Exceptional Summer Vacations
In my mind, I hear a faint, "Marco" and the answer of the group, "Polo."
Summer in Arizona by the pool was bliss! I know that sounds a bit crazy, who goes to the boiling 110-degree temperatures of Arizona in the summer? We did. It was an epic road trip... all of us piled into the Volkswagen bus. My Grandma and my aunt lived there, two pools to choose from and good family fun.
The majority of the time the VW was full, even though someone was always working at Lagoon (a local amusement park) or with my Dad (He could never come, summers were his busiest time). Sometimes there were no seats left, and I sat on the floor or in the trunk of the car. Air conditioning wasn't an option in the 1970's VW bus, and my hair blew around wildly. If I was lucky enough to have a turn at the window, I would lay my head on it drawing waves in the wind as my mind imagined what it might be like to live on an Indian reservation. We would pass by the little roadside shacks and at least once we would stop to buy jewelry. Daydreaming, boredom, songs, more daydreaming and fighting for the front or window seat are fond memories of my childhood.
On arrival at my aunts, we spread our mattresses on the floor and camped out in her house. It was a week of 'a chill mode' by the pool, having lunches in the shade, playing Marco Polo and reading books. I don't ever remember watching T.V., never a movie. We must have, but I don't remember. Memories are made of real life; the games we play, the conversations we have, the stories we tell, the fights and the make ups.
Sometimes when my Mom was talking to her sister about life, marriage and kids I would lay on the floor and scoot my way into the room, dying to listen in and hear about the adult life, hoping to hear something shocking.
My aunt was the polar opposite of my Mom and seeing them together I wondered how different we might all turn out. My Mom was Mormon with eleven kids, my aunt sipped on wine and had Gucci handbags, two kids, and a full-time nanny. Still, they were sisters and had enough in common to keep them talking for hours.
One day my aunt was in the mood for chocolate chip cookie dough but not the baking bit. We made the dough and ate a full batch giggling all the while. My Mom was in her one piece with her practical ways and my aunt in a mini bikini sporting some fancy swimsuit cover-up and a hat, her fingers and toes were always done. I wonder, will my girls be so different and yet so close?
Sometimes I feel guilty about always heading to the same places on vacation but isn't vacation about recharging our batteries? Our kids need a break, and so do we.
I can't wait to get back this summer. A girl, my daughter, goes to school with made fun of her for going to Utah. "Utah, why would you go there? What is there? Just a bunch of Mormons." My answer would have been, "Utah is so much more than that honey, but what is most important, my family is there."
Will I be doing anything special? I proudly say nope, not by this young ladies definition of 'exceptional.' But if I think of my definition...absolutely! I am doing the most important thing of all; just hanging out with family, going to the pool and talking about life.
I realize I am giving my kids just what they need and what money cannot buy; strong connections to family, time away in a familiar place, love, downtime and memories. Maybe one day one of them will write about our summers in Utah.
—Allison Ochs Social Worker M.S.W. , Coach, Expat, Mother of three, Wife