Today’s prompt: Your favorite childhood vacation
As far as favorite childhood vacations go, I think I’m supposed to say Walt Disney World. Certainly, that was a fantastic and memorable trip and I would have named it as my favorite several years ago. As I have gotten older, though, I find myself reminiscing more about the time we spent at my Grandma McGuire’s house every summer. There was nothing big or fantastical about our trips and they were rote and repetitive but there was something satisfying about them that I find myself now craving.
Every summer, my family would load up our giant Starcraft van and drive from Conneaut Lake, Pennsylvania to Janesville, Wisconsin, my mom’s hometown. We would mostly drive through the night, starting right before dinnertime, so that my sister and I would sleep most of the way. The back bench of the van folded down into a bed and she and I would be et up with all kinds of blankets, pillows, stuffed animals, and books to keep us cozy and occupied. There was also a small TV with VHS player in the van. My parents would pop in a tape of six hours of Looney Tunes cartoons and we’d be off. I loved looking at the stars and highway lights as I drifted off to sleep; they have me a sense of excitement and adventure. When I woke up, we would be in a new city, the ultimate adventure for a small person.
Once in Wisconsin, we would spend most of our time at my grandma’s house, where my Uncle Stanley also lived, though we would stay at the Best Western. At grandma’s house, we mostly watched TV or played in the tiny backyard. We also ate lunch on the front porch or went to the elementary school’s playground down the street. Rock River was right behind it and often the ducks and geese would find their way to the playground, looking for people to feed them.
On what I deemed “special days”, Uncle Stan would tell us stories. They were usually stories about family members, but he made them entertaining and fantastical, almost like these were fairy stories he had experienced firsthand. His voice inflections, facial expressions, and hand movements combined to make mundane stories into entertaining epics. I loved sitting at his feet to listen. My favorite was when he and his ex-wife took his daughter and four step-children to Walt Disney World in a car that had no brakes.
Each summer, we would take two day trips, to mix things up, to The House on the Rock and to Noah’s Ark waterpark. I loved going to The House on the Rock and exploring the different collections and learning new things. My favorite room was the nautical room with a gigantic replica of Moby Dick the whale and a coin-operated animatronic octopus band that played The Beatles’ “Octopus’s Garden”. Noah’s ark was always a fun, thrilling day but what I remember is that my dad never participated, choosing to wear his jeans and polo shirt and following us around to take pictures.
When the week was over, we’d pack up the Starcraft again to drive to Paducah, Kentucky, where my dad’s sister lived, and spend a week there before going home. Perhaps I loved those vacations so much because there was a sense of going and doing. Perhaps I loved it so much because so many of those people are gone–– Grandma and Uncle Stan, my other uncles Mick and Jim, and even my mom. I can’t get back what I had and so maybe I crave it even more. I wonder what else I’ll permanently lose and crave as my life goes on.