How I Spent My Summer Vacations
July is my absolute favoritest month. Not only is it my birthday month (and the birthday month for almost every member of my family), but it’s warm and smells like grape popsicles. (Warning: This will be one of those nostalgic columns recalling the simplicity of childhood. Feel free to grab a barf bag.)
When I was a child (back in the 20th century), summer meant four things: my birthday, The Fourth of July, family vacation and Lagoon. Until these things were accomplished, I refused to return to school.
Family vacations consisted of road trips; my siblings and I cramped into our very uncool station wagon. Luckily, we didn’t have to contend with seat belts, so we could change seats during the trip. The best seat was the backward-facing rear bench where we would get slightly nauseous from riding backward.
We were also reminded by my mom that the back seat had the highest level of carbon dioxide (from the exhaust) and we should try not to fall asleep. Fear of death usually kept us alert—along with the family sing-a-long which included “My Darling Clementine,” “Good Night, Irene” and “Banks of the Ohio.” All songs featured death of some sort. (This was WAY before iPods or CDs—so we had no choice but to sing along. Don’t judge me.)
After arriving at our destination, mom would take out labeled envelopes and count the money we had left for our trip. The room would get very quiet as we all quietly figured out a way to get home if we ran out of money somewhere in the Utah desert. Once mom had inspected the “food,” “gas,” “recreation” and “souvenir” budget envelopes, we could all sleep easily.
Motel swimming pools were the best. When I was 12, I talked mom into buying me a bikini. But after she purchased it, she decided she’d better sew a piece of fabric to the top piece to cover my belly. So I had a bikini top with a curtain. Not cool.
The Fourth of July was MY holiday. I owned it. It was my pre-birthday celebration--along with my little sister who stole my birthday when I was two. (That’s a whole therapy session in itself.) We’d travel to Provo (see the above travel description) and I’d spend the day eating Green River watermelon and drinking homemade root beer until it leaked out my nose.
Parades were an all-out battle as the five candy-zombied Stewart children fought to the death for squished Tootsie Rolls and rock-hard pieces of taffy—and I HATE Tootsie Rolls.
Fireworks provided the perfect end to the holiday, and we sat close so the bright colors rained down on us like a fountain. We also set off illegal fireworks at my grandpa’s, catching the field on fire more than once. (My family consists of notorious pyromaniacs.)
For my birthday the next day, my mom made me a new summer outfit. As I got older, she sewed me shorts she wouldn’t allow me to wear. They were too short. (“They’re called shorts--not longs, mom.”)
A trip to Lagoon rounded out my summer, where we filled up on candy apples, hamburgers and soda, then whirled, whiplashed, jerked, coastered, flung, spun and twisted. We always left the amusement park slightly queasy and very sticky.
Summers flew by and school started all too soon. But I still associate July with roller coasters, sno-cones, nausea and depressing songs. Traditions I’ve passed on to my own children.