Family Vacations

by Kim on June 1, 2010

During my childhood, I only had 2 real family vacations. I have vivid memories of both of these vacations – I can remember the tiniest details of each trip. Traveling in the car through the countryside made quiet an impression on me. Other than visiting my mother’s brother in Indiana or going to Cedar Point for the day, we stayed close to our home in Ohio. It was a real treat to venture for an extended trip on a “real” vacation.

My childhood vacation in Tennessee

The first vacation was when I was seven. My Mom grew up in mountains of Tennessee  (See: The Story part of Family History) and though she left the hills when she was young, her brother and his family still lived there.  My older brother, my Mom & Dad, and my two sisters and I fit into a borrowed truck with an attached camper on the back and we drove to Tennessee. We stopped at roadside picnic tables to retrieve the prepared fried chicken with honey from inside the camper. Mom thought it would be a good meal for our travels because stopping to eat along the way at a restaurant was too expensive and fast food was not very available. We loved the chicken with honey, but the bees loved it too and swarmed us as we tried to eat it. My dad’s potato salad (See: Schlumgolian ) and Kool-aid rounded out the lunch-time meal. It was a perfect lunch for a family with kids.

The Smoky Mountains

Before we went to my Uncle’s house, we spent some time in the mountains at a camping ground. We feared the bears and stayed close to the camper during the day. There was something about this trip that made my mom anxious. She was not enjoying herself and perhaps her anxiety rubbed off on us. I thought at the time that she was afraid of the bears as well, but found out later  – much later – that she was claustrophobic in the camper. She couldn’t sleep at night and stepped out to be able to breathe, only to be chased back inside by mosquitos. She later remarked that she grew up without indoor plumbing or electricity, and by cooking over wood. She had absolutely no appeal for camping. It reminded her of her tough upbringing and she liked the comforts of home. Camping was a means to an end, as we could afford to take this vacation in the camper. We would not have been able to pay for a hotel room for sure (see My Dad – the Original Organic Gardener).

We visited a Cherokee Indian reservation in the Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and watched an exhibition and tribal dance that the natives put on for visitors. Bears lived in the area and we saw a baby bear just off the road. We wanted to hug it – thinking it would be like our stuffed animals at home. But my mother was aware that the Mama bear some distance away would be protective of her cub and Mom kept us away.

After a few days of camping, we arrived at my uncle’s home in Eastern Tennessee – near Cumberland Gap. He lived in the country, near a pond and a wooded area. We warmed up pretty quickly to our older boy cousins and were playing outside. Cousin Bruce pushed us on their swing set. Mom came off the porch and asked us if we had seen Jane – my youngest sister who was 3. We didn’t know where she was. Panic surrounded us when my Mom ran inside the house, then back outside shouting her name. Mom started out into the wooded area near their property, shouting her name more and more loudly. She instructed my Dad to check near the pond. Neighbors quickly sensed that an emergency was occurring and dropped their activities to join in the search. Eventually someone called the sheriff to report my missing sister. My Mom started to cry and she N-E-V-E-R cried. I went back into the house to see if I could find her and looked under beds and in closets, but there was no evidence of my sister anywhere. After what seemed like an eternity, my aunt came out of the house carrying my sister. Jane became tired after playing outside and retreated to one the bedrooms to take a nap. She had crawled under a makeshift mattress on the floor that we slept on the previous night. It had been propped up to dry when one of us wet the bed the night before. She was under it far enough to conceal her nap. Afterwards, Mom seemed as protective as the Mama Bear that we had seen a few days earlier. She kept a watchful eye on us all. She enjoyed visiting with her brother and sister-in-law, but we could tell she was ready to return home.

Our second vacation didn’t happen until I was in high school. My dad’s favorite childhood cousin had come to town for a visit and asked my Dad to return to Michigan with him for a week. My Dad was unemployed and it was easy for him to take the week off. This cousin lived near a lake located on back side of a state park in Machinaw City. They intended to fish for a week – just like they did in their younger years when they were free and unencumbered with family. The following week then, we would drive to Michigan to visit for a few days and drive back with my Dad.

The trip to Michigan was in our family car and it held 6 of us. It was crowded  and we even took a tent with us as there wasn’t room in the their house for us all. My younger sister’s boyfriend came with us and my Mom forced my Dad to sleep outside with the kids to make sure that all was totally proper. We all drove north to visit the locks at Sault Ste. Marie and even ventured into Ontario, Canada. It was a big deal that we left the United States – even if it were only for 1 hour.

The thing that impressed me the most was the blueberries. We strapped the handle of gallon plastic water jugs that had been cut back at the top to our belt loops and set out in the woods to pick blueberries. I ate twice as many as I put in my gallon container. I tried to conceal how much I ate, but the blue on my teeth gave it away. We still came back from the woods with gallons of blueberries. For dinner, we celebrated with blueberry pies and cobbler. It was probably the best dessert I ever had.

We drove home as quickly as we could. We now had 7 in our Chevy Impala and with 4 in the back seat, we couldn’t get home fast enough. It really was an adventure to go on vacation. But sometimes just the process of getting away makes you appreciate home even more.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Malik June 4, 2010 at 2:02 am

interesting story, makes me think of my childhood. I miss those days :)

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