This week’s question is another one involving travel/vacations. That’s okay, I like traveling and vacations. This one, though, is about vacations as a child which, by default, implies they were family vacations. At least in my case since the folks are still married, to each other, so there’s no inter-family drama involving who gets to claim Disneyland.
That all said, the question also implies there was some sort of “vacations” (plural) which were embarked upon by all involved, like the fabled “summer holiday” where the family goes off for two weeks to the beach or a cabin in the woods or what have you. While there, you meet the same people year after year. Or maybe not? Maybe I’m reading too much into my cultural memory of a huge group of wealthy, or pretending to be wealthy, Jews (and what is the collective noun there? A kibbitz? I’ll have to look it up) meeting up in the Catskills at some sort of cruise-style all-inclusive resort.
Whatever it is, I’m struggling to recall many vacations we went on which were not tied into other familial obligations. There was a bar/bat mitzvah somewhere? Great, let’s go a few days early and see the sights! Or if we were driving, then we could stop and check out roadside attractions as we headed there or back.
And we did drive a lot. This is probably where I get my love of road trips. So, while I don’t have specific memories of general vacation destinations, I do remember a few spots. And I remember a bit about the excursions themselves.
One of the things which springs immediately to mind is the back seat of the car, specifically, the forest green, mid-70s AMC Ambassador. Why the back seat? Well, that was where we kids sat, we kids being my sister Faye and myself. Now, being brother and sister, it only stands to reason that we didn’t always get along. Most parents, naturally, would divide the backseat into partitions, or designate a centerline across which no one shall pass. My parents, for reasons lost to the shrouds of time (or my admittedly faulty memory) certainly divided the rear area of the car but instead of doing it horizontally like most people, they did it vertically. Instead of “you stay behind dad and you stay behind mom,” our situation was more “you stay on the seat and you stay on the floor.”
Yup, my area of the backseat of the car, especially during those long parts of the drive between rest stops, was the floor of the backseat. Not that this was a problem, mind you. I seem to recall I enjoyed it (except for that damn driveshaft bump, but what are ya gonna do?). I could stretch out (again, navigating that bump like a contortionist) and read or play games or whatever I wanted to do and that was my domain. Faye, who is four+ years younger, was relegated to the top part. Again, good for her. She had all that room to play as well, and her dolls or toys or whatever she had with her could be spread out with no fear of getting into my personal space (unless invited, which was another thing altogether).
As I recall, it worked out pretty well. For a while at least.
As for where we went when I was tucked up behind the front seats, I recall the Meramec Caverns, seeing the half-submerged figures of Jesse James and his band of robbers. I got the View-Master discs. I got a lot of View-Master discs when I was a kid. I think that trip was coming from or going to Chicago for my cousin Mitchell’s bar mitzvah. Those caverns made such an impression on young me that when I was motorcycling Route 66 about 16 years ago, I took the time to stop in and take the tour again.
A lot of the traveling we did when I was a kid was to and from Los Angeles. This is where my mother’s side of the family lived and so visiting there was always on the agenda. Again, not so much as a destination in and of itself, but as an ulterior motive, or an alternative activity. Without going into too much detail, because honestly I only have fleeting impressions, I do remember Disneyland in the mid-70s, hoping for more E-Tickets and getting a Matchbox car (I want to say it was a “Blue Shark” but can’t be sure) as a souvenir – why Disney was selling Matchbox cars I have no idea.
There were also trips to Universal Studios, back in the heyday of the tram tours (which I applied to do when I first moved to LA and didn’t get the job, but I did meet my first LA friend, Steve Kobrin, there – Have no idea whatever happened to him) where I would get freaked out by the Avalanche Tunnel or climb around on oversize props or lift a counter-weighted van. I think the Jaws attraction completely terrified me.
Or there was the time we flew into Washington DC to spend a few days and then rented a car to drive to Ottawa, CA for, you guessed it, a bat mitzvah. In DC, at one point, Faye and I were left on our own at one of the Smithsonian museums while the folks went to get the car. I wish I could remember the details surrounding this, but I remember the punchline: We had been told to wait right where we were. Not a problem. Not even when it started pouring rain. We were the idiots who didn’t know enough to get under cover. We had been told to wait so wait we did.
Ultimately, while we did go and see a lot of things, most, if not all, was in service to another function. This may be part of why my own travel as an adult has been in a similar vein. Maybe not in service of something else, although that has certainly been true, but in that I need to make the most of whatever time I have. I tend to treat holidays as if I have somewhere else to be, quite soon, and so I need to see as much as I can while I’m there. If you read my travel blogs, you’ll see. I have a hard time just sitting on the beach reading a book. There’s gotta be something to see somewhere! I can read (or sleep or write my postcards) on the train to the next place.