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Vacation Journals Transport You Back in Time

Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing

When I was a young girl, my family purchased a small log cabin in northern Michigan. The first summer we stepped foot on the property, Mom bought a red binder and started keeping a “vacation journal” so that we’d have a written record of our days spent at the lake. At the time I remember thinking Mom’s entries were silly and mundane. Now, however, I recognize that those ink-soaked pages are literal snapshots of my childhood. And those “silly, mundane” moments are some of the best of my life.

In one entry, Mom wrote: “Yea! We’re here! We arrived at the cabin at 7:40 p.m. Michigan time. (We never used Eastern or Central time. It was always “Michigan” and “Indiana” time unless you were my grandpa, in which case it was “my time” and “your time.”) Les (my dad) drove the Blazer, pulling the boat and brought Bonnie (our dog). I drove the Oldsmobile with Fluffy (our cat) and the gerbils. We packed the metal utility cabinet, a microwave, the lawn swing, the Weber grill and the new kitchen sink.” (I suppose this is where I learned the art of overpacking as our family always hauled everything — and, in this case, even the kitchen sink.)
In another entry, Mom scrawled joyously, “Today we hooked up the Bug Zapper!”

Remember those medieval torture chambers for flying insects that were all the rage in the 80s? We’d be hanging by the campfire eating Smores when suddenly there would be a bright spark followed by a distinct “zurp,” and just like that, a moth was toast. It never occurred to me that I was witnessing the electric chair, bug version.

Skimming through the journal, I had to appreciate my mother’s delight in the little things. For instance, she wrote, “Today we picked up our developed film from the drug store and got back eight really nice shots!”

Ah, yes. Back when you’d snap 24 pictures and be lucky if half of them were of any quality at all. In the absence of a preview function, inevitably at least a quarter would come out blurry, and if my grandma was holding the camera, the tops of everyone’s heads would be cut off (pre-technological era, I suppose this was her way of tagging a photo).

If you haven’t started your own family vacation log, I suggest you do so. Write down the day you under-applied the sunscreen and the night you overcooked the burgers. Record when your toddler fell hard from chasing a butterfly and busted open his knee and the time your teen fell hard for the neighbor girl and busted open his heart.

Time is fleeting, and so are memories so live it up and jot them down. Your kids and all future generations will thank you.

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