Steve, Jeff and I impatiently sat in the back of the hot car waiting for our parents to come out of the drug store so we could get on the road for our annual two week vacation. Mom came out of the store first and got into the car in silence. She looked at us and said, “don’t say anything, your father cut up the wrong credit card.” We snickered and tried to contain ourselves, mom yelled at us. Dad had cut up the new card and not the expired card, the night before we were heading to Florida. As he got into the car, we worked to not make fun of him, as he would then yell at us, we didn’t want that! How we were going to still go to Florida, was a mystery to us kids, but we were off, the original National Lampoon Vacations! There was never a trip where there wasn’t mishaps. Dad cutting up the card, mom forgetting the cash, the car breaking down on every trip which wasted a day. We would stop along the way at places that the three of us weren’t always in the mood for, we wanted to get to the beach and to see our cousins. We were less impressed with seeing the “sites” on the way to Florida. We wanted to get to Florida, we only had these two weeks to be away and really have fun.
These memories came flooding back to me as I drove toward Florida today. I had a mishap with the car, I ran over something that got lodged in one of my new tires. I found an Audi dealer in Richmond and was on the road again in 2 hours. But I laughed, a mishap with the car. As I drove, I started seeing signs for Rocky Mount, North Carolina. My eyes filled with tears. We drove to Florida many times during my childhood. The first time that I remember going, I was 7 years old. We stopped in Rocky Mount, North Carolina for the night and dad took us all to the pool. It was that day that Dad taught me how to dive into a pool off the side. I can remember him being in the pool letting me know that no matter what I wasn’t going to get hurt. He was always my guardian, always making sure I was safe. Even that day. he was in the water so that as I dove, or belly flopped, he was right there, ensuring I didn’t stay under water, didn’t hit my head or any other thing I was afraid of. I learned to dive that day! I thought about that memory for quite a long time, most of North Carolina!
Then I saw the first billboard for South of the Border! Oh my! The memories came flooding back of stopping there as kids. As I drove by it I was amazed by the size of it, I don’t remember it ever being that big! The tears filled my eyes when I saw the sombrero announcing that I had made it to South of the Border. I snapped a picture of it and smiled through my tears.
I saw signs for Stuckys, that reminded me of many a year driving to Florida. I don’t remember if we ever stopped there, we didn’t do that often. We had a cooler in the car and usually stopped in a rest area and ate. As I stopped at a rest area in Florida to use the restroom, I saw a family getting their lunch out of the car and sitting at a picnic table. I smiled at them and thought about our family and our vacations.
Our family vacations, which would rival some of the Griswold vacations, were wonderful. We enjoyed all of it, even the car mishaps! We were a family, a close family, each one of us were part of this jigsaw puzzle of the Domenick’s. Our vacations became memories that we share even today. I texted the picture of the sombrero to my brother last night, his response was how seeing that brings back such memories.
I wanted to drive to Florida so that I could think, sort out all that has changed for me, and not be a slave to a schedule. I have no idea who I will see, what I will do, where I will go, for 10 days I’m alone. I didn’t expect to have my childhood memories flood me during the drive.
As I drove, I cried. As I drove, I laughed. As I drove, I reminisced. As I drove, I realized that these days will not only be relaxing, they will be healing. I look forward to all of it!