Family Vacation - Part One


When I was young, 
my family would head off each summer for our family vacation.  We were creatures of habit, so we essentially went on the same vacation every year.  Yes, there were years when we were invited to spend time with friends and family near an ocean beach, but nine times out of ten our family vacation was an amazing week at LAKE GEORGE New York.

It was a big deal to pack up the Chrystler New Yorker and fit everything in it for the trip.  These trips were always just my parents and me.  Both of my older brothers had made their way out into the world. 

There was one wrinkle every year.  Before we could get to Lake George, we had to drop my grandmother at the train station in Albany and make sure that she got on the train that would take her to the Swedish mecca of the East Coast - Jamestown NY.  What was there in Jamestown?  I have no clue.  I know there was a big lake because gramma always came back a few weeks later with pictures of her and her relatives - always sitting in the same chairs - with the lake in the background.  I saw no need for the pictures after a while since they were carbon copies of the ones from the year before. 

On the two-and-a-half-hour ride from Goshen CT to Albany NY, grandma would talk about the Swedish traditions and how wonderful they were.  She'd talk about the food and how wonderful it was.  She'd talk about "the old country".  The entire time that grandma was talking - I would watch my mother's face grimace and her eyes roll.  I had the seat behind Dad and grandma sat behind mom.  Grandma couldn't see mom's facial contortions, but I sure could.  At some point when mom and I were alone, she'd tell me the one thing that she always said when she'd had enough of her mother-in-law's memories of Sweden.  Mom's words?  "Sweden, Sweden, Sweden.  The woman was born in Akron Ohio!"  That was my mom's pressure value.  She allowed herself to only speak words of truth, but her face had betrayed all of her emotion.

When we arrived at the train station in Albany dad would park the car and then take his mother into the station and make sure she got on the right train.  My mom would always say:  "Have a good trip.  I'm going to stay here and guard the car."  This would be her 20 minutes of recovery after hours on the road to Albany. 

Dad would get grandma's suitcase and lug it through the parking lot and into the train station.  Grandma would be dressed in her finest.  One wouldn't take a train without looking their best!  This was an era when people who traveled by train or especially by airplane would dress up like they had been invited to a high society dinner party. 

Dad would navigate through the station, buying grandma's tickets, checking the big board for train arrivals and departures, and guide us to the track that would whisk grandma to her summer vacation. 

Once she was on the train and dad had given her suitcase to the conductor, we could finally begin OUR VACATION.  I know that there would be a sigh of relief from dad that the most painful part of the journey was over. 

Before we left the station there was one other thing that had to be addressed:  THE LOLLIPOP.  There was a newsstand in the station that had all the newspapers and magazines that anyone could ever want.  But the thing that I most remember was the array of suckers and lollipops and balloons that were displayed just outside this newsstand.  These weren't just ordinary lollipops, they were HUGE.  Big, Round swirls of color on foot-long sticks.  They were as big around as your face.  I would get to pick out the one that I wanted (always the one with the brightest swirls of color).  It would be covered with cellophane that could be reused in between licking sessions.  I know that I had to use some amount of negotiation skills to get that lollipop, but looking back, I'm sure dad was ready to purchase the one thing that would keep me quiet on the New York Thruway headed North. 

During this part of the trip, I would do two things:  lick that lollipop and wait for dad to pass trucks.  Passing trucks was just the best.  Living in Goshen, we only had secondary roads.  There were no highways nearby.  The entire trip to Albany would be done on secondary roads.  But once we got on that Thruway - we could really zip along.  We probably never went over the 55 mph speed limit, but geez - 55 miles per hour was fast compared to our back roads.  Whenever we passed a truck, I'd roll down my window, stick my arm out and make the universal sign that children used to ask the truck driver to honk his horn.  It was two pretend pulls on the horn cable that was in the truck.  Probably 80% of the time when I requested the horn the driver would oblige.  I remember laughing and waving to him in excitement and gratitude.  I'd then give him the "thumbs up" sign that I thought he was OK!

We would travel the thruway and then the signs would start saying the miles left to Lake George.  15 Miles.  !0 Miles.  And finally - "LAKE GEORGE VILLAGE - NEXT EXIT."  As we rolled off that exit ramp, we left behind the world of the ordinary and arrived in paradise.   

Part two of the family vacation is next week!