As the summer vacation season starts its plans to make way for the changing of the leaves, I began wondering what typical families have in mind as their way of celebrating the great American tradition this year… the family vacation. Maybe you’re still in the process of planning this year’s 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 that you get the gang in the car and took a drive 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. I remember how we would pretty much go wild as any strangers came even remotely close, let alone, waved back or tooted their horn.


Those car rides would often become our virtual playground on wheels, playing the alphabet game over and over, looking for the letter before your brother or sister spotted 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 still think that  ranks as 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 in no small part 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 just 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 a number of summers ago 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, or this past week when the now 14, 11, and 9 year-old granddaughters were close at hand for a week of fun, and my now 6 year-old grandson talked my ear off while chatting next to me alongside a campfire on a cool Michigan night.


Another great moment predictably occurs when my wife and I sit to enjoy a talent show put on by the same cast of characters. It is a smorgasbord of music, magic, pom, comedy and gymnastics exhibitions by the children. I wouldn’t miss it for the world. We all agreed that all of our gatherings will certainly have to include a show, and the grown ups are required to perform as well. The annual traditional event has become a highlight of our time together.


What memories do you have filed away from your family vacations? If you don’t have an immediate response, please take note… because you are missing an opportunity.


How about making sure that the first item on the checklist on your “to-do” list is just agreeing to take 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 moments that will make emerge to present 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


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Wayne Messmer with Judy Roberts