The Birth of a Family Vacation.

Summer Vacation. Growing up, that phrase was never uttered without the capital letters. Because in our house? Summer Vacation was a Very Big Deal.

Once a year, my parents would pack the whole family up (including the St. Bernard, and yes, even Fuzzer the cat), and we’d hit the road. And these were no short jaunts we embarked on. Nope. The average trip was 18 hours or more, over giant bridges and through towering mountains, all on traffic-clogged, construction barrel-littered highways.

I’d spend the trip getting slobbered on by our 180-pound dog while my mom cleaned up Fuzzer’s repeated bilious protests (she vomited so much we called her Faucet Face) and my dad swore at the traffic.

By the time we arrived, I’d be so carsick I could no longer stand up straight. My dad would be snarling at the world. I’m not sure what my brother was doing (by this point, we usually weren’t talking), but my mom would be cheerfully assembling sandwiches and snacks, sure that once we had food in our stomachs, everything would take a turn for the better.

And you know what? She was right.

A lot of my fondest childhood memories stem from Summer Vacation. I remember cannon-balling off my dad’s shoulders, shrieking with joy. I remember playing in the surf with my mom, laughing as yet another wave threatened to tip us over. I remember watching the fireflies dance, and playing Yahtzee, and chasing down pelicans.

For that week, my brother and I were always the best of friends. We’d spend hours playing in the waves together, catching hermit crabs, and making sand castles on the beach. At night, we’d take turns roasting marshmallows, and at bedtime, we’d giggle together in our sleeping bags until my dad threatened to make someone sleep in the car.

Every vacation had its share of mishaps (for instance, there was the year our cat got kidnapped by raccoons), but in my mind, those memories are surrounded by a soft golden glow. They’re also accompanied by the smell of salt, the feeling of sand between my toes and the sound of waves crashing on the beach.

Because our Summer Vacation? Wasn’t a vacation at all unless it found us playing on an ocean beach.

So now that I have my own little family, I’m dying to have a Summer Vacation of our own. One that involves an ocean, a car trip, and maybe even a little swearing.

My husband is trying to talk sense into me. There’s no need for a 14-hour trip down I-65, he says. After all, we’d probably pass about 12325475824 perfectly good lakes on the way. Lakes where we could swim, build sand castles and make memories.

After all, he points out, she’s still too young to really remember a vacation. And our last car trip? The one home at Christmastime? Was made 1,000 times longer by the soundtrack of screams that issued from the backseat.

These are all good points. Points I really can’t argue with. But my desire for an ocean-oriented vacation has nothing to do with common sense. It’s a hunger that comes from somewhere way down deep in my soul.

In the depths of this endless Indiana winter, I need something to look forward to. I need to know that sometime soon, I’ll hear the ocean’s rhythm again. I need to believe I’ll see the pelicans circling again. I need to be able to daydream about showing Tori how to make a sand castle, snuggling on the beach with my honey and watching the dolphins dance in the surf.

I need to know there’s a Summer Vacation in our future. Is that so much to ask?

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