When I was a kid, the first essay of the school year always had the same title: My Summer Vacation. I hated that assignment because our family never did all that much worthy of report. Money was always tight, so rather than spending a week at the shore or traveling to an exotic place, my vacation away from home meant hopping into the car to spend a few days at my aunt’s house or a day trip to the park to swim.
My dad often spent his vacation painting houses (ours or someone else’s), but on really hot days, he’d quit work early and drive an hour away so that we could swim and play in the sand on the beach by the lake. No cone-shaped piles of moistened sand for us. Dad made the best sand castles in the whole world. Using a bucket, discarded paper cup and beach shovel, he could fashion turrets and steps with a moat surrounding the exterior. Sometimes he even added a draw bridge. You could almost see Cinderella waving from the window. Passers-by would always stop to admire his handiwork. Now as I look back, I know he was spending quality time with me, and though I enjoyed it back then, today I recognize his efforts and really appreciate his building these lasting memories.
My parents, aunts and uncles have since passed away, and I would give anything to spend time today listening to their stories and learning more about them and their values. Money is still tight (some things never change), but because of my dad’s influence and his impact on me, the last few summers, I have made a concerted effort to spend quality time with my grandchildren. I did not build sand castles, – the trait must have been recessive – but we walked in the woods, worked on projects, visited some interesting places and played a lot of games. While we did these things, I listened and intentionally shared with them my values and perspectives.
I hope when my grandkids get older, they’ll understand that a gift of time is the best part of any vacation.