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Vacation Memories

Vacation Memories

These days the idea of a much-needed vacation sits quietly in my mind. And that’s about all that is happening with the idea: it just sits. You see, it’s not like I can go beyond that and turn this vacation idea into a reality. There is an obstacle in the path, or so it seems. This obstacle involves the use of money and two colliding viewpoints. So with this information now laid out on the table, I continue in my thoughts until reaching some conclusion.

The thought of my husband John and I spending time together on a vacation sounds swell. Only I hate the idea of having to pull from our savings to enjoy what I apparently view as a luxury. And this is what keeps me from jumping on board—regardless of that part of me that sees its benefits. I seem stuck in this mentality that says we should keep all of this money for emergency purposes or to help pay for the constant influx of bills that exist as part and parcel to plain old living. Vacations would have to come later, when we have a more sizable bundle which, to me, would mean a nonspecific “whole lot of money.”

John, however, holds the perspective that we should spend a part of our savings for vacation. Vacation to him is as much a necessity as, let’s say, working. In fact, it’s the stress that comes from working that makes vacation the necessity that it is. So for the moment, we are at a standstill: Me being reluctant and barely thinking about it at all; and him, gung ho, constantly, reminding me that this V word is front and center for him. His feelings and attitude are so strong that I’m prompted to say that if he were hooked up to an EEG, one of those machines that analyzes brain activity, I would have for you scientific confirmation of his obsession and degree of longing.

But until we are both on the same page and are actually on a vacation, I have—and I believe John does too—a few memories to hold me over until our next trip. By then, I will have initiated the process of creating more memories for such moments as now. And I’ll probably derive even greater solace and satisfaction because of the greater number from which to choose for pondering. As a writer, putting it down on paper is a form of reliving these vacation memories, which I obviously don’t see as an exercise in futility. And besides, something is better than nothing.

Anyway in light of all I've said, I present this writing as part of my blog presentation. It's an experience I had while vacationing in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, or as it's also called, "Dutch Country." ... I start off here admitting that I didn't know anything of its inhabitants, the Amish people, until I entered their world. And the fact that I did enter it, I owe very much to--as you might have guessed--John. Yes, he arranged everything, for had it been left up to me, we wouldn't've been riding in the carriage (the buggy) hitched with two horses strutting along an isolated back road.

I'm going to say at this point that the trip on the buggy ride took place a number of years ago. I have for a date: September 2005. We were on a tour, and our guide was a very knowledgeable African-American male who regaled us with his humor and abundant knowledge about Amish life and culture. John sat up front with the guide, but after a while, when his allergies became unbearable, we switched places. I sat up front, and he sat in the back, behind me.

Against the horse-related sounds, I could hear my husband chatting and laughing as I had been with the folks who rode with us. I took time to turn my head on occasion, craning it actually, when I thought to take a break from what was happening to me as my eyes stayed glued on the hind parts of both the brown and the black horse that were directly and inescapable in my view. At first, I sort of looked at them with nonchalance.

And then slowly but surely, a fixation developed with the tails and then the heads. It was odd watching the switching tails and bobbing heads and what became my obsession: the anatomy of a horse. At the same time, I vicariously trotted in their shoes, feeling sorry for their harsh fate of whip-lashings and pulling buggies. “Poor horses,” I thought to myself. “We’re such a burden.” 

But these thoughts were lost in my fun and excitement; and after some time into the ride, I teased John about missing out on the front-row happenings. He just laughed back, assuring me how he was far better off where he was; and I knew that to be true, if only for the fact that he was away from the city and enjoying the vacation for which he had been pining some time.

My mind drifted to the realization that I was free not to think about anything serious or deemed “important.” And bills? … What are bills? In fact, my mind was such that I was tempted to splurge a little, countering my attempt to save as much money as possible. I felt honored to have no work, no worry, no stress---just the luxury and ease of carefree living or at least the semblance of such a life. There was nothing on my agenda other than to continue breathing to stay alive.

When we reached our destination, it was a farm store. Intrigued, we descended the buggy and went inside, and there, I was overwhelmed with a combination of soothing scents and bright colors. I spotted beautifully appealing food and hand-crafted items, like magnificent blankets intricately woven and designed. Wishing I could have bought more, I sought contentment with a couple jars of preserves and a few other souvenir items before we got word that it was time for us to leave.

