Hines Sight / Time spent together makes for lasting memories
I have lived in Connecticut all my life. I think about that all the time, especially during some of our harsh winters. I hate the cold, so it begs the question, why?
I guess it's a pretty simple answer -- this is where the majority of my family lives. My father worked for the family business, which was headquartered in Norwalk, and there was no chance he would be transferred anywhere else. So we stayed put, in our expanded Cape on Richmond Hill Road, where the neighborhood was close-knit with lots of kids my age.
Summer was a glorious time. Right about now, we started to venture outside, as soon as we got home from school and after supper (but only if our homework was done). We played until dark -- usually "Capture the Flag," the neighborhood game.
Years later, Mom and Dad decided to install an above-ground pool, and then Dad built a redwood deck around it, heated the pool and painstakingly took care of it. I can still see him in his swimming trunks standing on the deck vacuuming the bottom of the pool.
Dad wasn't overly fond of the water. It took him what seemed like hours to finally get his body into the pool. But when he did, he was the one who usually instigated pool volleyball or swimming races. And he was the one who thought it would be a good idea to get a pool slide. Mom was the water and beach lover. I think I inherited that from her. She loved to sit in the sun and then jump into the pool to cool off. She was a pretty good swimmer, too.
Money was tight when I was a kid, although at the time I didn't really know that. It was years later, as I think back to the summers of my childhood, that I realized that Mom and Dad did the best they could to raise three kids.
So when summer arrived, they made sure we -- and they -- had a good time. While Dad was at work, Mom planned excursions to the beach, mostly to Southport, where we met my aunts and cousins for a full day of fun. Since the concession stand was off limits, the women brought boxes of food and drink for the day. (Occasionally, we were allowed to buy ice cream.) Mom and her sisters stationed themselves on their blankets or chairs and talked -- all day. I still wonder how they found so much to talk about. But my aunts were Mom's best friends. Despite their constant chatting, they kept a close eye on us kids as we spent most of the time in the water. I still remember playing "Marco Polo" with my cousins and trying to sidestep the snails buried in the muddy sand of the shoreline.
The family business -- a lock and key manufacturer -- closed down for a week in the summer, usually around the Fourth of July. And that's when we took our summer vacation. We never went too far -- always by car -- and our destination was some place economical. Most summers, we headed to the Catskill Mountains in upstate New York. Sometimes we stayed in a low-cost motel, but I remember one time when we rented a broken-down cabin. Five people spending a week in a cabin could be a recipe for disaster, but Mom and Dad always made it work.
When we left our house in Norwalk, the car was loaded down with our belongings. We looked like those people who left the Dust Bowl for the West. But it was the only way we could afford a summer vacation. Mom even brought pots and pans and dishes -- and silverware.
Our first stop before we got to our cabin was to a grocery store, where Mom stocked up on everything we needed for the week. There was no eating out in restaurants. Coolers were filled with sandwiches, snacks and beverages for those days when we headed out to some nearby waterway, a pool or some local attraction, like the Catskill Game Farm.(The farm closed a few years ago and the property has been abandoned. Lots of fond memories of the place, including the time my brother was bitten by an ostrich.) And at dinnertime, it was back to the cabin, where Mom made a meal just like she would at home. We'd then sit around outside, talk to our cabin neighbors and roast marshmallows until bedtime. It was a simple time, but memorable.
It wasn't until I was a teenager that we ventured to other places -- Cape Cod, the Jersey Shore or the Poconos. And years later, Mom planned trips to Florida, especially after she bought time shares. Even then, Mom looked for ways to have a good time while still not spending an exorbitant amount of money.
I'll always be grateful to Mom and Dad for giving me a wonderful childhood, where we spent time with each other, saw the sights and laughed a lot.
With the summer season officially starting in two weeks and the school year ending, make the most of this time, and remember a vacation doesn't always have to involve extravagance. It's all about the time you spend together as a family.
Patricia A. Hines is a Fairfield writer, and her "Hines Sight" appears every other Friday. She can be reached at email@example.com. She also can be followed @patricia_hines on Twitter.