As summer vacation season rolls around, every family has a way of celebrating the great American tradition. Maybe you’re in the process of planning this year’s version as we speak. If so, read on.

In the olden days, it would mean piling the kids in the back of the station wagon and heading to points, otherwise unknown… or… off to the lake house or a few hours of motoring off to share some quality time at a campground.

These were the days of battling with your siblings for the window seat… and not getting stuck straddling the hump in the middle… none of which involved a seat belt. Or, maybe you called dibs on the “back-back”… or the “way back”… depending on whatever you labeled it. There… you could snuggle up among the suitcases and the bags of snacks while watching the oncoming cars… trying to get them to wave back at you. Remember how we would pretty much go wild as any strangers came even remotely close.

And those car rides would often become our playground on wheels… Playing the alphabet game over and over… looking for the letter before your brother or sister saw it… especially the tough ones… like Q and X. The letter Z was easy… just look for the next pizza joint.

How about the license plate game? I once counted twenty-two state plates in about a three-hour drive… I think that was my personal best.

Of course the driving vacation went by the way of progress and the airplane replaced the family car… and Disney Land and Disney World floated to the top of the vacation wish list… But the trend seems to be changing again.

Thanks to a downturn in the economy… the so-called “staycation,” and a plethora of regional theme parks that have popped up… it is a shift to moving back to basics for the family getaway. The journey now happens in SUV’s and Range Rovers that will never come any closer to off-road driving than pulling onto to the shoulder to wait for somebody else to come change a flat tire.

But, I think that the family driving destination vacation really is making a comeback… and that’s a good thing… in my opinion.

In fact, having a week-long gathering with the entire family coming up, I can say that… no matter how you get there… driving, flying or on a cruise… just make it happen.

The times we have together to gather the troops after they have left the roost become opportunities that are as scarce as hen’s teeth… (I’ll bet that’s a phrase you have no idea what it means?).

So… when, or, if the chance to assemble the clan around the campfire or fire pit, or even a picnic table for that matter, presents itself… jump at it!

These are the special moments that can only happen when families get together. Seems like the good stories from childhood and growing up seem to take on a new, and even a richer flavor than the original when you throw in a good campfire… not to mention a sunset.

There is an amazing point of truth when you recognize that you are in the moment, making memories. This is what becomes the true fabric of our lives… spun from the youthful times and the often all too brief family moments.

I recall just such a moment when I was able to play catch with my then 8, 6 and 4 year old granddaughters… and stand in amazement as my almost 2 year-old grandson took his first series of steps as I pushed the record button on the camera and in my mind.

Or, another moment when my wife and I sat an enjoyed a talent show put on by the same cast of characters. This next gathering will certainly have another show, and the grown ups are required to perform too.

What do you have planned for your family vacation?

How about making sure that the first item on the checklist is just agreeing to make the time to be together… let the details of the when and where fall into place after that. You’ll be surprised and probably delighted by the unexpected joy filled details that will make scrapbook memories .

As the song goes… little things, mean a lot.

Where's Wayne

  • Apr 30
    Drury Lane Theatre,  Oakbrook Terrace
  • May 3
    Allstate Arena,  Rosemont
  • May 4
    The Chapel,  Mundelein
  • May 4
    Wrigley Field,  Chicago


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Wayne Messmer with Judy Roberts