Trying to remember your favourite part of childhood summer vacation is like trying to remember what your fifth birthday or the first day of school in the fourth grade was like. It's like trying to redevelop a photograph you were in that lays dusty in grandma's big wooden chest at the end of her bed. Most of the details are vague, but there are parts of the photo you remember distinctly -- like certain smells, or particular colours, or maybe the weather that day.
You take all those small pieces and you lay them on the table trying to fit them together to create something a little more whole -- a full memory. And then maybe you notice there are patterns in the pieces. Maybe there are attributes that are reoccurring -- like consistently bright colourful surroundings, upbeat music, or warm fuzzy feelings. This might tell you that the memory you are trying to reconstruct is a good one, a happy one.
All the pieces of half memories I have of my childhood summer vacations are like that. They are happy and fun and adventurous. The main characters are always my cousins and I. We planned out our vacation days meticulously, maybe the way grown-ups plan out their budgets or grocery lists. We woke up every morning with a sense of urgency not wanting to miss the day.
Summer vacation meant weekend camping trips. There is one camp ground, we called it May Field, but real names of camping grounds were a non-important detail in comparison to the perfect location for our tree fort and how to best roast maple leaves over fire. May Field seemed like a world away from home, our own Narnia. It was the best part of every summer weekend where we indulged in camp-fired hot dogs and marshmallows, biked up and down treacherous hills, conquered the waves on the wakeboard, checked out the rope swing....
Oh, the rope swing. May Field had a secret rope swing hidden back in the river. It was old, a little ancient looking. The river was a mean deep green, not like the rest of the lake. I never actually went on the rope swing, I was afraid I might forget to let go at the right time. Plus I was a little kid, I always stood at the end of the rows in class because someone decided all rows of children should be organized shortest to tallest. None of this made me the typical rope-swinging type. But I watched my older brother and his friends swing from it. Dad did it once, too. It was mesmerizing. Like standing in the store front of your favourite downtown shop just wishing you could buy those shoes.
There was a candy store at the end of the camp ground, just past the swimming area and blue slide, over the hump in the road, about where the big log was. Mom and dad would only let us ride our bikes to the log and back, any further was off limits. We'd pretend to be good kids all day so that by the afternoon we could beg mom and dad for spare change we could "trade" at the candy store. Fifty cents could get me a popsicle, a dollar for an ice cream cone, and with two dollars I could buy several smaller treats -- those candies that you dip in a pack of flavoured powder, a ring pop, maybe a pack of nerds and some tootsie rolls.
Big brother and I back in the day. I must’ve started liking those ice cream bars young.My most favourite treat from the candy store were the donut holes. And if I had enough dollars to get those, I could bring one home for dad because I knew they were his favourite, too (this always helped get an extra 50 cents from dad). Dad is a special character in all my childhood memories. In the memories of summer vacations he was like our team captain along with his role as navigator, tent extraordinair, and pyro-technics master.
He wore another hat, too. A baseball hat. I may have forgotten to pack a swimsuit, but I never forgot to grab our mitts and a softball. Dad was the only one who could play catch with me, sports weren't our family's most beloved pastime when we could BBQ. I loved playing catch with dad because he had a way of making me feel really good. Like if there was a contest for who the very best 12-year-old pitcher in the world was, I could win it with sheer charm alone. If that plan failed, my curve ball would make up for it.
The mosquitoes were always really respectful to everyone's else's skin but mine. In fact, they were nice enough to not even bother other people until the night time. We'd maybe just arrived to the camp ground 20 minutes ago but I already had at least four mosquito bites. Mom used to tell me it's because I had the sweetest skin. By the end of every camping weekend the other parents at the swimming area thought I had chicken pox.
There wasn't enough room in the motor homes for all us kids. So the best cousins and I usually volunteered to sleep in a tent. It gave me a title of flexibility that I hoped my parents caught onto and could pull back out at just the right moment (like maybe when I turned 16 and needed a car), and it made me feel more like a real camper. I slept through the rain a lot and only woke up because dad would come get us from outside. In the mornings I'd always go to Aunt Mel's camp site first, because I knew she was up. Her and some of the other grown-ups woke up early in the mornings to ski on the lake while it was still flat and looked like glass or ice. She always had a fresh pot of coffee and that yummy French Vanilla creme.
Maybe that's why I still like that coffee creme... because it's nostalgic of a childhood I'd relive over and over if I could. I swung from my first rope swing sometime as a teenager, a feat I was I proud of. Years later we went back to May Field and I saw that the candy store was really just a tiny shed, now closed and boarded up. I was bummed for the kids who were there with their families -- they're childhood summer vacation memories won't include the ice-fried popsicles. Neither dad or I play catch any more, but I think because we both realised we were so bad at it. The mosquitoes still love me. And I prefer hotel rooms over tents now.
Even still, my memories of summer vacations are sweet, like the cinnamon sugar on the outside of the donut holes. And my favourite part of childhood summer vacation? All of it.
And a more recent family vacation in the last 6-7 years… a story for another time.
Lindsey and Sabine are exchanging blogs for the day as part of the 20-something bloggers blog swap on favourite childhood summer vacations.