After exiting the storefront, we ascended the buggy to be trotted back to the area where we had had originally embarked. It was near to where we had parked our car. Not long after settling inside, John zoomed off; and after his careful and attentive drive to find our next destination, we lifted ourselves out. The enthusiasm I had from my previous ride was still upon me, and I felt happy about all the experiences that were about to come. Our new attraction was to be a different kind of ride. But, no, not quite yet.  

How could I have forgotten? We enjoyed a tasty meal at one of the restaurants along the train depot. Once our stomachs were satisfied and our thirst quenched, only then did we hop on that excursion train. We didn’t have to wait long, either. When it pulled up, one of the first things I noticed was its marking. It said “Strasburg” in clear lettering. And this train situated itself across from the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania. 

From our seats we stared out of the window while listening to the conductor. He, too, was masterful at describing more of the rural landscape that we got from our guide on the buggy ride. The peace and serenity we were exposed to continued its soothing quality on my eyes, and everything I heard and saw seemed to fit like pieces of a puzzle. Everything was in its place. The only difference I can recall were my glimpses of children filled with excitement during the initial passing scenes. But as we got out farther, the people population diminished and that of animals and plants increased. There was much to see, and just as it was with a good meal, so it was with this excursion when it ended. We were satisfied, but more this time in heart and spirit.

We were made aware of another museum, another landmark, that my train lover husband would have delighted in as I was virtually sure many aficionados, like him would have. It was the National Toy Train Museum of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to make it there for whatever reason. Maybe it was that we didn’t have the time. I don’t recall why exactly. All I know is that we were set to leave that next day and the time that we had, had progressed into the late afternoon or early evening.

The next day, our visit was set in a mall where we stopped at a place called, “Noah’s Landing.” It was one of those quaint little stores that drew tourists like magnets to experience some unknown joy anticipated by the sheer fact that it had a huge variety of unusual and eye-catching collectibles. Of course, I had to buy a few to take back with me. We also took pictures at the entrance point, which displayed many of the animals that boarded the ark of Noah. But, again, like many other good things, our stay came to an end. We left from there and returned to our hotel, packed our few remaining items, and handed the attendant their keys.

We were now on the interstate highway. Hooray! We were heading for home, the place that, unlike Lancaster, was far too familiar to us with its hustle and bustle. I tried to focus on the positive, but the dread of returning reared its ugly head. I cringed that I had to face this unwelcome familiarity, but at least I was feeling that I was coming back renewed and in a much better position to tackle these assaults. When we entered our private residence, it was back to work and back to repeating things all over again, but with so much more energy to do it. 

Then a year later, on October 2, 2006, I heard a newscast: A milk man entered a single-room school building and shot ten girls, leaving five dead, before committing suicide. The Amish peace I had stored securely in my mind as a memory had been shaken at hearing the words "Lancaster" and "Amish" community. Whether this was the same Amish community or not didn't matter. The news story forced another picture that collided and competed with the fond and pleasant picture that had been established on my visit to this community, this place, again, called "Dutch Country." There was no way for me to avoid responding to the clash of a beautiful memory with the picture of a horrible reality. It was I who had painted unrealistically.

Yes, undoubtedly, my memories of pastoral peace and contentment were shattered, and life being what it is, it was inevitable that a shattering would eventually occur, even in what seems the best of all places, BUT--and this is a very important but--those memories I have from my trip were not destroyed. These memories that are essentially mental images, still survive, just as my wonderful childhood memories do. All are strong memories that leave an impression that stay with you, and they embed themselves in your subconscious, and you oftentimes aren't aware of them until something happens that causes you to recall them.

Well, that’s how my memories at Lancaster were, and while I was sitting as a passenger on each sightseeing trip, I couldn’t dismiss into thin air all that had made its way into my consciousness right down to its deepest level. I found myself engaged in a personal little mental game where I made comparisons between what I knew, thought, or presumed to be truths about the city and the most rural farm living and about their respective people:

For example, I took note of their easy simplicity to our nerve-wracking complication; their seeming sincerity to our cold disregard; their greater sense of joy, love, and integrity to our despair, hate, and wicked conniving. These were just a few. And then my mind came to arriving at a summary. To somehow take it all and shrink it down to something that’s essential or important to understand. What were these images conveying? I mean what is the real, straight and direct message? Then I thought more and came up with this: all I was seeing amounted to a shunning of all the trash and negativity of a mainstream that seem to prefer worldly garbage. And yet, from a kinder angle, it could just be, we are the light upon the hill. Take heed and follow. But beware, just the same, because we are not impressed by modernity. We want to live quietly and in seclusion with our past traditional ways. Our portion of land is God’s country.

