Throughout my life, I’ve had quite a few nice vacations, although we didn’t take many when I was younger. There was the big trip to Yellowstone the summer after my sophomore year of high school. Almost two weeks of camping from the panhandle of Oklahoma, west through the Rockies to Yellowstone National Park, north to Mount Rushmore and then straight south through Nebraska, Kansas, and three flat tires later, back home to Oklahoma. That was a big trip!
We did fly out to San Francisco when I graduated high school as a kind of celebration. It was just the four of us by then, Grandma having already moved down to a nursing facility in Texas. I remember learning how to playing backgammon with Mom, walking across the Golden Gate Bridge (or maybe only half of it?), having clam chowder for the first time, and the best Thai food I’ve ever tasted. Then there was a trip to Boston a year or two into college. I can’t remember when exactly. We rode the subway extensively, not bothering to rent a car. That was the first time I’d ever had lobster, and as crazy as most people think I am, I discovered I enjoy crab much more.
Mostly we spent holidays visiting extended family because of the amount we had, as well as the distance it normally involved. Plus vacation for three adults and two kids isn’t exactly cheap. We made most of our memories around kitchen tables, whether it was playing games or eating meals. Breakfast and dinners always included the five of us, plus on the weekends lunches did too. We watched movies together, Nash Bridges on Fridays, Star Trek with Captain Picard and then Star Trek Voyager (it never occurred to me that having a woman as captain of a ship was revolutionary, but then I guess it was taking place in the year 2371, dear Lord I hope it doesn’t actually take us that long!) and Touched by an Angel on Sundays, while those shows were on that is. In fact, Sundays were the one and only time we were ever allowed to eat in front of the tv.
TV trays would get set up, frozen pot pies would go in the oven, and this was our special treat eating in the living room on the ocean blue, L-shaped, overstuffed couch. Looking back as an adult, it was probably nice for our parents to have frozen dinners, no real clean up involved, and we were all in bed on time before school and work started again the next day. Brilliant really. In reality it may even have been more of a treat for them than us. We thought it was great just the same, and it has obviously stuck with me over the years.
I still remember what types of food we ate, and it pretty much always included something green on our plate. At the Farm it was a tossed salad: iceberg lettuce, carrots, cucumber, large, juicy, fresh tomatoes. At home, green beans, peas and spinach out of the can or frozen broccoli. There were a lot of boxed dinners and things like fishsticks, but hey it was the late 80’s and 90’s, plus no one talked about organic anything. Besides, you try feeding a family of five, keeping it as healthy as possible and paying off doctorate loans. I’m not complaining by any means. I still remember Mom’s crazy friend who put ketchup on her spinach every times she came over. Yes. Ketchup. On her spinach. Her name started with an “H” and it’s right there on the tip of my tongue….Helen maybe?
I’m pretty sure she worked with Papa, but she would sing with Mom. Not at church I don’t think m- we were still going to the Methodist church in the city then – but at events in the summer. Maybe it was just the one time; the summer before my fifth grade year. They went to Santa Fe to rehearse for two weeks…one week?, then Papa, my sister and I went out to vacation. That was the summer of the accident. Not that none of us have never been in a car accident since, but this was the year of the life changing one. The woman with the “H” was riding with Papa, the rest of us girls following behind.
Afterwards when we went through his very much totaled car, I found a little shopping bag. Inside was a tiny paper bundle, which I unwrapped to find a small giffafe figurine – broken at the neck. The woman with the “H” liked giraffes. Those were her favorite. That actually reminds me several of Mom’s friends had favorite animals, in slightly obsessive ways. Figures, puzzels, painting, stuffed animals. It’s funny the things that stick in a child’s mind, pouring out in a stream of consciousness decades later…