Family Vacations Sure Have Changed

Family vacations sure have changed. No self-respecting parent today would dare put that minivan into reverse and head out onto the interstate without making sure the kids had at least five different electronic diversionary devices: The iPod, the individual DVD players (God forbid the 7 year old and the 9 year old watch the same Disney movie!), the Gameboys, even the phone that lets you play Asteroids. Constant calm; no crying and again, God forbid, no boredom). Thats the goal of the vacationing parent with kids. If its to Epcot or Evansville to see the folks, a child not occupied is a danger.
But this wasnt always the case. There was a time when a six hour trip with nothing but a rousing game of liscense plate bingo, some bug juice and a few sandwiches wrapped in wax paper was a vacation unto itself. Actually I have to amend that. This trip about which I speak did have a very high tech device used to keep the kids occupied. Childrens stories, read into a cassette tape recorder! We kids loved it.
So, this trip to Maine camping. Remember camping? No, not the kind with GPS and microfibre clothing. Camping! With musty cotton canvas bags. Flannel sleeping bags from Beans and Coleman propane lanterns that always were brighter than you could ever imagine.
The simplest things were the whole experience really. The main goal may have been to canoe down a river or on the lake or maybe even bike. But with none of the intrusions of home (even before cell phones and computers) the small, little things took on grand and almost spiritual proportions. Getting up and making breakfast: coffee over a fire or on a cranky gas camp stove, drunk in stainless steel cups, Fruit Loops and Honey Smacks eaten right our of the tiny boxes that you cut open and poured in powdered milk, bacon and eggs, and Snakpak chocolate pudding. These were things that were rarely if ever (the sugared cereals specifically) eaten at home and so tasted like pure ambrosia out amongst the pines. Walking to the shower house with your bucket of toiletries: Ivory soap and flip flops and Deep Woods Off created olfactory memories for a lifetime.
What did we do out in the Maine woods? Nothing. That was the point. Simply living out of a tent and out of your element made you slow down and relax. We didnt even know it. Today one might spend a bushell of money to do the same things at a Canyon Ranch or Club Med. An entire day could be spent with a kid in the woods with a Petersons Bird book and a pair of binoculars. But then again the day could also be spent just hanging out by the campsite figuring out how to make the next meal in one pot.
Now all this nostalgia did have a downside. A family camp trip could really go south if it rained. You were always trying to stay dry and usually not successfully. Today the tents are better and easier to put up and the games (travel Scrabble and travel chess) you can pack would make a rainy day inside one tolerable. Heavy cotton clothing was pretty awful wet. A quick drying shirt or a little fleece would have certainly taken the chill off.
Janet Schaeffer – wife of LeRoy Schaeffer, owners of