Just the words “summer vacation” invoke a sense of excitement in me. Unfortunately for my poor son, an exciting vacation to me anymore means we spend a week tramping through cemeteries, and hunkered over dusty old books in little tiny libraries in places that don’t have amusement parks. (Thank heavens for game boy!)
My own summers growing up were spent among the people that I am so fervently researching now – oh, that I had only paid more attention to grandma’s stories! Every year my folks would load my sister and me into the back seat of our ’61 Cadillac (the one with the big fins), and drive back to the small family dairy farm in Northeastern Ohio. I remember the drive taking forever, but mostly I remember being surrounded by family once we arrived – grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins… they were all there. We slept upstairs in the farmhouse that my dad grew up in, and would always peek into the dresser drawers to look at the things grandma had stored in them – particularly my dad’s navy uniform and hats!
During the day my grandpa would always fix us up with something unique and totally inappropriate. We got to wander through the dairy stalls and pet the cows, and we got to drive the tractor way out through the back fields, past the sugar shack where they boiled down the maple syrup in the spring, back to the creek (read that ‘crick’) where my dad used to swim as a little boy. We always begged to bring home a crawfish or two for pets, but for some reason mom never thought that was a good idea.
My grandpa taught me how to shoot a rifle when I was about six, and after we had mastered the art of blasting tin cans, he set us kids up in the barn with the task of shooting bats out of the top eaves of the roof. The next year or so, he taught me how to drive. I remember sitting next to him, despite being a bit scared of him, and thinking ‘well that’s all there is to that!’ as I drove his fifty-something Chevy around the yard. It didn’t matter that he had to press the gas & brake pedal, because I got to steer (it’s all I could reach) and that was quite enough for me.
Everyone in the small town there thought my sister and I were really something, being from California and all. My aunt and uncle owned the general store, and lived above it, and we thought that there couldn’t possibly be anything any cooler than living above your own grocery store! My aunt used to send us downstairs for a can of this or that when she was making dinner, and used to let us “buy” candy with coupons. And there was no place in California where Amish people would tie their horse & buggies to the hitching post in front of a store!
Inevitably we would have to pile into the car once again and head back home, to our quiet, boring existance, with only the promise of the next summer to look forward to. Once home we were back to our own quiet little family again, with all the relatives reduced to names on Christmas or birthday cards. I think that this is one of the reasons that I do genealogy – to try to recapture that warm feeling of being surrounded by relatives. Its never quite the same, but sometimes it gets pretty close.