It was August of ’63, and my family drove to northern Maine to visit family, as usual. We always spent ten days to two weeks in Maine, driving up in summer-weather and returning to fall and school. The summer of ‘63, my father planned a day-hike to climb Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park—link to another post about Katahdin. My sisters and a few cousins went. But not me.
That summer, I had two surgeries to repair my clubfoot. A day or so before we left for vacation, doctors cut my leg-cast down to a half-cast with a “heel” on the bottom. Though I’d soon be climbing trees and riding bikes with the walking cast, I had yet to adjust to it and was still using crutches.
The day of the climb, we dropped the hikers at Roaring Brook Camp Grounds in the early morning, drove to the other side of the mountain, and waited for them to reappear. The day dragged on as I thought about where they would be. Chimney Pond Camp Ground by mid-morning, up the Dudley Trail and Knife Edge to Baxter Peak by early-to-mid-afternoon. Then the long trek down the Hunt Trail to Katahdin Stream Camp Ground.
By late afternoon, I got itchy and started walking up the trail to meet them. I walked and walked and walked, determined to participate in any way I could. By the time we met up on the trail, I was elated —and exhausted. My father carried me on his shoulders, and I suppose my sisters or cousins carried my crutches.
Later, my father told me he was exhausted, too. But he said the sight of my determination melted his heart. As daylight began to fade, we snapped a few pictures, me with my older sister and cousins. And my father.
I would come to know his heart-felt feeling with my own children even when I was not at my best. Whale-watching off Gloucester—I got seasick—riding the rollercoasters at Busch Gardens in Williamsburg—same problem, and many other excursions that would wear even the most energetic parent down. But sharing my children’s joy… well, there’s nothing like it.
These days, Keith and I don’t really have summer vacations, unless we plan a trip, which we’re more likely to do off-season to take advantage of lower prices and less crowding. We also don’t really have weekends. One day is pretty much the same as the other when you’re a writer—except for church on Sunday.
Though I miss the concept of a summer vacation—fall, winter, spring vacations, too—I like the freedom of being able to plan my day, week, month, or year to take advantage of opportunities. For instance, today was a great day to spray-wash windows—actually rather fun. You can see why I needed a ladder to reach the top keyhole windows.
But I do miss the joy of children. I can’t wait for Christmas when everyone is here at Vanaprastha, including our granddaughter. Maybe we’ll climb a mountain together, and I’ll carry her on my shoulders.
What is your favorite summer vacation memory?