“I had no idea you were into this kinda stuff!” “Do you still respect me? Do you still like me?” “Of course. This is way different than what I’m used to, from back east.” “Yeah, a lot sillier, eh?”
Love of My Life and I were at the Cayucos Fourth of July parade. A Kelp Band, little girls tumbling and somersaulting, and a synchronized swim team rolling down the main drag of that casual coastal town. Yes, I like parades, little ones like this. It was just one of the many cool things my mom used to do with us growing up.
Wherever we were, she would note if there was something “local” and small and charming to see or participate in. Growing up in Los Angeles, we were in the perfect jumping off point to desert and mountain towns alike that had Dog Parades and Date Festivals and Banjo Fiddle Contests.
I tried but was not as successful as my mom, exposing my boys to all the “culture” out there. Yes, it’s all well and good, really good, to travel to all the highlights our country has to offer — the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Washington, D.C. ( I only got them to one out of those three) and so on. But it’s the little events, the greasy diners, the Little Theater productions that truly make vacations special.
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I offer these thoughts as you may be heading out with your own children this summer: Look for the unexpected, think small and simple, realize how special every moment can be made. To this day, lilacs are my favorite flower because we were taken to a lilac farm that offered picnicking and the chance to pick your own bouquets.
Truck stops will often be my eating establishment of choice. Hey, I didn’t say these experiences would develop the BEST habits! You see, my dearest childhood friend got to take me along with her mom and her dad on their vacations so she’d have a playmate. They were loving people of even more meager means than we. If they romanticized these joints, I just ate it up because I loved them and was having such a good time.
Cemeteries. What is it about them? Especially if you’re from the Midwest, apparently. Mom always stopped, well, in the old gold mining era ones, eastern California. Check out the old dates, the names, the details of the monuments or wooden boards. Special stuff and we’d make note of it by taking rubbings of some of the stones. I like cemeteries to this day.
I cannot say the one experience in Leadville, Colo., lead to my six-year career in Cambria Little Theater (I think I’m just a ham; just sayin’), but the small, student production we stumbled upon forever made me appreciate the effort. Yes, we also didn’t have anywhere to stay that old summer night save the VW van we were traveling in and Mom knew it would be easier to keep us entertained this way.
My favorite childhood story? We were in Monument Valley, watching the most amazing electrical storm in the distance, all around us. When it was time to cram into that van, I chose to sleep on the picnic table, out of the reach of scorpions. Some time in the wee hours I awoke for some unknown reason, to join my family inside. In the morning, there were huge puma footprints circling the table.
So, whether you are heading out of town or staying close to home, keep in mind, it’s the little things, the unusual things, the natural things that will most likely prevail in your child’s memories. The Scarecrow Festival, Pinedorado, honor-system produce out Santa Rosa Creek Road — open their eyes to the life around your kids. Open your own eyes!