Memories of Vacation Travel

As a kid I traveled with my grandparents for vacation.    My family did not vacation, maybe a family picnic, but destination vacations were NOT in our family’s schedule.   On the other hand my grandparents were always on the move and included me in their travels.   Granny kept track of it and by the first grade I had visited all of the lower 48 but Florida.

I am not exactly sure why my grandparents thought traveling with a small child was a good idea, but the did and made lots of memories for me.   My grandmother would put together a travel kit for each vacation.   I can still see the tartan plaid tote all the goodies went into.   It was all planned to keep me engaged, entertained and maybe learn something along the way.   Things that went into this magical bag were only used on vacations so it was that excitement of see special things and new things each trip.

My bag looked something like this minus the picnic fixens.

Each year there was a game card for license plates.  Like almost all the games it was on the cards that hose were wrapped around in the box they were sold in.   Some years it was a list of all the states and Canadian provinces, that could be in alphabetical order, or admission to the union order.   Once in awhile it was even a map with no state names. It was before photocopy so it would mean Granny would draw the US with all the states on the card.

I had a magic whiteboard about the size of a piece of legal paper.   It was drawn on with special crayons, that I would be able to rub off.   There are two memories that stick out in my mind about that whiteboard because I used it to communicate with other drivers.   I would often write honk your horn and hold it up in the window to other drivers.   We must have been tooted at more than any other car.   Once a group of nuns were following us.   The nuns and I carried on a conversation for miles using my magic whiteboard and paper they had in their car.   Don’t think about safe driving distance or the fact there were no seat belts in the car as I was doing all of this.

My bag was full of maps.   My Gomper (Grandpa to the rest of you) had studied them before he left and Granny was the designated navigator.   Yet I too was expected to follow us along on the map.   Gomper would ask me what’s the the next town?   How many towns till we get there?   We turn of on route 78, what is the town just before our next turn?   It is still the way I navigate, by towns.

There was a little notebook that I was to write in each day.   I would give a small mint to read about the world from the perspective of a child and what I recorded in those books.  When I was very small I would dictate my daily notes to Granny, who I assumed was faithfully writing it all down and not actually jotting grocery lists.

There was a collection of hose cards with the alphabet faithfully printed on them.   These were for all sorts of games involving the the alphabet, some of them competitive between my Granny, Gomper  and me.    It was the days before Lady Bird Johnson cleaned up  the highways from signs and we would see who could first find all the letters of the alphabet in roadside signs, motor court motel names, or anything else she came up with as possible.

There were travel bingo cars.   They were a collection of commercially made cards with themes of what you were looking for.   I think we had three of  the sets.   One with signs, one with numbers that you found on license plate, one with vehicles of all sorts , and one with objects like windmills, pigs, barbershops and the like.   This last card would likely be pointless on today’s modern interstate system. Each of us had a card and Granny ran Gomper’s card as he was the driver.

There was a card likes this roadside objects. We also had one with license plate numbers, and one with vehicles (convertible, dump truck, cement truck, tractor)

Then there were the memory games that we played and went on forever.   They were of the nature of my father owned a grocery store and in it he owned…..   You worked your way through the alphabet and each person had to repeat all the previous items.    We would do all sorts of things hardware store, farm, church and we did not let you have bananas in church so you needed to be listening and thinking about what you might have for that letter.  I wonder if that is where I get my good memory from.

All of you know that I could not carry a tune to save my soul if you had a gun to my head.    My grandparents on the other hand could sing wonderfully.    We would sign songs in the car; the only time in my life that I have ever been encouraged to sing out loud.   I think most of our songs were somewhat religious in nature (I suppose that was the minister who was driving that made that happen).   I remember this little light of mine, found a peanut, and of course Jesus loves me.    We would also sing in round which I only remember a few of those row row row your boat,  three blind mice, allouette,  and Frère Jacques.   That was the only French I ever spoke or sang.

Lastly there was a new collection of activity books.   They were full of dot to dot, mazes, find differences and color pages.   Most of this went unused as I was a car sick girl who never got better with time.   There were hundreds of “Gomper Stop the Car!” moments in my life.   I have barfed along more roads than any little girl should have.    I traveled most of the time hanging over the seat between Gomper and Granny looking forward.   If this did not do the trick I stood in the on the floor in the front with my face in the AC vent right where the front window met the side window with Granny gently stroking my hair, looking forward breathing slow and deep.   (Another of those OMG moments when I think about what if he had had to stop suddenly).

When we traveled recently for vacation these memories all flooded back.     It took Granny lots of time to plan to to not have a bored child in a car for often over ten hours a day.   That planning gave us all time together in ways the regular life did not allow.   It made for special bonds and special memories of places and people.   I was one lucky little girl growing up.   Today when folks travel with children it is with portable video, iPods, iPads  and when kid travel with their heads down.    They have no idea where they have been or the changes that have passed them by.     To me, who has no children, it seems sad that they have done exactly the same kind of thing they could have done for the travel time as though they had never left home.   In fact at home you would not have likely let them watch videos nonstop for eight hours.   Maybe Granny and Gomper’s travel method would not work for hours on end with today’s children, but a few hours of it might be nice on your next vacation.  You might be making memories you will never know about until years later.

