Growing up, my family always took our holiday vacations to visit family in other states. I thought everyone did that. When I became a parent, we continued that tradition until we moved to Indiana. Everyone in this town went to Florida. What a concept. Going on vacation with your family but not to see your family.
My memories of visiting my dad's dad in Hot Springs, SD were not real fond memories. Grandpa Nelson lived in what we called "The Old Soldiers Home" Now days, it would be considered a Veterans Hospital. I wish that my dad were alive to tell me why Grandpa Louie lived there in the winter months and would move back to Wakonda, SD in the summer. In my child's mind, it was like what Snow Birds and Winter Texan's would be in this day and age. But, there was something about that "Old Soldiers Home" that haunted me.
We would pick him up at "the home" and drive into town where he and my dad would sit in a bar while my mom, brother and I sat in the car or perhaps shopped a bit. Western South Dakota was cold and snowy in December. I don't know how many years we did this, only that it was always the same. Bar, car, cold. We would read comic books over and over again. I hated it.
After we left Hot Springs we would vacation onward to a friends home that had kids. I recall their Dad hooking a rope to several toboggans and attaching them to the station wagon's back bumper. He pulled us up the snowy Black Hills roads. MY GOD....what was HE thinking!??? We could have died.!!! IT WAS SO MUCH FUN!! We would beg him to drive down the road with us behind. He wouldn't! MY GOD...what were WE thinking????? Can you imagine the kind of prison this man would be sentence to in this day and age? I'm glad it was the '60's. That was a very fond memory! I loved it!
As I reflect on these memories, I am moved by how they were sad and happy at the same time. I was fortunate to have a wonderful childhood full of GREAT memories. And if the weren't great, I can pretend they were. Funny thing about memories, they either get blown to epic proportion to the good or to the bad.
We took many winter vacations out West. Today, I can recall the enhanced smell of pine trees swirled in the fresh fallen snow and the bite of frost on my cheeks and the drops of snot on my freezing nose. Memories. I also wonder if there is a bar in heaven where a son and his father are swapping stories. I would love to know now what I didn't know then. Memories, the good and the bad....they belong to YOU!