By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe
Everyone needs some space – a reprieve from the people or routines that fill our days.
When I was a child, I regularly sought time apart from my four little brothers. These were simple places: the coolness of the barn, the branches of the old maple, a favorite rock at the side of a field – all free and readily available to me. Once there, it didn’t take me long to regain an appropriate attitude and some degree of affection for my ever-present family. But I found such time necessary and still do.
My classroom of friends at Fulton Elementary School never spoke of vacations or spring break trips. Most of these children also lived on farms – or at least lived rurally with some chickens and pigs. Our livelihood depended on the careful monitoring, feeding, and watering of our livestock and the timely preparation of the land for spring planting. If my friends did take any trips, it was probably to spend time with grandparents or cousins.
But when I was in 5th grade, my parents planned a spring break trip to the Smoky Mountains. It was to involve lots of riding in the station wagon and overnight stays in motels with indoor swimming pools. We were so excited we could hardly sleep. The morning of our departure, we were loaded in the old Mercury – with a rumble seat in the back; our new comic books tucked beside us, and my mother’s tote bag filled with snacks and other tricks to distract us.
My brother Steve made one last run into the house to retrieve his pillow, fell from the top bunk, and broke his wrist badly, ending our trip before it even began. It took several months for 11-year-old-me to forgive him, and even then, it was with attitude only a big-bossy-sister can bestow.
When our youngest was five, our kids avoided injury, and we took our children to the Great Smoky Mountains and Mammoth Cave National Parks. We visited and toured both places and enjoyed the gorgeous mountain views from a condo we rented. This was our first – and only – official vacation besides our annual cabin visit in July. The time away and together was fantastic.
On our way home, we asked our three tired travelers their favorite part of the trip. As the children discussed their ideas, I recalled the beautiful wildlife in the Smoky Mountains, the purple and lavender sunrises from our condo’s balcony, the stalactites and stalagmites in the depths of the cave. There were so many moments to choose from.
Our oldest daughter piped up, “The best part was riding the go-carts!” to which her younger siblings enthusiastically and unanimously agreed, “Yeah, that was the best!”
My husband and I looked at each other and laughed! We didn’t have to travel hundreds of miles to ride go-carts and play miniature golf!
This one spring break adventure with our own children reinforced what my husband and I already knew: it doesn’t have to be a big expenditure or expensive travel to satisfy the need for a vacation and some much-needed time away. It can be as simple as pitching a tent in the backyard for an evening around a fire beneath the stars; turning off our electronics and playing old-fashioned board games with our children or grandchildren; or spending the afternoon in the hammock lost in books.
It’s a Fine Life.
By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe