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August 08, 2011

Family Vacations

Family Vacations 

By Kathy Reschini Sweeney

I am writing this from Stone Harbor, New Jersey.  Stone Harbor is between Atlantic City and Cape May in south Jersey and we have been coming here for at least 35 years - we can't seem to remember the first year we came.  It's a pretty straight shot across Pennsylvania so we usually see lots of familiar faces from home.  After so many years, we also see familiar faces here.  Places, too.  Uncle Bill's Pancake House for breakfast.  Hoys 5&10.  Miniature golf courses.  The Fudge Kitchen.  Springers for ice cream.  New places too - like Tutto Gelato - the Queen to King Springers.

Every summer, we come here and spend time with my Mom and with each other.  We do things here that we don't take the time to do at home.  Jigsaw puzzles.  The annual viewing of "Murder by Death" (this year, a special occasion in honor of the late Peter Falk).  A trip to the Christmas store - is there a law that says all beach towns must have at least one Christmas store?  Lots of fish and seafood and fresh fruit - plus Jersey tomatoes and Jersey corn - yum!

This year, we pulled out the DVD sets from the television show M*A*S*H*.  None of our kids - mine or my nieces and nephews, had seen the show and I have to tell you, it aged very well.  I dare any one of you to watch an episode that involves Frank Burns and Col. Flagg without laughing out loud at least once.  It's funny, in a sad way, how a show that aired 30 years ago written about a war that happened over 50 years ago that became a critical commentary about a war that started  40 years ago resonates equally today, when we have 5 wars going on with no end in sight.

Over on the news channels, it's all bad.  Apparently, no country in the world has enough money to pay their bills, and the markets are in a panic.  Everyone is appalled at how much money we've spent.  Where the hell did it all go?  (Hint: see paragraph above).  In other highlights, people are running around killing other people - and that's not counting the wars.  Maybe it's because we have instant access to news, but I don't remember a time when there was such widespread deadly violence that crossed all borders.  Race, economics, age, gender, urban and suburban, academic and secular.  Humans are shooting each other.  Madness reigns.

But when we are all together in Stone Harbor, whether it's over slices from Peace a Pizza, or the fabulous deserts Miss Sloane made, we do the only thing that saves our collective sanity.  We laugh. We rented an electric car that we dubbed the "Flintstone Mobile".  We drive around and sing songs - everything from Mulan's "I'll Make a Man Out of You" to Chamillionaire's "Ridin'" to Cee Lo Green's "Forget You" - (PG lyrics only).  We do puzzles and riddles and we crack each other up constantly.  My jaw hurts from smiling and my stomach hurts from laughing.

Here on this 7-mile island, between the ocean and the bay, we return to our family's place, summer after summer, because it is a place that holds great memories and the promise of new ones.  Amid the chaos and turmoil in the real world, this is our place of emotional refuge.  We are so, so lucky to have one.

Where is your family's place?














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Ah, Kathy, can I be an honorary Sweeney or Reschini?

My family's enormous and we're good about getting together, but never in the same place twice. We tend to like lakes and mosquitos. I'd love to have a vacation spot with some familiarity, year after year, but I'm not sure anyone would want us year after year.

Kathy, I would love that. Sounds like so much fun!

My great-grandmother Troy owned a riverside cottage in the Mssachusetts woods north of Boston. Everyone in that part of our family used to vacation there. My parents kind of slid in and took it over in a time of need. Within a few years they lost it to the bank. So "the aunts" got together and bought a place on the Cape, and we were never invited. But heh . . . I get that . . . and don't blame them.

About 30 years ago I bought a small ranch in California. There's a wooded area along Kelso Creek, and it's quiet - when the guy across the creek isn't shooting at you, that is. Everyone says he's harmless, but I maintain that his bullets are not.

We like to invite family there for picnics. We usually camp out. Auntie-Mom comes, of course, and some friends. It's relaxing and fun. Peaceful. No TV. No Internet. No radio. No telephone. Just water. Trees. Sand. Rock formations. Bobcats. Mountain lions. Bears. Deer. Eagles. Hawks. A huge owl. Other people's cattle. A couple of cowboys. A few Indians. And a few Indians who are cowboys.

It's nice. And it's quiet when the guy with the gun is off making his Avon deliveries.

No real vacation place; we tend to wander where the mood strikes!

Everyone should watch the entire series of M*A*S*H* on general principles, as it is an excellent example of the insanity of war. Any war.

With the whole world going to hell, it's a joy to have family to run to.

This year, instead of the beach or the family lake cottage, our family is going to...............Vegas. I'll let you know how it turns out.

For some reason, this little poem has been running through my head - I refuse to google it. I'm supposed to be on vacation. Does anyone recognize it?

To see the world in a grain of sand
And something in a wildflower
Something something something something
And eternity in an hour.

On and off for the past twenty years, some of us in my family have been sharing a house rental in Chincoteague, VA, famous for its wild ponies. We've been in different houses over the years; we've been in a couple of them more than once. It's been a couple of years since we were last there - money has been pretty tight for all of us - but we're hoping to do a long weekend for Labor Day this year.

I especially love it when we rent a house in town - it's safe to walk there at any time of day or night. I enjoy walking through the town and up and down the side streets, where I can admire the gardens, both public and private.

We get downright silly playing Scrabble or Hearts!

I live in a beach town all year round, and people laugh at me when I say that I'm going to Chincoteague, but my reply is that the beach is different every single day, every hour of the day, so it's all new to me all the time!

The sister whose family I share these vacations with lives in interior NJ (poor things!) and when we're on vacation they spend HOURS at the beach. I alternate between going to the beach, walking the nature trails (I love to bird watch), visiting the nature center, listening to the talks given by the park naturalists. If I don't go to the beach with them, I'll often bring a book with me to the local coffee house, sit, sip coffee, and read. (It goes without saying that when I'm at the beach I've got a bookbag with me!) If I don't go to the beach or to the coffee house, I sit on the porch and read.

Ah! I can almost see the ponies and hear the surf!

So I had to Google it, Kathy.

William Blake - Auguries of Innocence

To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

(It continues, of course.)

I'm fortunate - with my Mom's side of the family, our "place" is wherever we gather.

You are indeed fortunate Kathy, and I envy you mightily! However, I also thank you for painting such a grand word picture I can almost hear the gulls and smell the ocean!

Kathy, your family sounds so wonderful! It sounds like the kind of big family I'd love to have if I had a big family. But I have a family of my mom, my son, and me, so our place is whenever we're all three together--my cats and my son's dog included, so that makes six. :)

My mother grew up on the shores of Lake Erie. I still have family living in Port Clinton, OH. It is very relaxing to be someplace where the local radio news includes the daily discharge list from the hospital. It is nice having a cousin who can hook you up with VIP seating on the Jet Boat to Put-in-bay as well.

You are right about the shops in a tourist town. There is a fudgery, a Christmas shop (I'm sorry, it is probably a shoppe), a towel outlet and several t-shirt shops. In Missouri's big tourist towns, Branson and Lake of the Ozarks, you can also expect several religious shops as well. Doesn't everyone need a made in china olive wood inspirational bible passage, bottle opener? Branson may also have the largest collection of Jesus license plates as well.

My small town cousins are returning home today after a few days in the St. Louis heat. Aside from some cultural diversity issues they had a good time. Until they realized that two days would not allow them to see EVERYTHING.

Ah, Kathy, you're so fortunate that your kids are still at that age where they don't have a mere two weeks vacation from jobs and they can still accompany you. Love every minute of it. Sounds as if you are doing just that.

When our girls were small we spent at least a week, most summers, at Steve's brother's summer place in Nebraska. Yes, I know. Weird. My sister-in-law used to say she was going to tell the Nebraska Tourist Board (which I'd be shocked if it actually existed) about me, and how I managed to convince our kids that it was a cool place to vacation.

However, it IS a cool place to vacation. Their cabin was on a mile-long ski lake hard by the Platte River. In fact, the Platte is across the street. They have a ski boat, and both our girls learned to ski there, and to drive the boat, and to drive on the expressway on the way to the lake. Over the years they made friends who also spent summers there, and one daughter got her first kiss there.

The girls have so many great memories: being juvenile delinquents with their dad, and placing pennies on the railroad tracks (which are on the other side of the lake), watching the corny Fourth of July parade, riding in the back of Uncle Pete's pickup to get ice cream, and lots of lazy afternoons swimming and then reading. And all the grownups cooking together, inside and outside.

My son-in-law has been going to a gorgeous, spring-fed lake in northern Michigan since he was born, a place his mother has been visiting every summer for 75 years. Now they live there permanently, so far without cable. The hard part about moving there is getting out of the vacation mentality. You can't have whitefish dinners, lots of summer drinks, and cherry pie every day in real life.

Now they live a couple doors down, in a much bigger place, and they are living there permanently since they both retired. It's so much nicer than the cabin was, where you could sit anywhere in a wet bathing suit and it didn't matter. But the lake is still steps from the back door, and that's the important thing.

That last paragraph was meant to describe my brother-in-law's place, not my daughter's. Preview works, if you use it.

Over the years, our vacation locations always changed. I do remember that every third year would be the cross-country roadtrip to my grandmother (paternal) in El Paso. Now, she is in North Carolina (at 105 years old), so no more visits to ELP for me.

Then we used to go to the shore with friends sometimes. Ship Bottom was a favorite. But it has been quite a few years since I have been to any beach.

In reality, for me, any place with my family is good. For however long it may be. Will spend this weekend with my mom & stepdad, hopefully too busy to cry due to helping my little dog to the Rainbow Bridge on Friday.

Harkers Island, NC for some serious "porch-settin'." On a clear day, you can see the lighthouse on Cape Lookout, the wild ponies on Shackleford Banks and the occasional dolphin sporting in the sound. La dolce vita. We don't own the house, but we do have permanent visiting rights just for covering the electric bill.

The family vacation sounds lovely! We did a few camping trips when I was in high school -- and survived, with some funny stories . . .
I have become a homebody, with books, the library, and the weekly veggies from the CSA.
Tomorrow I'm meeting my great niece and my sister for my niece's first college bookstore experience (will you be at work, Pam?) It's so exciting, and I'm so proud of her . . . which reminds me to ask, Kathy, how goes college for your girls?

Oh my, that's sounds wonderful!

I have only 17 more days until I'm going to my family's cottage "up north". We've been going for more than 20 years now. Everyone around us has torn down the little cottages and are buidling HUGE houses. I hope we never do. We don't all get up there together much anymore. But everyone has kids and some of them have kids, it would be tight! Our little town is Ludington, MI. It has the fudge shoppe, ice cream place and movies and music in the park on friday and saturday nights. My favorite thing to do is read on the beach! Of course!

Aw, how wonderful. Aww. Really. It sounds..perfect.

We had nuttin' like that...


My condolences on the loss of your pet. I hope the weekend with family will be a healing one for you. (And it's okay to cry!)

When I was growing up we drove to relatives in Vermont and New York State
We would sit on the giant veranda that encompassed the house and have great fun. My uncle was surrounded by women and would tease them and do the yakety yak sign to me.
Simple things like going to town to purchase a chicken for supper and going into the idyllic towns of Rutland and Burlington were destinations for church.
Seeing my first TV show starring Jack Benny was monumental to me as I had to wait years to view TV in Canada.

Later we took our kids up the west coast to visit British Columbia. The highlight of the trip was stopping off near a stream in Oregon where the girls spied a litter of kittens. They were 5 and 3 years old and that seem to make the whole trip worthwhile to them.

The choice of the poem is interesting. I had to google it too, but to me it speaks of those wonderful moments that we get too few of-sheer joy with loved ones. Moments to be cherished during the the tough times.

Oh Debby . . . sorry about having to let your little dog go. xo

So sorry, Debby. Losing a family member is awful.

So sorry for your loss, Debby!
We recently lost a beloved Golden Retriever in our family and it hurts a lot.

Reine, did you know the first cowboys in North America were Indians? They were employed by the Spanish to manage the cattle in Paynes Prairie, back in the Sixteenth Century. Periodically rounded them up and drove them to St. Augustine to feed the colonists. Cattle they raised on plains further south were taken to Tampa where they were loaded up and shipped to Cuba.
When settlers from Georgia came down two hundred years later, they found the scrawny descendants of the escapees in the piney woods. You can probably see some of those "Cracker Cattle" at Disney World.
Oh yeah, Disney World. This comment was supposed to be about vacations, wasn't it? Central Florida hardly qualifies as a peaceful summer retreat.

Thanks for your efforts to fix this problem.

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