“The greatest legacy we can leave our children is happy memories.” -Og Mandino
**Please forgive the photo quality for some of the following photos. Some of them are very old!
When I pack my suitcase for one of our adventures, I rarely acknowledge where my addiction to travel started. Since I’ve been missing my suitcase during the 2020 Pandemic, I’ve been reflecting on how my passion came to be.
On Mother’s Day, I was happy to visit with my parents. In the times of “social distancing,” we were quite frankly, tired of being apart so we threw caution to the wind and spent the day together–big hugs and all! As we made our plans for the day, I asked my mom if I could look through our old family photos. She has piles of them and as I browsed the yellowing pages and flipped through loose, printed photos, I took note that there were no fabulous pictures of foreign lands, no campy cruise photos like the ones that photographers insist you pose for as you board a cruise ship, no old boarding passes, and no travel post cards like the ones we collect when we travel. This wasn’t really a surprise and knowing my parents, I wasn’t really expecting those types of photos anyway.
Instead, as I sorted through the pictures, I was looking for something else; memories! In my search, I realized that my Mom and Dad sparked my love of travel! My Dad worked hard to support his young family and my Mom made it her priority to ensure that my brother and I had a secure and memorable childhood. I was a happy kid and for that, I am eternally grateful. And while I know that world wide travel wasn’t in the budget back then, what I do know is that my parents didn’t hesitate to load us kids into the car for endless road trips.
With family and friends living well above the Mason-Dixon Line, we took countless summer trips to the Upstate New York countryside. This is where I learned to drive a tractor and then a car, rode horses, milked cows, laid down in grass so tall that I disappeared from view, crawled into hay lofts, swam in bone chilling spring pools and streams, marveled at the birth of a calf, and ate corn on the cob freshly out of the field. We loved going to the weekly farm auction, eating cheese curds and curly fries, and watching horse and tractor pulls at the summer fair. I learned to love the small town farm life and appreciate the people who live it.
While in New York one summer, we headed to Niagara Falls, venturing into Canada and looking back toward home from a foreign country for my first time. That was back when Canada wasn’t so foreign–you didn’t need a passport to cross the boarder. Although I distinctly recall the Boarder Patrol questioning everyone in the car. As a kid, of course I didn’t have anything to declare except my favorite stuffed animal but the forceful questioning left an impression. And then, there was the unforgettable, perpetual roar of the falls that we explored from above and below as well as from both sides of the boarder.
My parents took us up and down the East Coast from Maine to Florida. Our family adventures have given us memories that we often laugh about as a family. The most memorable include the perennial apple that my Mom packed as a snack for every road trip–never a cookie to be found! Then there was the odyssey to Florida around my 13th birthday. I think that trip’s main destination was Walt Disney World but for me, the lasting memory of the trip was the journey with four very tall people (and our luggage) packed into a two door hatchback Ford Pinto with no air-conditioning in late June/early July. Needless to say, when my brother starting touching me, my Dad stopped the car with traffic whizzing by along the interstate, seats were exchanged and the touching definitely stopped!
I watched my Dad valiantly attempt to fish in beautiful mountain lakes with only little nibbles or tiny fish not fit for eating as his prize. I have vivid memories of a very hot evening when my Dad and one of our dear family friends hand cranked ice cream on the porch of a State park cabin while sweat poured down their faces. I recall horseback riding and looking for “Fairy Stones” in other State Parks, watching my Mom eat lobster in Maine with a bib around her neck, observing while my Dad packed our cars with military precision, making use of every inch, visiting the ducks at The Peabody Hotel, and an endless afternoon in a hotel pool in Nashville with my brother while my parents ventured off to the Grand Ole Opry (everyone was happy).
Then there are the sweet memories of our favorite family activity, camping. It is amazing to me that we loved it so when our very first camping trip was in a Pop up tent camper and just after setting up, the rain that Noah must have experienced came down leaving us stranded inside with nothing to do. As teenagers, it was torture! Eventually, even my steadfast Dad gave up and we took the contraption down and went home. Damp but not discouraged, we went out again and again. Over time we graduated to newer and bigger campers and disappeared as a family into what my Husband calls the “deep dark woods,” as often as possible, sometimes for weeks at a time.
As I got older, travel also included the addition of Mission trips with my Church Youth group and summer camps as a counselor. That meant that our summers would go something like this: we would come home from New York, wash clothes, pack, and I would head out for a week of camp, come home, wash more clothes, pack again, and head off on a Youth group Mission trip. The summers of my teenage years were busy, glorious and some of the most formative of my life. As a camp counselor, I worked with a woman named Rose Mary, helping her as she cooked in the camp kitchen and worked on craft projects with the campers. Little did I know that she would one day be my Mother in Love! I made lifelong friends as we sat around the camp fire late into the night telling jokes that we thought were funny but turned hilarious as we eventually had to explain them to the most innocent of the group who, after each joke stated, “I don’t get it!”
I have to confess that as I looked through the photos with my Mom, I was a little disappointed that there are so few photos of most of these sweet memories. On the other hand, I am equally relieved to have grown up during a time when we didn’t have a camera or electronic device readily available to expose all of our shenanigans!
I cherish my childhood memories and credit them with my spirit of curiosity, love of fun, adventure and exploration. My love of travel is an affliction for which my parents are to blame and from which I never wish to be cured. It is also a condition that I still love to share with my parents when we are able, with friends as often as possible, and that I hope to pass on to anyone willing to come along. As an adult, I am so very blessed to have a partner who loves to travel as much as I do, if not more so and that together, we have been able to go to places that I never thought I would see. And to think, it all started long ago with a road trip to New York!
Thanks Mom & Dad! I love you both!