I love summer vacations. This is a family tradition that was instilled in me as a small child. At that time we would pack up the family van, attach the pop up camper, and take off for a trip often for three weeks at a time. We explored the Country in this way. Long days on the road with my three sisters (without a Nintendo DS or in car video system!) and evenings around the campfire. These vacations could also be weekends spent at campgrounds in our home state of Michigan or at the cottage my grandparents owned when we were small. The cottage was in Pentwater, Michigan a sleepy town on the shore of Lake Michigan. This humble home with its screen door that slammed shut and colorful tin cups that made the water taste better than anywhere else on earth holds many of my very best memories. On vacations to the cottage we spent days at the beach and playing in the woods surrounding the home. We attended band concerts on the village green sharing boxes of ‘Good and Plenty’. We savored ice cream at the local parlor. The moments spent on summer vacations either around the Country or in our home state proved to be the sweetest of my childhood.
Naturally when I became a parent I wanted to pass on the tradition of summer vacations to my children. We return each August to Pentwater, though the cottage has been long sold, we gather at a campground in town and soak in as much of the atmosphere as we can. Granted, this tradition started out slowly and a bit painfully as we tried to tent camp with young triplets. Let’s just say there were several years that involved tearful drives home (only about an hour away) in the middle of the night. Triplets with colds sleeping on the ground or raging 2am thunderstorms do not create a good camping experience for toddlers. Lesson learned. However, we persevered and continue to this day to savor that weekend in Pentwater each summer. We have since been given the very pop up camper I used as a child. We love the smell of the canvas, the way the light streams in the windows. I love waking up seeing my kids sleeping where I slept with my sisters when I was nearly their age. We love getting ice cream, playing at the beach, and sharing ‘Good and Plenty’ at the town green.
Last summer we took the kids on their first official road trip. We drove from Michigan to South Dakota where we stayed for a week at Custer State Park. The drive was different, kids on their DS and watching DVD’s. But, it was also the same. The kids read, did mad-libs, and asked “how much longer?” We stopped at as many cheesy roadside attractions as we could find: The Spam Museum, The Jolly Green Giant, Wall Drug, Corn Palace to name a few. We spent days hiking and wildlife watching. We visited Mt. Rushmore and Crazyhorse. We slowed down, we laughed, we connected.
Isn’t that what is important? We travel with our children to create memories. We travel with our children to slow down, to have the time and space (12 hours in a car) to really listen. We travel with our children to show them the world outside of our home. In her new book Bread and Wine Shauna Niequist says, “We travel because I want my kids to learn, as I learned, that there are a million ways to live, a million ways to eat, a million ways to dress and speak and view the world. I want them to know that “our way” isn’t the right way, but just one way, that children all over the world, no matter how different they seem, are just like the children in our neighborhood-they love to play, to discover, to learn.”
I love summer vacations. I am looking forward to the memories that will be made in the summer of 2013.