My parents were teachers, so everyone in my family counted down the days to spring break when we would load our black Chevy fan and travel to Surfside Beach, SC for a week in the sun.
When I was a child, my parents rented a lot in Ocean Lakes Campground and parked our camper there year-round. On the road, my sister and I would listen to our Sony walkmans, trade Garbage Pail Kid cards, and play road games for five hours as we drove from the mountains of North Carolina to the beaches of South Carolina.
Once there, we stayed on the beach from early morning to almost sunset, only going inside to make deli sandwiches for lunch. In the evenings, we would eat watermelon and take walks or ride a golf cart around the campground. Other nights, we played putt-putt, stuffed our faces with crab legs at a seafood buffet, or experienced the thrill of the rides at the Pavilion Amusement Park.
One thing I remember very well is the quiet. There were no cell phones then, and we didn’t have a land line, so if we wanted to call my grandparents, we had to walk several streets over to a pay phone. We had a small TV that would sometimes broadcast the three main channels, and other times, it would not.
The memories of my childhood spring break trips warm my heart and make me smile. I didn’t cognizantly think of that week as providing me with the rest I needed to finish out the school year, but it certainly did just that.
Now that we have our own children, we’ve started our own spring break tradition. My sister lives in Washington, DC and though she travels here often throughout the year, we rarely make the long drive to see her.
We decided that spring break would be the time that we would travel to see my sister and her family. For the past three years, we’ve loaded up and traveled north to spend a week in our nation’s capital.
Though very different from my relaxing weeks at the beach as a child, we have blast every year. As all parents know, traveling with very young children is not the most enjoyable experience, but we make do, and once we get there, it’s all worth it.
During the day, we visit the zoo, the Smithsonian and monuments, or merely walk around one of the quaint, historic sections of the city such as Georgetown. In the evenings, we cook or grill out at my sister’s house and spend quality time with family that we seldom see.
If my sister ever moves, this will no longer be our spring break tradition, but for now, we’re embracing it. As we traipse around the big city, which is so different from our own, our two boys learn and have fun. They are creating their own memories that will last a lifetime.
For me, both as a child and an adult, spring break was a tradition where traveling to the same destination was the norm. I know of other families who visit a different location each year, work on a mission trip, or merely stay put and complete a home project.
The spring break experience is different for everyone. In the end, it’s not the where that’s important but the how. The purpose of spring break is to provide children’s minds and bodies with rest so they can finish out the school year with as much energy as possible. It’s also a time for families to take a break from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and reconnect.
What are your spring break plans? Whatever they are, enjoy this special time with your children and grandchildren, and know that they are making memories that will last a lifetime.
This was originally published as a column in The Mountaineer newspaper.