Tag Archives: memories

Have Kids, Will…Go RVing

Where has the time gone?  Is it Groundhog’s Day already?  This past Christmas (2014), I took my family on an RV trip for the first time ever.  Despite having four boys and a fairly outdoors-oriented husband, we are not much of a camping family.  And let’s face it, staying in an RV is just camping on wheels.  I used to actually like camping and worked really hard to convince the hub to go along with it.  He called it “pretending to be homeless” and saw zero appeal.  Somewhere in our 19 years of marriage, he came around (sort of), just as I was giving it up.  Being perpetually sleep deprived is not conducive to sleeping on a hard ground. In a tent.  With a toddler (or two) and a snoring man.  But, I am cheap.  (I mean, frugal.)

When I was thinking about what to give my boys for Christmas, knowing they really don’t need anything and we are limited on space, I immediately thought of a trip.  The prospect of travel is always appealing to me, but paying for six plane tickets is not.  So, after some research, I decided it was high time we tried out an RV.

It turned out to be not so bad.  In fact, the traveling part was quite nice!  We were able to pop popcorn in the microwave, get cold drinks out of the refrigerator, take naps, and use the toilet…all without stopping.  It got to smell a little bit funky, but there was a TV with satellite channels, a card table, a bigger table for games of Scrabble, and plenty of space to stretch out and read.  Lots of distractions!  Of course, my intention was to split the driving as equally as possible, but I somehow managed to scrape a shrub, get stuck in a parking lot, nearly side swipe a guard rail, and generally make my husband nervous every time I drove.  So instead, I did a lot of reading and game playing with the boys.

We made our way from Maryland to Florida within a two-day time frame.  Santa delivered tickets to Universal Studios, where we spent two and a half days exploring Harry Potter’s world, riding roller coasters, and eating crappy, expensive food.  It was wonderful!  Then we went to Gatorland (the best, weirdest amusement/animal park EVER), and into St. Augustine.  During this time, we spent the nights in our rented RV at a few different RV parks.  I had looked into KOAs ahead of time and reserved spaces at a couple in Florida.  They were all clean–impressively so–and family friendly.  We found some great nearby restaurants, which saved me from having to buy groceries and cook on the RV stove (my Christmas gift).

As far as camping goes, this was definitely the way to do it.  We’ve stayed in tents, camping cabins, and deluxe cabins.  But for the distance we traveled, camping in the RV was a fun and fairly stress-free experience.  Can you really ever call family vacations stress-free?  I think we did okay.  It felt really good to come home and take a private shower, get some time away from the constant spell casting, courtesy of Olivander’s wands, and to sleep in my own bed.  But, we made some really good memories for a bunch of die-hard Harry Potter fans, and satisfied my itch to go RVing.  Being in 75 degree weather didn’t hurt, either.

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Have Kids, Will…Savor My Own Childhood Memories

While having dinner at The Aachener Brauhaus, a traditional tavern in Aachen, Germany–my great-grandmother’s hometown–I was suddenly reminded of my grandparents’ house in Pennsylvania.  Taking in my surroundings, my senses jolted with recognition.  The dark, grainy oak of the benches and moldings; the smell of sauerkraut, cigarettes, and beer; the sound of many voices, mostly the baritone of men blending together into a hypnotic hum, all became a blanket that wrapped warmly around me as I sat eating a plate of sauerbraten with red cabbage and potatoes. The jovial faces and sometimes boisterous conversations that surrounded me lent a feeling of comfort and familiarity.

My grandparents had 12 children, who in turn produced about 50 of my first cousins–no small feat.  Their home, when we visited, was always bustling with the activity of multiple family members visiting at once.  There was lively conversation, plenty of booze, massive, steaming bowls of either spaghetti or stuffed cabbage rolls–anything that could feed a large crowd, and an abundance of children running through the house playing hide-and-seek.  As the evenings wore on, someone would inevitably pull out a guitar or my grandmother would sit at the piano after being coaxed into playing Flight of the Bumblebee, an amazing song to hear and watch being played. The music would fill the living room and spill out onto the wraparound porch, where even more family members were catching up and swapping tales under the dim porch lights.  As a child, I didn’t often recognize the songs being played as my uncles would croon along to the guitar, but the sounds were soothing (and amusing as more imbibing took place).

The camaraderie of family and friends, coming together to visit, eat, drink, and entertain each other is universally appealing.  Nothing can replace the fundamental importance of generations coming together, whose shared heritage pulls history not from the pages of a book, but from the energy of the past.  The ghosts of those who have come before us, through life’s struggles and successes, live on in these moments–brought back to life through stories told and memories shared.  We carry our pasts with us no matter where in the world we go, and sometimes we find visiting other places helps to heighten our memories of past experiences as we are simultaneously creating new memories through new experiences.

As my children grow and I wonder who will need the most therapy for my sometimes inept parenting, I hope they are absorbing the best of what surrounds them.  Isn’t that what we always want for our children?  Knowing that both ordinary and extraordinary experiences will help to form them into the adults they will become, I hope they come to appreciate the ordinary love of family and the extraordinary effect it can have on them.