Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How did you spend your summer vacation?

How did you spend your summer vacation? School will be starting soon, and kids across the state will be asked that age-old question. What will they say? I’m sure Disney World, Six Flags and White Water will top the list. We went to all of these places and more when I was a child, but my most memorable summer vacation involved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cokes in a bottle and Georgia’s Civil War battlefields.

It was the 70s--the price of gas was high, and the economy was down. Sound familiar? Times were lean, and an extravagant vacation was out of the question. Despite the oil crisis, each weekend my parents would fill up the tank of our ’64 pea green Chevrolet, pack a picnic and off we would go on our adventure du jour.

My little sister and I would bounce excitedly in the backseat. There were no seatbelts in the back, or if there were, they were buried so far in the seat, we couldn’t find them. Dad would play tour guide, giving us a history lesson along the way, yelling so he could be heard with all the car windows rolled down.

The ghosts of 45,000 Union prisoners, 13,000 of whom died from disease or overcrowding, came to life for us at Andersonville in Southwest Georgia that summer. On top of Kennesaw Mtn., where some of the heaviest fighting in the Atlanta campaign occurred, we smelled the smoke from the Confederate cannons atop the mountain as we envisioned them firing on the Yankees below. At Chickamauga in North Georgia, we heard the Rebel yells of one of the last major Confederate victories.

As we traveled, we would stop at other Georgia state parks and areas of interest. A few stand out for what seem like small events now but were memories in the making for an eight-year-old girl. For example, at Providence Canyon, also called “Georgia’s Grand Canyon,” we had to finish our lunch in the car because of yellow jackets, at the Etowah Indian Mounds, I was stung by a wasp, on the way to Westville, Georgia’s working 1850 town, I got car sick, and at the historic site of Jarrell Plantation in Juliette, GA, we saw a snake.

Today, with children of my own, I can’t imagine traveling in the hot, humid July heat in a car with no air conditioning, no DVD player, heck, no power steering, plus no fast food for lunch. Yet, in spite of that, or, perhaps, because of that, somewhere off the beaten path, my mom, dad, sister and I bonded in a way that can never be done at amusement parks. And that is something to write about. (Sorry, Mickey!)

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