Hearing those two words, “summer vacation,” takes me straight back to my youth. The phrase still carries connotations of the two months between school ending and school beginning. It’s been forty-nine years since I experienced the last of those summer vacations. Since then, it has more properly meant the activities I undertook for a week or two or three during the summer when I was not working.
So few years of the first variety of summer vacation, so many of the second; and yet it is the former that still resonates.
Perhaps it’s because those dozen years of summer vacations shaped much of my life in ways that only became clear from a distance.
My love of long road trips was likely founded in the month-long trip I took with the Boy Scouts between ninth and tenth grades. We traveled from the Rochester, NY area to the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico, meandering through the northern states. I first experienced the Great Plains and caught my first sights of the Rockies; I realized how big our country really is and how varied its topography and history.
My yearning for inland lakes in north woods was certainly steeped from the experiences at our family cabin in Ontario’s “Cottage District” and the two weeks each summer I spent for a half-dozen years at Massawepie Boy Scout Camp in the Adirondack mountains.
My desire to walk the land to understand events that occurred on it may have sprung from visiting Gettysburg. My parents allowed me to run the same route Confederate soldiers under the command of General Pickett charged in July 1863. I faced only distance and heat; they also faced cannon and musket fire so strong it leveled wheat fields and peach orchards.
This year, Jan and I took one of our grandchildren on a two-week road trip during her summer vacation. It’s her first long road trip, and we’ve mixed a bit of everything: foreign country (albeit Canada, but Quebec is French-speaking), cities and country, land and sea, touristy kitsch and off-the-beaten track rambles.
I wonder what seeds we planted.
How about you? What long-term effects did your summer vacations have on you?