Saturday, September 19, 2009

Family Vacations

In our home town, there used to be a practice in place every spring. Much of the city’s population would hit the road and head to Panama City, Florida for spring break. Some left when school dismissed on Friday. Some snuck out early. All, except those who chose to fly, found themselves bumper-to-bumper, in two lanes, pointed south.

When you passed a car, the inhabitants waved at folks they knew. If you pulled off for a snack, you’d stand in line with neighbors. Once you arrived, motels and beach front rentals were filled with familiar faces. When you strolled along the beach, you stepped over the bodies transported from north central Indiana.

When you went shopping, to a restaurant, to the amusement park, you’d be surrounded by friends. Many establishments would post “Welcome Kokomo” on their marquees.

We made the trip three times when the kids were in grade school. Of course, they enjoyed it; seeing your friends at a Florida beach was a unique and then a pleasant experience. We mostly sat, and drove around, and ate, as northern Florida’s early spring weather was usually too cool for much swimming in the ocean.

The trip took about 12 hours of hard driving so we arrived tired; we’d return Saturday with a van full of dirty clothes and people, and I got to spend my Sunday afternoon cleaning up. We found, after three tries, that we could find other things we liked better to do on that week break from school.

During a recent trip (next entry), the hub started talking about how his wife the teacher was always trying to turn trips into something educational. As if that’s a bad thing. Contradictory to what a vacation should be. Oh, really?

Then, he reminded me that on one of these Florida treks, I insisted that we take a side trip to experience some enrichment. Specifically, I forced the family off the two lane interstate and on to a dusty back road to see The World’s Largest Peanut Boil.

My family has, for many years, accused me of having selective memory. Allyson’s insight is that I seem to forget how I favored my son. Zach has similar sister incidents to report. I have had former students recite that ‘one thing’ they’ll always remember me saying and when they do, I usually can’t recall it. But, come on. In 35 years of talking (English teacher, you know) I have worked with over 15,000 students so I can give myself a break on that one.

Then, there’s the hub. When it comes to retelling a story, he fabricates; he exaggerates; he manipulates the facts. So in the case of his tales, my problem may not be selective memory but no memory of the event because either it did not happen or only in the broadest sense, OR I was not present.

So it is with this incident, this insistence that we visit The World’s Largest Peanut Boil. He reports that when we got to the center of a tiny town, there was a huge boiling vat. “You see,” he explained to our children, “in the south, they boil peanuts.” (educational, yes?) And then we continued back to the highway.

Ok, I’m figuring that the entire field trip took 30 minutes or so. It involved a discussion and probably some disagreement, and Mom finally prevailing. It included getting off a main high way, something that makes us ALL nervous, a drive to this little town and a viewing of the vat. Perhaps we got out. Surely after all of that we would have gotten out of the car. Then, Dad’s explanation and back to the car. Turn around and try to retrace our tracks. And on to Florida. It also would have included much discussion of whether or not it was worth the time. And, knowing my family, there would have been slightly sarcastic remarks about how Mom had enhanced the vacation with this special trip.

So, how come I have no recollection of this? Is it selective memory or something else? I maintained that it never happened. The hub, with his best dumbfounded expression, asserted that we did, in fact, visit the vat.

“I can’t believe you don’t remember. Ask the kids.”

And so I did. Zach, who had not had time to be paid off by his dad, said that he had no memory of a peanut boil. “Maybe I was too young.”

Did he remember Florida? The go-carts, the birds that ate his lunch? Yes. So.

I e-mailed Allyson. She is a busy gal these days with her babies back home and her Army residency. And, I’m betting that when she can’t recall events from her childhood, that brain space is filled with something medical. However, she’s got a good memory.

“No peanut memory, Mom.”


I’m sure that on most family vacations, I couldn’t turn off the teacher mode and I pushed and pulled us to learning activities. “No, that’s not just a piece of furniture. It’s a wardrobe. It’s C.S. Lewis’s actual wardrobe.” And then we’d read (again) The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe.

But, for now, it’s three to one that the Bolingers did NOT visit The World’s Largest Peanut Boil.

Maybe next year.


  1. He's LAWYER that's what they do!!!!! (exagerates, fabricates, manipulates the facts)

  2. Speaking of peanuts, there's a pic of me and my mom in Plains, Georgia looking rather tired and weary in the mid 70s. My brother Charlie said we looked like a couple of convicts ready to take over a train. Out of that vacation, that's what I remember the most.

  3. Mike exaggerate? Never! lol