Before my parents got divorced, my Mom and Dad worked hard to ensure that each of their kids were exposed to the wider world.
I’m not sure the travel bug was rooted in my Father’s being left behind, once his Mother divorced his father, and spirited his younger brother away, or if it was rooted in my Mother’s freestyling of her own Father’s insistence on seeing and doing new things as he worked the mail car route between New York and Massachusetts. Or, if it was a combination of both parent’s experiences, plus the 60’s flower power rhythm which exhorted young people to get out and see America, to experience life for themselves.
Whatever it was, we didn’t have much money, but we always traveled. Every Summer. Regardless of debts. Regardless of how sick I’d been the prior Winter.
Once Spring and Summer came, it was like everything was conspiring to make me well (if it was a Summer without an operation), even if it was only for a short period of time. I won’t tell you about all the holidays which became a challenging a two-hour race back home to MA from NH, as I fell sick and they didn’t want to hospitalize me away from home, but will rather add another happy memory – 1970 – when we drove from Massachusetts to Kentucky, and the highlights of my Summer “chore” experiences:
Massachusetts to Pennsylvania:
– First motel pool. Swimming after dark following a long, air-conditionless day in the car.
– 5 people in a room with Big Bro and Dad in one bed, Mom and me in another bed, and Baby sis in her portacrib.
– and a chambermaid (my first real job in 1974) to clean our room and make our beds !
– learned about flax and spinning it into thread, plus how the thread became cloth (my Mom was big on ensuring we knew how people did things before modernization, to get us to thinking about where things come from, how one might make a living once grown, and keeping busy with hobbies and experiences on a regular basis. Life was for the living and to be enjoyed).
– seeing amish or pennsylvania dutch, and learning about people who still lived without technology – (gasp) “No TV? By choice?!??” (Mind boggling to my 9 year old brain).
Then seeing my Nana (my Father’s mother) with her new husband, “Jim, Dear”, while we visited them in Kentucky, and she tried her best to get along with the son she’d left behind oh so many years prior, after she divorced her first husband.
I learned old people can never sleep in, especially when married to a Military man, and that one got up at 5am daily to do calisthenics before the day was wasted.
Who knew one exercised indoors vs. taking a walk around the neighborhood? Apparently, only people with dogs walked their neighborhoods. Walking was for poor people, or their household help. (Yes, Nana and her eventual 7 husbands was quite an education at various points during my formative years).
While in Kentucky, I got to see my first horse (per Nana, so much more appropriate than milking cows in Canada the prior Summer), and visit Churchhill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby, and a bastion of the “best” of the beautiful people.
Before we overstayed our welcome, we also traveled to New Mexico (Nana kept the baby with her for the day) and toured Carlsbad Caverns.
Clearly, I come by my itchy feet and the travel bug honestly. I may not remember the difference between stalagtites and stalagmites, for knowing which is which without looking it up, but I remember the words and the experiences of happy family times when so much was riding on making sure we kids got a solid grounding in understanding that the world was bigger than our back yard, and ours to enjoy if we dared to explore.