What comes to your mind when you hear the words “family vacations?” Perhaps you flash back to the days when you were a child or maybe your thoughts go to trips that you as a parent enjoyed or maybe endured with your children. Regardless of the memories that are stirred up with those words, this is a good time to reflect on those adventures as we begin the summer season. This topic came to mind for Kay and me recently when Kay received a 2,000 piece puzzle for Mother’s Day featuring a collage of images that portrayed the many possibilities that involve those exciting, exasperating family trips.
As a child in a farmer’s family in Pennsylvania we didn’t have the luxury of a one or two week summer vacation trip. The vegetables kept growing, which meant the picking and packing for the weekly market days limited our family trip to Ocean City, New Jersey to just two or three days at a time. Though they were short in duration, they were big on fun at the shore, which included playing in the waves and sand during the day and walking the boardwalk at night. Even the smell of the salt-water soaked piers and crashing sounds of the waves of the incoming tides below made these times as a family memorable. Of course the large slices of pizza, ice cream cones, salt-water taffy and freshly made fudge were an added treat to our precious days together.
Little did I know then that I would one day be living in the desert lands of New Mexico, 2,000 miles away from those memories on the East Coast. As houseparents, however, we had the opportunity to take our Navajo kids on a summer trip. So, we set our focus on the possibility of showing these youngsters some of the places that we experienced in our homeland of eastern Pennsylvania.
As we planned our trip we included stopping at supporting churches along the way for presentations including our latest slide show and even a song or two from our kids who were dressed in traditional Navajo style clothing. Kay and I dressed the part, too, but we soon learned that velvet material was not conducive to the high heat and humidity of the Midwest and East. The churches provided housing for us in homes of the members or space for our sleeping bags on cold concrete floors in the church basements. Lots of potlucks and breakfasts also helped with our costs. Sometimes we stayed in Mennonite Your Way homes. These were families that allowed people to spend the night in their homes for a minimal cost. Many of them provided beds and floor space at no charge, also helping with our travel expenses.
Once we made it to our family in Lancaster, Pa., we split up our lodging between Kay’s parents and my parents who were just a few miles apart. We often spent a couple of weeks in the area, speaking in churches, attending picnics and of course a couple of days at the Jersey Shore; the first time that these desert dwellers ever saw an ocean. A visit to the Liberty Bell, Philadelphia Zoo and a Phillies baseball game filled up one long day. (What were we thinking??) Hershey Park and drives through Amish Country filled our hearts and minds with memories that you can see have lingered over the years, and I didn’t even share the time I broke my leg playing softball two days after our arrival one year.
“Precious memories. How they linger. How they ever flood my soul. In the stillness of the midnight,
Precious sacred scenes unfold.” What a blessing it is to have our memories. While we may forget people’s names as we grow older, it’s a gift from God to still have recollections of times gone by when we were younger.
And for those reading these lines today who still consider themselves young, I encourage you to make the best of your days with your spouse and children. It doesn’t have to include a trip across the country in a hot van filled with squirming little ones and antsy teenagers. It may just be an afternoon at Farmington Lake beach or a trip to the mountains to our north for a picnic by a stream. Sometimes it’s good to just step away from the electronic gadgets with all the bells and whistles and enjoy the sounds of nature somewhere.
The apostle Paul shared the joy he experienced when Timothy visited him, giving greetings from the friends in Thessalonica. “He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you.” (I Thessalonians. 3:6) I hope you will have the joy of some happy visits with family and friends this summer. Make some memories. They are keepers!