As the Summer vacation season rolled over to make way for the changing of the leaves, I began wondering what typical families did as their way of celebrating the great American tradition this year. Maybe you’re in the process of planning this year’s fall getaway, but the memories of Summer vacations past and present are always something special.

In the “olden days,” it would mean piling the kids in the back of the station wagon and heading to points otherwise unknown… or… it meant you get the gang in the car and it was off to the lake house, or maybe 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 the journey involved a seat belt in those days. Or, maybe you were the one who 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. Disneyland 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 “stay-cation,” 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 rifle through a purse for a ringing cell phone, (as if it weren’t already in the driver’s hand,) or while waiting for somebody else to show up to 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 enjoyed a week-long gathering with the entire family myself, I can say that no matter how you get there… driving, flying or on a cruise… just make it happen.

The opportunities to gather the troops after they have left the roost become 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 very special moments that can only happen when families get together. Seems like the good stories from childhood and growing up always seem to take on a new, and even a richer flavor than the original when you throw in a good campfire, and the family… 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 more importantly, in my mind.

Another great moment occurred when my wife and I sat and enjoyed a talent show put on by the same cast of characters, plus their cousins. It was music, magic and tumbling exhibitions by the children. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. We all agreed that all of our gatherings will certainly have another show, and the grown ups are required to perform too.

What memories do you have filed away from your family vacations?

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 delighted by the unexpected joy filled details that will make priceless 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


Enter your email and enjoy words from Wayne every Friday!




The Wayne Messmer Radio Show

on WDCB 90.9 FM or at WDCB.ORG





Wayne on LinkedIn

Wayne on Twitter

Wayne on Facebook


Wayne Messmer with Judy Roberts