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Summer Memories

With summer quick approaching, I am reminded of the few family vacations that weren’t always as pleasant as the ones TV families procure. Our’s consisted of three kids crammed into the back seat with two adults, who had the luxury of first person AC, chain smoking in the front seat. We kids would beg our parents to stop at the rare quick food restaurants that we encountered along the way, but were quickly admonished and reminded that money was scarce, and quick food was a luxury. My dad had smoked Winstons (he died of throat cancer years later), my mom, Kents, and since they had done this since earliest memory, I had assumed that cigarettes were something that adults regarded as a necessity and certainly, not a luxury.

Our trip started out early in the day to beat the heat, traffic, tourist, maniacal drivers, murderers, and hitch hikers, that lurked at every on ramp in those turbulent 60′s — or perhaps they just lurked in my mother’s mind. And I am sure that the adults were also offering a prayer to Mary that we kids would surrender to the early morning hours of summer break and sleep, postponing fights over limited space. Since I was the youngest, and therefore the weakest, I was to sit in the middle between my older sister who was annoying and my older brother (by eight months), whom I annoyed. Sandwiches were packed and kept up front with the luxury item (1 bag of plain potato chips), kept under close guard by my mother. When we got hungry, sandwiches and chips were passed around while the car continued traveling at a safe (so we thought) 85mph. We loved the extravagance of peanut butter and honey sandwiches, enclosed in a car filled with the perfume of cigarettes.

Second hand smoke? Never heard of it. Stopping for a soda? Never heard of it. Stopping for a pee break? Only heard of it when the car needed gas. The intake of gas and the output of pee was just as natural as the gray haze of Winstons that clouded our view of what other families did when they traveled.

We would arrive at our grandparents’ house in time for a late afternoon supper of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, fresh greens, pinto beans, and the best blackberry cobbler you could imagine. We had reached the promised land of childhood. Our grandparents were aware of our plight, and would distract our parents with conversation and gossip, while we kids would keenly take seconds and thirds of everything available. With our bellies full and near to bursting, grandpa would pull us aside, and slip a dollar in our hands and send us on an errand to buy “something” at the store for him. This of course was an opportunity he gave us to buy the candy that was always just out of our reach — financially speaking. Knowing the value, and rarity, of a dollar, and knowing that we had never had so much money in our lives at one time, we would carefully select the few precious items and delight in them all the more.

Now that I am in my 50′s, I look back to those times in my childhood and compare them with the way that we traveled when my kids were young. We didn’t pack lunches, but stopped along the way and spent money on food. We took frequent breaks so we could stop and see things or get an ice cream cone. When we got tired, we looked for a reasonably priced hotel in which to stay. I am not necessarily saying that our way was better than my parents, but ours was certainly more enjoyable. My parents were not hurting for money, so their method was a preference, not a financial strategy. I grew up thinking we were poor because they loved playing that part. And, their way did teach me to value money more, but, as with all things in life, there has to be a balance. Now that my kids are gone, I like taking a packed lunch with me when I travel. Not because I am cheap, I just like to have my particular foods with me. Call it quirky instead. A hotel? I value a excellent night’s rest. I don’t want to lay awake thinking about bugs crawling on me, and I want my wits about me the next morning so I can drive safely. Therefore, I opt for moderation when picking a hotel and try to plot ahead and question about the best rates available.

Also, my husband and I have never smoked. The money my parents spent of five packs a day between the two of them (plus cancer treatments), is far more than the money we spent on the occasional night in a decent hotel, restaurants, snacks, side trips and the creation of fantastic memories.

When plotting your vacation, choose what things are most vital to you and don’t forget about those traveling with you. Reckon where you can cut cost in order to spend a small more somewhere else. There is nothing incorrect with taking some snacks with you in the car and even a cooler for drinks to save money. Be prepared, not obsessed! But remember — . It’s a vacation. It’s time spent with the most vital people in your world. It’s ok to teach the value of a dollar, but do it in a loving way and set a excellent example. Money shouldn’t be the focal point of your travels and adventures — . your loved ones are. Delight in them — and oh yes, have a fantastic trip!

I was born in Jacksonville, Florida in 1958 and I have one older sister and a brother, whom I want to visit more often. My mom still resides in Jacksonville and is doing fantastic for being in her 80′…  View profile