The summer after third grade, my parents took our Brady Bunch-esque family on what seemed like a month long vacation (the Chevy Chase movie isn’t so far off). My parents, two stepbrothers, sister and I loaded into our shiny red Pontiac Station Wagon with luggage tied on top and a big Coleman cooler in the back.
Before we pulled out of the driveway, we had already fought over who would get to sit next to a window or in the coveted front seat. My sister, Amy, was a smart little kid. She figured out early that if she claimed permanent car sickness she could secure a seat in front, next to the air conditioning vent.
I usually sat in the middle or in the back back, as we called it. My older stepbrother (who shall remain nameless😉) tended to be a gassy lad and no seat in the car had immunity.
“Are we there yet?” became a running joke with our parents. No matter how close we were, they would always say “five more minutes”. We’d whine back, “You said that five minutes ago!”
We drove from Washington State to Salem, Oregon where we visited our Auntie Jeanne’s family. From there we drove to Reno, where our mother was raised. Then to California. We spent several days at Disneyland, followed by Knott’s Berry Farm.
We went to San Diego where we spent time with our super cool, single Uncle Timmy who had long hair, a mustache and a pierced ear. We also visited Sea World and the Zoo.
Then we drove to Tijuana where 7 year old Amy floored the family with her bartering skills (if you read the comments in my Recipe For Rain post, you will see that Amy has a track record for getting a bang for her buck). I spent my life savings, paying top dollar, on 3 or 4 silver and turquoise rings. I wanted one for every finger.
We visited New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Louisiana where we stayed with our grandparents and met up with our Uncle David’s family.
We stayed in a gorgeous two-story hotel room with a sweeping staircase in the French Quarter and took etiquette lessons from the Maître d’ at a French restaurant.
On our way back to Washington, we spent some time in Arizona and then drove through Oregon for one more visit with Auntie Jeanne’s family before concluding our vacation.
For something spine-tingling to do, our cousins came up with the bold idea of Doorbell Ditching. The people they chose to do this to were named the Hippys. Mr. Hippy was a menacing junior high school teacher. We were breathless imagining how intolerant and dangerous he was.
The gaggle of door bell ditchers included my two cousins, two stepbrothers, my little sister and me. Our ages ranged from 7 to 14. I had just turned 9.
The less brave ditchers stayed on the sidewalk, ready to run, positioned in a lunge formation, pointing away from the house. I was daring and either knocked on the door or stood beside the one who knocked.
We must have been loitering outside the house for a while because as fast as we knocked, Mr. Hippy opened the door and chased after us.
My gassy stepbrother, who was tall, athletic and ran on the track team, grabbed my hand to get me to run faster. My little legs couldn’t pace with his. When my legs came out from under me, he kept hold of my hand and didn’t let go. I saw each concrete sidewalk square, as my face scraped toward the next.
My screams were silenced by our pack’s massive load of adrenaline. Everyone, but me, was oblivious to my raw hand, elbow, knees and face.
When we returned to the safety of home, the adults convinced me that if I went to the hospital I would have to get shots, so I chose to have all four of them hold me down to scrub the tiny pebbles and grit from my wounds.
This was me a few days later
The first day of Fourth Grade!