Tuesday, September 21

Childhood Memories

My husband and I have been cleaning a condo out on the beach for a little extra money. Last night I walked out onto the balcony and was transported down memory lane. For as long as I can remember, my parents, sisters and I would all go down to the beach for a summer vacation. My mom was all about building up the anticipation for our trip. We would go get special clothes put on layaway that we couldn't wear until vacation. Sometimes she would buy us a bucket full of new coloring books and crayons or neat to do books that we were not allowed to DARE touch until daylight (usually around Eufala AL)! I remember how impossible it was to go to sleep the night before- knowing that in just a few short hours we would be beach bound!! My mom would always plan it so most of the driving was done in the dark hoping we would sleep most of the way. I remember as I got older how much harder that was and how eventually I was even able to help drive. It was always a fight for me to drive over the Hathaway bridge- which meant we had finally arrived! I also remember the one year we drove a car down rather than a van. Needless to say, it wasn't a pleasant drive.
All of the memories I have of us on the beach all have the same theme- laughter! Vacation was one of the only times of the year that we had my dad's undivided attention for hours on end! He patiently buried us in the sand, built sand castles, pretended gators were in the ocean, and threw us across the pool. My mom loved having that time to sit on the balcony early in the mornings with a cup of coffee and watch the sun rise over the horizon. She loved being able to sit under an umbrella and read a book for hours, ok more like minutes, on end without being interrupted. My sisters and I could play hours and hours with few fights (as I remember anyway). They were- after all- my best friends. It wasn't until years later after we had all changed that we actually brought friends. I now understand why this was important for my mom. I was lucky to have siblings who I actually liked being with and even preferred to be with.
Going out to dinner every night was a big deal on our vacations. Not only did my mom get a break from cooking three meals a day, but she also didn't have to clean up. We all had our favorite restaurants that we enjoyed going back to each year. We also loved finding new ones to try out. For years we would eat at a place called Penny's. All I remember about it was that it was a 'hole in the wall' where locals frequented and it took FOREVER to get there. My dad was very proud of that find.
All of my memories are painted with the innocence of a child. I know they weren't perfect. I especially remember my mother and I fighting with my dad always stepping in to keep the peace. I remember some years my parents would be stressed about finances, but we still always went. I remember the year my dad stopped coming with us.
Last night as I was standing on that balcony, I felt many emotions, but the most prominent was sadness. Sadness that that family is no longer. Sadness that we will never be able to experience an idealistic childhood vacation again.
I was also angry. Angry that my dad stole those future memories from me. Angry that reality would no longer allow me to ever enjoy times that like again. Life has changed each of us. Yes we still love each other and are still a close family, but those memories were when we were at our best.
My only hope and prayer is that I can give my child a wealth of memories to cherish, each just as special than the last. I also pray that my child will never have to feel what I felt on that balcony.

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