Many of my favorite childhood memories involve family road trips. Most of my life my paternal grandparents lived in Columbus, Ohio and my maternal grandparents lived on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. For those reasons our vacations usually consisted of driving to and from both Ohio and South Carolina at least once a year.
We usually would take two days and one night to travel to Hilton Head Island (HHI) where we would stay for two weeks at my grandparents villa. Each way we would stay one night at a hotel, often a Holidome (the awesome Holiday Inns that had extra fun things for families who stayed there to do, including swimming pools and game rooms) located in Kentucky or North Carolina. When going to Columbus we would drive there in one day, stay for the weekend, usually at a hotel near their apartment, and then take another day to get home. Though I am not sure that I fully appreciated my experience at the time, in retrospect I realize that I had as much fun en route to and from our visits to Columbus and HHI as I did while there.
Some of the things that made our family road trips so fun were getting to eat at restaurants for many of our meals. Though sometimes Mom and Dad would pack us sack lunches for the first day and we would eat them in the car or at rest stops, more often than not ate at Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Bob Evans and/or Big Boy restaurants. In those days we didn’t eat out much when we were at home in Evanston, so doing so on our road trips was a special treat.
Another special treat, typically reserved only for our road trips, was when Mom would buy us “Yes and No” pads. They came with special white invisible pens with orange caps and we couldn’t wait to rip them open and start solving puzzles and playing the unique games. We would also do Mad Libs on these trips, play the License plate game and the Alphabet game as a family to pass the time.
There were no Nintendo DSis, portable video players, laptops, tablets or smart phones in those days, so the only electronics Meg and I ever used on our car rides was occasionally listening to tape cassettes (often mixes that our friends made us) on our Sony Walkmans with earphones. Sometimes we would also listen to the radio together as a family looking for fun and interesting small town radio stations. Our favorites were usually those that played country music and we got such a kick out of listening to/poking fun at the lyrics.
We also did a lot of silly things on our road trips, usually spearheaded by my goofy and fun loving dad. For example, when we would drive through small towns in Indiana or Ohio, Dad would often slow down the car, roll down our windows and then honk the horn at strangers, while encouraging us to wave like we knew them. The people almost always would smile and wave back at us. It was amusing to see the looks on their faces, as we could tell they seemed a bit confused, trying to figure out if they knew us or not. Dad and we got such a kick out of this and would do it a few times on every trip.
Another one of Dad’s antics led to the picture above. We had just finished lunch at a restaurant and decided it would be fun to use the setting on my parents’ camera that allowed us to take a picture of ourselves. Dad set up the camera on top of our station wagon and aimed it at us. Then he ran to join Mom, my sister Meg and me to pose for the shot. At that moment we all realized that we were facing towards a busy street with cars passing by. We realized that it might not be obvious to those driving through that we were taking a self-portrait picture of our family. So Meg and I started laughing hysterically realizing that to some it probably appeared we were just standing together and smiling at them! At the moment the shutter released and resulted in one of my family’s all-time favorite pictures.
Tell me about one of your favorite childhood memories.
Kathy Benson is a bereaved and blessed mom, writer and group fitness instructor trying to live mindfully and find joy in the journey after dealing with secondary infertility and loss for five years. She lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband and two living children.