The Memoirist
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The Memoirist

Working-Class Families Take Rare Vacations

No money for travel or sightseeing.

Photo by Matteo Bernardis on Unsplash

I can remember exactly two bonafide summer vacations that our family had. Both were possible only through the generosity of a couple of my Dad’s work buddies. Otherwise, we never could afford to travel.

Our excursions were primarily visits to family, where the grandparents lived. We went to their homes frequently, often staying overnight or even for long weekends with one set of grandparents who had a forty-acre farm.

Dad would hunt with the menfolk, in season. Mom would settle in for good visits and gossip with the womenfolk. We kids would run wild and free with a whole brood of cousins and young aunts and uncles. In the evenings, my parents and grandparents would sit and play cards and I could hear uproarious laughter, so rare for any of them.

If we were staying overnight, we girls would either bunk in with one or another aunt, or sleep on “palettes” made of folded blankets on the floor when we got too big to share bed space.

The Farm in the early 1950s — Family photo of Author

The Forty Acres as we called it (so imaginative) consisted of the original small cabin (very originally called The Old House), now a tool shed, and the two-story hand-built house, still unfinished in this photo. A large screened porch would be added across the front later.

The other set of grandparents was quieter, with no remaining family still living with them. I remember sitting in their air-conditioned lakeside trailer home while the women sat in the shade outside in folding lawn chairs. Dad and Grandpa would be out on the lake, fishing. I would be quietly hiding away in the trailer, sneak reading the forbidden collection of Grandma’s True Confession magazines. Heady stuff for a pre-teen!

But back to the actual, honest-to-goodness vacations we took. Both of them. One was in a lakeside cabin lent to us by a buddy of Dad’s, on the shore of Lake of the Ozarks. I can’t remember who that buddy was or exactly where the cabin was. All I remember are two scrumptious food memories. Dad was out on the lake fishing every day so every night was a fantastic fish fry dinner. And one special day, my mother literally slaved over a hot stove in that steamy summer cabin kitchen, making the most amazing Peach ice cream from scratch.

Photo by Vidar Kristiansen on Unsplash

The other vacation was an invitation in early summer to visit a rural cabin of another work buddy. It was either close to the Cuivre River or to the Current River. Both those names ring vague bells, and I’m not sure which it was. But there was one day of wading in the extremely shallow, fast running, COLD river where the sunshine sparkled on the water and glinted off river smoothed rocks underfoot.

Photo by Chloé Leblanc on Unsplash

I have only one other memory of this trip. There was a wood stove in the main room of the cabin, but it was only lit in the early morning. At the time we visited it was frosty cold in the mornings.

It was a real trial to get out of a warm bed. In fact, I was so cold that I grabbed my jeans and shirt and stuff, pulled them quickly under the blankets with me, and waited a hungry long time for them to warm enough to wiggle into them, all while being tortured by the smells of bacon and pancakes in the cabin kitchen.

But those vague memories, of two vacations provided through the generosity of friends, remain with me to this day. I can’t remember much of what I actually did to pass the time, but I think I had fun because there are only good feelings attached to those memories.

I really didn’t mind too much that we never traveled to see all the history and natural wonders the U.S. has to offer. I did a lot of that sort of travel as an adult, so I didn’t miss out. My parents provided us with what they were able to provide.

It was enough.

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