on those long family road trips? Instead it’s all a blur in my head of slightly faded, white-edged photos of us at National Parks, European landmarks and road-side diners. Am I crazy to feel the urge to hit the road for days in such close proximity?
Sure our daughter may not fully appreciate National Park ranger talks or the historical markers, and may not even remember them when she gets older. But we, the parents, will remember. And someday these soon-to-be halcyon tinted memories will be all we have of these times when our daughter still wanted to spend time with us… the days when she still thought dad’s a kinda cool guy. So, the teen-age eye-rolling at my dad jokes notwithstanding, let’s go on a road-trip!
Ah, but then that leads to the question where should we go on a trip this summer? I know my wife’s first vote would be Disney World. And if my 13 year old got a vote she might pick that, too. Still there’s a part of me, and I know it has to do with my childhood trips, that just wants to head out across America; get on old Route 66 and follow the blue highways west. Summers in Texas are very hot, so the allure of Colorado’s cool mountains is strong. Maybe a cabin rental on a creek?
I remember one childhood trip where for hundreds of miles we encountered road signs every 20 miles or so exhorting us to stop and “SEE THE AMAZING THING!” That sort of thing is quite irresistible to little boys. So as the miles went by and we passed more and more signs for the “AMAZING THING” my brother and I begged for my dad to stop when we got there. And to his credit, he did. It turned out the AMAZING THING was a bit less than amazing… but that’s not the point.
The point is that in life it’s not all about destinations nor is it just about stopping and smelling the roses… sometimes you have to stop and smell see the amazing things. My late father raced through his life, his eyes firmly fixed ahead on the next milestone… except sometimes, the rare sometimes, he stopped and let us see some pretty amazing things… things that surround us if we only pause and look. So, I’d like to do an old fashioned road trip sometime soon.
How about you? What are your plans this summer? Do or did you travel with your kids? What generated the best memories? Was it thrilling theme parks, amazing mountain vistas, playing in the surf, or perhaps jetting to far off places? They say “life is about the journey, not the destination.” I think they are right in many ways. So, whatever you choose for your next family trip, please if you can, try to make time to stop and SEE THE AMAZING THING! You can bet I will.