Our Normal Vacation

Summer trips with stops at Stuckey’s and Storybook Land. Sleeping in genuine teepees at the Woocheekoochee Warpath Motel — with a swimming pool!

A normal vacation for many kids during the 1960s.

But nobody ever accused my family of normalcy.

Any July morning, Dad might casually inform my mother he planned a family departure to visit his parents in Louisiana. At 8:00 p.m. that day.

Mom would have scorned comparison to that Wonder Woman hussy in bustier and tights, but she herself represented a true marvel. By 8:00 p.m. she had washed and packed clothes. She had canned every ripe tomato and pickle within 20 miles. Pets were exported and schedules rearranged with the decisiveness of a Fortune 500 CEO. Why Mom also cleaned our car remains a mystery. One root beer stand stop, and the station wagon again was infested with French fries, seats freshly graffitied with ketchup.

Her most amazing feat: Mom never hired a hit man to bump off Dad.

Arriving home, he flattened station wagon seats, loaded suitcases and cooler, then stacked us on top.

Dad loved all-night driving because he endured few dollar-eating, time-consuming restaurant stops. No tinkle breaks every two miles. Nothing to interrupt his love song of the open road — after children nodded off.

I often awakened with a sibling’s foot in my ear or an arm strangling me in a half nelson.

Sometimes, I awoke to discover Dad catching a few winks along an unknown highway. Waking siblings — especially the baby — was a capital crime. So, I watched in mingled hope and terror as headlights approached: hope because they lit the darkness; terror because the Hatchet Murderers of America were traveling tonight, too.

Mornings, we played tag under cedars at a Tennessee rest stop while Mom cooked bacon and eggs over a campfire. The smells alone made the all-night drive worth it.

After crossing the Mississippi River, we soon stopped outside Monroe, Louisiana. Mom extracted The Washcloth from its plastic bag to scrub us, making us smell as if we’d spent the night in a dumpster. Still, it ranked above spit and shine with The Kleenex, Mom’s substitute if she forgot The Washcloth.

Dad called Grandma from a phone booth. We all knew this dialogue by heart.

“Mama, we’re in Louisiana.”

“No, you’re not.” She’d fallen too many times for his fibs. “You ain’t left Indiana.”

“Mama! We’re just outside Monroe.”

Grandma Oglesbee, wearing the wary expression she usually did when my dad fibbed to tease her.

She didn’t buy it.

Finally, Dad admitted what Grandma had suspected all along: “The car broke down. We haven’t left home.”

“I knew it! Ya’ll think I’m soft in the head.”

His favorite part of “normal” vacation: 30 minutes later, when we pulled into Grandma’s driveway.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What vacation memory can’t you forget?

6 thoughts on “Our Normal Vacation

  1. Jan Oglesbee

    Some more memories of those Louisiana trips that stand out in my head: the lullaby “thump, thump, thump” of tires against a country road; breaking out singing the State Song as we crossed into another state; the memory of Dad making us wait as we passed restaurant after restaurant with the promise that we’d stop at Miss Kitty’s–only to find that his favorite eating place had burned down.

    1. rachael

      I’d totally forgotten Miss Kitty’s, Jan! What a dive–it must have driven Mom crazy to eat there every trip! (I imagine she privately gave thanks when she saw it had burned down–though Dad probably found another dive in no time!)
      Thanks for the comment. Hugs, and hope you have a relaxing day in your new retirement!

  2. Stacy Simmons

    Vacation memories are a treasure!
    I have one that sticks out in my mind. We went in July to NC for a stay in the “mountains.” The cabin had no a/c (it was a balmy 90 degrees). No screens on most windows-cue the drone of mosquitos buzzing in the tiny cabin.
    After my mom, sister, and I complained heartily the next morning, my dad had had enough whining. We packed up the car, and went to Gatlinburg and stayed in a nice cold hotel room with no mosquitos!

    1. rachael

      Hahaha, Stacy, why do dads seem to have one idea for vacations, and moms another? It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized my mom actually would have preferred different scenarios! Once she and I traveled alone along the Oregon coast, and I took her to a hotel along the ocean. She was ecstatic! Wish I had done it more.

      Thanks for sharing your story and your comments, Stacy. Here’s to cushy, air-conditioned vacations for us both!

  3. Doris Kelly

    Oh, don’t get me started. I have fodder for many stories and information that could have my siblings and cousins looking for revenge for the rest of my life. “I know nothing….I see nothing…. “buwahhah hah!

    1. rachael

      Sounds like you should incorporate some of these in your books! When your relatives get all uptight, look supremely innocent and say, “Hey, this is fiction. Why the problem?” Bet they would make fun poems, too. …

      Thanks for your comment, and may fun memories give you smiles all day.


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