Oh Look! Another Fort… Turn Here!

Growing up my summers were spent in the back of an overly warm vehicle trekking across Montana, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado. My parents were HUGE fans of packing up for a week and venturing out on ‘vacation’. I say vacation lightly because to an adolescent girl vacation does not equate to hours couped up in a hot, stuffy car seeking out the closest ghost town only to be diverted by the ‘historic site ahead’ sign leading us three hours out of our way. No. I would have liked to spend my summers with my friends at the lake or local water park. Of course my parents response to my begging and pleading was the same vacation after vacation; ‘you’ll thank us later’. Quite honestly, I thought my parents were completely delusional. No way in hell I’d look back at those long hours and say ‘gee thanks Mom and Dad for torturing us year after year’.

This is the part where I have to do something I don’t like doing often… I have to admit, my parents were right. *gasp* I know! It’s not something I like to do. I don’t think any of us like to admit when our parents are right. It goes against every rebellious bone in my body. But they were and I am publicly saying THANK YOU!

Thank you for dragging us all over just to show us an old fur trading post or teach us how to pan gold. As an adult, I can now appreciate just how fortunate we were to have that opportunity. Not all families are able to explore such a beautiful part of our country. Granted, at the time I really didn’t get it. I didn’t understand that in just a short time, many of the small towns we traveled through, would either die out completely or developed into larger cities. I had no idea that as we toured our little corner of the world, I was actually learning something. I studied ‘Custer’s Last Stand’ while actually looking out across the Little Bighorn battlefield. My knowledge of structure fortification began as we explored every military fort along our path. But best of all, I exercised my imagination. I truly believe imagination is like a muscle, you must continually exercise it otherwise it’ll turn to nothing but flabby mush.

Whether we were imagining what the buildings of a ghost town looked like ‘back in the day’ or making up games to play in the twenty hour car ride, we used our imaginations. My siblings and I spent hours playing pretend or making up stories about this or that. Again, at the time this did not seem like the best way to spend summer vacation, but now I appreciate it. I use my imagination daily for one reason or another, and I have my parents to thank for that. Without the early poking and prodding and dragging here or there, I doubt I’d have the imagination I do today. So again, many thanks go out to my parents for tormenting us all those years.

Of course, you all must be wondering why the trip down memory lane? Well this summer we took our first family vacation with my kids that did not involve a hotel or swimming pool. We didn’t head off to a theme park or some huge vacation hot spot. Instead, we rented two cabins in rural Montana. We loaded our kids, my parents and nephew into two vehicles and set out on a four-hour drive to our cabin rentals. My Mom and I took the baby in one car, while my husband and Dad took the two older kids in the other. I have to say, this was the longest time I’ve spent in the car with my Mom since I was a child. It was so nice to chat and look at the scenery. Something she and I don’t get to do much with our chaotic lives. I loved it.

Upon arrival I watched as my six-year-old daughter and five-year-old nephew barreled out of the car and picked their room in the first cabin. By the time we finished unloading my parents, the two monsters had set up their room and were playing some pretend game that included an over-sized rain stick. No iPad, iPhone, Nintendo DS or television. They were using their imaginations. It just made me smile. They reminded me so much of my siblings and our family vacations.

The rest of our vacation went much the same. The two older kids played pretend the entire weekend. If they weren’t playing pretend, they were fishing with Poppy (that’s what they call their Grandpa). It was so nice to watch them content in creating their own fun. Don’t get me wrong, there were the moments of ‘I’m bored’ or ‘I’m hot’, but they were short-lived. The kids were easily distracted by some adventure they would create. All in all, it may not have been the long trek across Montana that we took as children, but it was a start. Well, not so much a start, but more of a continuation. It was the continuation of a long-standing family tradition that I truly hope to carry on with my children. And maybe, years down the road, my kids will thank me for tormenting them as my parents did me. Maybe…


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