Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Vacation with the Kids

As I noted in my August 7th post, we're off tomorrow for a short four-day vacation at Great Wolf Lodge with the kids. We've either lost our minds or are in for a treat. To me, traveling to a family resort in the Poconos that features water slides, pools, etc., as the basis for fun seems natural. I went to Water Country USA in Virginia in July and as a kid visited some of the earliest large-scale water slides ever constructed.

I remember, for example, visiting a water slide in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. (Yes, Pigeon Forge, as awful as that place may seem today as a junior varsity version of Branson, Missouri, with the added bonus of more outlet malls - and examples of America's obesity epidemic - than one could encounter in a lifetime. My grandparents loved the Smokey Mountains, so our annual summer trek with them to Tennessee and western North Carolina always included a stop in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg.) But back to the water slide. It was built into the side of a steep hill, with a pair of courses that zipped downward at what my brother and I thought was breakneck speed. The main thing I remember about it is the hardness of the concrete from which the slide was constructed. No smooth plastic chutes or tubes for us. This was a concrete water slide and your body, particularly your knees and ass, paid the price after an hour of sliding downward and running back up the hill to do it all again with pre-teen abandon. Our only protection against occasional rough patches was a thin, rubberized mat from which one often became separated at high speeds.

The other thing I remember about one of our visits was an obviously poor family from rural Ohio who shocked me at the time and in retrospect remind me of photos snapped by Dorothea Lange and her contemporaries. (I can't always remember what I had for lunch last week, but circumstances like this always seem to become lodged in my brain's permanent files. I seem to recall an article in the magazine of the New York Academy of Sciences that explains this phenomenon. Apparently different types of memories are stored in different parts of the brain, depending on whether they were traumatic, happy, sad, etc., and some of those memories have a longer shelf life than others.) The thing I remember most about this family, aside from their thread-bare clothing, was the sheer joy of the brother and sister as they careened down the slide repeatedly, and the unbridled - and loudly vocalized - happiness of the parents, who obviously relished giving this opportunity for fun to their children. My kids will not be wearing threadbare clothes this weekend, but I'm wondering if their experience - indeed, our family's experience - will be as rich as that Ohio family's from thirty years ago.

1 comment:

One Wink at a Time said...

Have a wonderful time. And thanks for this huge smile, I needed one.
Be Safe.