The start of school is fast approaching (and already here for students who consider themselves the unluckiest kids on the planet, and they’re not far off).
Summer vacation puts a lot of stress on parents. We all hope for memorable experiences that result in dramatic and A-winning “What I Did During My Summer Vacation” essays.
After 18 summers of trying to entertain my son Bryson for at least one school-free week, organized vacations featured among the lowest memories-per-dollars ratio of all childhood experiences.
By “memories,” I don’t necessarily mean “good memories.” The greatest memory-per-dollar ratio is the time I tossed a bottle of ketchup against a wall, wildly overreacting to spilled milk (don’t judge me). That story has been told dozens of times in many forms, some involving injuries (there were none) — so many memories from a $2.49 bottle of ketchup.
The bottom line is that summer vacations are crapshoots. Like wine and NFL drafts, the true value is determined over time.
Recently over beers, I asked my grown son his best and worst vacation moments. Our moments actually lined up, unlike our views on music, politics and his budget.
Photo courtesy of Scott Craven
The worst occurred in June 2008 as we got off the Durango-Silverton train after a long-planned journey through a beautiful Colorado landscape. Bryson, then 13, hopped off and said, “Well, that was the most boring six hours of my life.”
He made no secret of his distaste for the journey from the moment the train departed. I bit my tongue, not wanting to ruin what was a bucket-list trip for a member of our party.
But five minutes after he shared his opinion, he was very clear on this one life lesson: The world didn’t revolve around him. The fact it was delivered angrily in full public view made it that more memorable.
The best moment occurred in July 2006 at Disney World in Orlando. Armed with a mini football during our daily afternoon break from the crowds, we played catch on the lawn outside the hotel. My then 11-year-old son went out for pass after pass as thick clouds darkened.
Skies eventually opened up and drenched us in seconds. I was sure my son would race back to the hotel.
Instead, he tossed me the ball, a huge smile on his face. He said he’d run to the palm tree and cut toward the pool. “Hit me by the bush,” he said before taking off.
He went long, he went short. He leaped, he slid. We were out there another 30 minutes, or maybe it was a few hours. Time didn’t matter.
I still replay that moment today. Time has done me no favors through the decades, but I’m grateful a particular stormy afternoon is frozen safely within it.