Though it was decades ago, many memories still remain from that trip. My parents took us to all sorts of places, both big and small. We took my Dad’s little car, and sometimes he would even let Mom drive . . . that let us kids know we were going to be gone for a LONG time. I remember telling my Mom that I would take a nap on our trip.
We visited so many interesting places, many of which I can now look up on the web. Yet nothing on those websites can replicate the wonder of leaving the Midwestern cornfields and traveling through such a vast area that was so very different than home. We visited Casa Loma in Ontario, Chateau de Frontenac in Quebec, and Saint John, New Brunswick where we witnessed the reversing rapids (and ate lobster-yuk!) We traveled through Nova Scotia, and drove the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island.
The second quite memorable ferry ride was to Newfoundland. Nine hours there, and nine hours back. On the way we learned that reclining chairs are not as comfy as a bed, and that both my brother and I could be seasick in choppy waves. I remember getting an orange from the cafeteria on the ferry. I remember seeing great cliffs turned on their sides, with stripes going almost vertically, and my parents talking to us about how that probably happened during Noah’s flood. I remember wondering why my Mom was driving 63, until I learned that it was kph instead of mph.
There are other memories that lurk in the recesses of my brain from that trip. Ontario was a big, yet old city. The Chateau de Frontenac was too big in my small world to be a hotel, surely you would get lost inside. The manager at the Dairy Queen in Quebec City was the only person there who spoke English . . . and that not fluently. I remember the first (and only) time my Mom let me throw away food. We were eating breakfast at a little Mom and Pop store connected to a gas station, and the French lady cooking simply could not understand that I needed my fried eggs cooked all the way through. To her, over-easy was “cooked.” I ate the white, the yellow soup went into the trash can when Dad was busy putting gas in the car.
I remember sleeping upstairs in a house that was the tiniest bed and breakfast (2 extra bedrooms.) My parents so enjoyed our hosts that they exchanged Christmas cards for years and years afterward. I remember the sense of wonder at the hills and mountains, and at the vastness of the might St. Lawrence river.
My parents saved for a long time to take us on that trip. Yet, it’s not the money they spent that makes it so memorable, even more than 30 years later. The memories come from the time they spent with my brother and I, and the planning they did in advance so everyone could enjoy our vacation. There were big places to visit, and little side stops along the way so we wouldn’t get too bored, or too stiff, from riding in the car. There was the day that it drizzled, yet we still stopped at this village of miniature houses. Somewhere there is picture of my brother and I in our yellow raincoats, looking at Anne Hathaway’s house, or standing inside the miniature castle wall. There were pretend stocks there too. When I grew older and read about Puritan New England, I had an idea of just how awful it would have been to be placed in the stocks and have rotten vegetables thrown in your face.
That family vacation taught me a lot about parenting. The memories have guided me when we plan our own vacations with our girls. So what were some of the valuable lessons I learned? Plan ahead, get maps, choose attractions with a wide range of interesting activities, take snacks, find a laundromat along the way, take pictures, and slow down and enjoy your children and each day you have been given. I learned that Mom and Pop places usually have the best food (if you speak the same language,) and that one black and white picture taken on a camera borrowed from your Mom can bring back a flood of memories.
My parents taught us that experiences are more valuable than things, and that family memories can last a lifetime. You can go far away, or stay close to home, and still make memories. Some day, I would love to take another trip to Canada and make memories to share with my husband and daughters.
What about you, what memories do you treasure from your childhood that help you in parenting your own children? Whether you step out into your backyard, or travel thousands of miles away to make those memories, cherish each day.