Vacations are for the kids in all of us

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 17, 2000

The most memorable vacation of my short life was in 1972, and although I was only about six years old at the time, it stands out in my memory as one of the most miserable experiences I have ever had to deal with.

Our family purchased a brand new, red, 1972 Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser (remember the old station wagons with the fake wood paneling on the side) just before the trip, and my parents spent the better part of two weeks prior to our trip outfitting the vehicle with custom fitted mattresses for the back and a roof-top luggage carrier to make sure my brother and I had plenty of room to rough house.

While most of our friends were taking trips to the beach, the Smoky Mountains or to Six Flags or the now defunct Opryland, my family loaded up in the station wagon to travel through New England and into Canada on an antique buying trip.

My parents, who operated an antique store at the time, were using the family vacation as a tax write-off and as a chance to shop for merchandise for their store. The kids were simply bored. There was nothing for us to do, and every stop north of Virginia netted the same result-no pool at the hotel.

It didn't take much to occupy my brother or me. All it took was a swimming pool, but as we moved even further north through New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Connecticut, not only were there very few hotels with swimming pools, the antique stores, auctions and shows became more and more frequent.

With every approaching antique sign we saw on the highway, the kids in back would do everything in our power to distract my parents from their mission. Either I would pick a fight with my brother, or we both would team up on our aunt, but our attempts would always end in vain. My mother would keep an eagle eye out for the antique destinations while my father would do his best to discipline the young charges while still maintaining highway speed in the station wagon.

Looking back now, I can remember the joy in my parents eyes. Each time we would enter an old barn, an auction house or smelly antique store, my parents would split up and systematically cover the territory. Mom, whose specialty was glass and china, would search through the smaller items while my dad would sort through available furniture and clocks, his items of expertise, for possible items to bring home.

With each purchase, however, the room in the back of the Vista Cruiser became more and more of a premium. By the end of the trip my brother, aunt and I were all sitting shoulder to shoulder across the rear bench seat. The black interior of the vehicle radiated the heat of the day which was amplified by my father's refusal to use the air conditioner. And after the ordeal I felt we were all closer because of it although probably a bit thinner and a little dehydrated.

That vacation was all mom and dad, and looking back it really wasn't that bad (although I would NEVER agree to do it again), but it was important that my parents got a chance to do something they loved to do.

Around town this week I have been on vacation. I got the chance to mow my yard, which I know makes my neighbors proud, and even had the opportunity to travel up to the Smoky Mountains for a little rest and relaxation. If all goes as planned I should need another week to recover from it all.

Vacations are for the kid in all of us, and no matter what you like to do it is important that you take some time this summer to explore your options. Even if it just means sitting at home by the television for a week, time off always does a body good.