To be clear, these are not the words taken from any member among their flock. These are unspoken words that are read in the images being displayed when you go on one of these trips. You see elements that paint a bigger picture, one jumping out at you and becoming three-dimensional. It's just that powerful. Yeah, you may have to deal with the smell of manure, although on that day, at least, I didn't get a whiff of that. But basically even that can be interpreted as the healthier variety compared to what we get from the places we can't move fast enough to get to "God's Country." I hope you get my drift. Television and other forms of visual media, I'm sure contributed to this mental picture or perception. It seems ironic, however, that the tool or means by which that media fostered the perception is less used or not used by them at all. I'm thinking specifically about the television. 

But whatever the case, I consumed wholeheartedly that environment and I bought into it for my own particular reasons. On that particular day, I heard no noise. Saw no trash, and certainly in such openness, it didn’t surprise me not to see any loitering or riff-raff. No visible crime or knowledge thereof. People stayed willingly inside their homes; at least virtually everyone did that day. The image they projected was of families gathered in prayers while curious and vacation-deprived folks like my husband and I feasted upon their normal everyday fare of crops, cows, black water pumps, and tobacco leaves. Like a Norman Rockwell painting.

The wonderful thing about vacations lies in memories. Despite intellectually knowing that there is no real and lasting peace, no perfect place in a fallen world, with vacations we can delude ourselves or suspend our disbelief to think that the grass really is greener on the other side. It's up to vacationers to supplant memories that overcome realities like school shootings and people whose pain is such that they are walking time bombs waiting to explode. Despite knowing that life truly is a shattered picture, there are things, like memories, that are salvageable and can be advantageously applied for some good in our lives. There in the heap of all of the shattering, a triumph that can be had. It exists at the very top. 

So the question again: Should we or shouldn’t we spend our savings to go on a vacation? Well, I’m pleased to say that since the commencement of creating this piece earlier and finishing it off now, where I am presently typing my conclusion, a compromised had been reached. The answer is yes. Although we’ve had two more vacations since the one spoken about in my story, we are certainly overdue for another one.

This time, it will be a short one, but it would give us time away from the old scenery of our home and take us to a new environment that won’t seem to deplete our energies, give us discouragement, and give us a greater sense of the ugliness and disappointments in life. And we won’t have to spend as much to do it. When we come back, we’ll feel as with all our previous trips better able to handle the future stresses and challenges to come. We'll feel refreshed.

Now, I don't know where we'll go, but wherever it is, I'll be fine with it. My final though is one of appreciation. I am grateful to have someone in my life who knows the importance of making vacations a top priority in life. Vacations, as I alluded to at the outset of this writing, do have benefits. Whether the benefits are temporary or long-lasting; delusional or the real-deal, doesn't matter as long as it's effective for overriding the bad, unpleasant, and tragic memories that life will surely introduce. Sometimes it's just a question of needing a break in life from the everyday chores of life. So, yes. Emphatically, yes! Take a vacation. Create vacation memories that will be the stuff that make life bearable and pleasant to live. I certainly intend to, and I know at last one other person who will, too. 

NOTE: I leave off here with a music-video on the theme of vacation. I hope it will be to you just as memorable as the vacations I've enjoyed in my life. Take care! And may God bless you all. Please note I have an important message for you. It can be found under the link for NEWS ON THIS SIDE under the title, "An Important Milestone." The month of March has a three-fold posting: The first one here, where I've supplied the words for the song from this music/video. Just go to the songs category and choose this title, "I Need A Vacation Song. The second one, again, is the message I'd like you to read. And the third, of course, is this one you've just read called, Vacation Memories. 

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I Need A Vacation-Rebecca Lynn Howard
Rebecca Lynn Howard's song "I Need A Vacation". Copyright/owned by R.L.H & Sony Music.

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