It’s interesting to talk with people about their vacations – I like finding out where folks go and what they do and see – as well as all the things, planned and unplanned, that happen while they’re on those trips.
Charles and I have always tried to take a least a short vacation once a year, particularly when the kids were little. We wanted to give them some good memories and a chance to learn a little of the world they were growing up in. I hope we succeeded in both those areas.
When I was little, my family didn’t go on vacations. For one thing we couldn’t afford to, and for another, my daddy was in poor health and he wanted to be home at night. We would take day trips to the mountains, Stone Mountain Park or to visit relatives in Atlanta, always making the trek back home before bedtime. So, it wasn’t until his death following my tenth birthday that I took my first real “vacation.” My mother informed me we’d be going to visit relatives and friends for nearly a week that summer. I was astounded. Away from home not one, not two, but five nights. I couldn’t fathom it.
I packed a suitcase an aunt had given me and my mama and I hit the road. I had a small yellow stuffed dog name Frenchy, that Daddy had given me for my birthday that I took everywhere except school, and Mama sewed a couple of little collars and outfits for him to wear on the trip. So we packed our station wagon and with Frenchy suitably dressed between us, we took off on our first real adventure together.
Looking back on it, Mama must have been as excited as I was. She’d cared for Daddy for years as his health declined, and her own health was somewhat precarious. It must have been a relief (and a little scary) for her to take her young daughter and just leave it all behind for a few days.
We began our trip by visiting Aunt Irene’s boarding house in downtown Atlanta. My Aunt Irene had one of those large, antebellum homes with wide verandas and big creaky stairways, claw foot tubs and old clanky plumbing.
People lived in the basement and on all three floors of that old house. Through my 10-year-old eyes the place was practically bursting with people.
We stayed with Irene in her three-room apartment that included a big country kitchen where many of the boarders filed through for breakfast and supper. It was all utterly fascinating and a different world for a little girl born and reared on a dirt road in Madison County.
After that, we traveled to Uncle Gene’s house in the suburbs. The main thing I remember about our visit with him and his wife was that it was hard to sleep in his house, which sat near the road because cars roared by at a steady pace all night long. I was used to sleeping to the sound of crickets and frogs on the lake.
Our final stop took us to within a couple of miles or so of the newly-opened Six Flags amusement park. We visited friends my parents had known for years, who lived in a quiet subdivision – well, quiet except for the sound of Six Flags, which you could hear in the distance. They didn’t have any children, but invited a couple of nieces near my age over for a trip to the park. I thought my heart would burst with excitement – after all, I’d never seen anything bigger than the Athens Fair before.
Of course, I’ve been on quite a few vacations since the first one that summer, but that first “real vacation” is one I’ve never forgotten. It must have taken a lot for my mother, emotionally, financially and physically, to plan and carry out such a trip. I know she did it more for me than for herself, but I hope that she enjoyed it as much as I did. I know it brought us closer and I know it made me begin to think, just a little, that maybe I could live and grow up, after all in a world that no longer contained my daddy. I hope it helped her with that as well.
Margie Richards is a reporter and office manager for The Madison County Journal.