 

Granny’s Take on Holy Week

When I was a kid we still got  Good Friday and Easter Monday off of school.    Many businesses also operated on abbreviated hours during those days as well.  Growing up I often spent Easter with my Grandparents.   My Grandparents in Chicago would drive  from one edge of the state to to the other to pick me up; a long drive before the advent of the interstate system.  Being with them during  holy week  left memories about the holy season that has stayed with me all my life.

My Granddad was a Methodist minister, and Granny was the standard good minister’s wife.   She belonged to to all the ladies clubs and could be seen at church each time a service was held.   She rode shotgun and supported him and the message he delivered. My Granddad  went to work each day and I was left to spend the day with Granny.    It was she who shared with me that from her perspective that Easter was the biggest Christian holiday.  She felt that the rising of Christ clearly trumped Christmas.   The completion of miracle of the triumph over death for us was the single thing most important thing to a Christian, when Granny told the story.

One of my most vivid memories was of going to church several times during holy week.  Of course we went to church on Palm Sunday, the first day of holy week.   It was full of hymns that in my memory were the same ones sung every year.   It seems  that hymns sung were known to everyone in attendance; those who came to church every Sunday and those who only came a few times a year.  None of the mumbling along a note or two behind the organist, with people wondering who had picked this obscure hymn to sing. I always enjoyed it when the whole congregation could sign a hymn together, those who had wonderful voices and folks like me who were tone deaf and could not sing on key no matter the tune.    We would then go to church again on Maundy Thursday, the day of the last supper.      Finally Good Friday would come and we would go to church acknowledging the death of Christ. Lent always seemed like a time of a great dark cloud to me.   We’d get dressed up in our going to church dud and go to church over and over knowing what the outcome would be the same.

Granny would during the Easter season play Handel’s Messiah over and over.   It was through this repetitive exposure, that this I came to understand that this oratorio.   Granny caused me to  actually came to listen to the words and came to understand that much of it came from a version of the Psalms.  I love to hear it during the Christmas season when so many do public performances of this are done, but during Eastertide I dig out my classic version done by the London Symphony and the non-traditional Soulful Celebration.

Granny has long since passed away, and before that time it had been years since I spent any time around Easter with her.  Yet this holiday season I think of the foundation  and perspective they gave me.

 

Old is Relative

Old for me has always been something that did not happen until you were in your 80’s or 90’s.   Even from a young age I reserved old from people who were older than my grandparents and even my great grandparents.    My grandparents were older, older than me, and older than my parents, but they were not old.   On the flip side of that I never knew how to define young.   Young was relative to your life experiences.  You could be an old soul in a young body.

So sometimes my body feels weary and old, and I get bogged down by that.  I need to remember that old is relative.  There are still tons of things I have yet to see, hear, and experience.    I am the beginning of the second side of my life, just the beginning.   Let’er rip!

 

Ice Cream Memories.

Growing up I have lots of ice cream memories.   I had two  different grandparents who liked to make home-made ice cream.   Their recipes and methods were dramatically different.  Unfortunately neither recipe has survived another generation and are lost forever.

My Grandma T lived in the same town as I grew up in.  Each Saturday she would make ice cream and bring us a container full of her ice cream along with biscuits. Grandma had this amazing contraption shown at the top of this blog.  It was an electric ice cream maker that you put in your refrigerator freezer.   I remember years of visiting on Saturdays and see the cord coming out of the refrigerator freezer and plugged in to the light socket.      I have yet to find a recipe that makes up like hers.   It had lots of sugar, I am sure because my favorite part was a thick almost syrupy concoction that formed at the bottom of the container.

My other ice-cream-making grandparent was my Gomper.  He lived across the state and we only visited for major holidays and an extended stay in the summer.   It was during the summer vacations that Gomper would make ice cream.  He cooked his ice cream fix’ins on the stove.  I am almost guessing it was more like a frozen custard.  His ice cream would go into the bucket with ice and rock salt.   It would sit out on the patio churning away.   It had a power turner, so the most involvement was poking in the drain hole so water would rush out.  As a small child it was something I could stand by and do the whole time it turned.   It was always vanilla like Grandma T’s, but his was so smooth; no sugar settled on the bottom of his.

My brother received her freezer when my Grandma passed on and he in turn gave it to me. I got it out and made up some ice cream for the hot summer weather we have been having. I pulled out the cookbook that came with Grandma’s freezer, looking for possibly her recipe.   The one I picked definitely turned out not to be it.   It was richer than the recipe that either of my grandparents made.    I put it all together and put it in my freezer.   Just like Grandma T,  I slipped the cord out of my freezer and plugged the big black cord into the wall.   It took much longer than the instructions said to freeze up.    I am not sure if that is because my modern freezer isn’t as cold as they used to be or it was something else.  I plan to make some more and try some frozen yogurt, sherbet and sorbet.   I looked online, where we all look for our answers today, hoping to find some insights on how to best use my simple but effective machine.   I found nothing like my trusty freezer.   I best take good care of it because it is one of  limited few that have survived.