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Vacation, all I ever wanted

April Clark
Staff Photo |

I always like to see my friends from my younger years all grown up as parents.

It doesn’t seem so long ago we were just kids ourselves.

Last week, one of my oldest friends — going all the way back to the sixth grade — came through Glenwood Springs with his family on a scenic trip out west from Indiana. Tom, who I still can’t help but call Tommy, has a beautiful wife, Amy, and two smart, spunky kids, Ian and Abby. They enjoy seeing and learning about the U.S. by road, sleeping under the stars in their trusty family camper at parks nationwide.



It’s OK to think Chevy Chase in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.”

Although Tommy probably hasn’t forced any amusement park attendees to let him on a closed roller coaster ride at gunpoint.



That I’m aware of.

I do get a kick out of watching Tommy as a dad, considering the shenanigans we used to get into growing up in the cornfields of Indiana. Luckily he has kept the sense of humor that he has always had — one of the reasons we’re still so close after almost 30 years. His kids have it, too. So it’s a ball to hang out with his family as if I’m some long-lost, technically unrelated “aunt” who moved out to Colorado 10 years ago and has recently turned up as a perpetually single freelance writer with surprisingly no cats or high-waist jeans.

I see a movie script coming on.

Tommy and I first met when he was sitting next to me in class. He had just moved to my school from Ohio, and I was the first person to talk to him. Over the years, we have been to many a high school and college party, and traveled down to Spring Break in Daytona Beach on several occasions. On one particular trip when we were college coeds, a blizzard hit Georgia and we found ourselves stranded on the interstate with every other college kid from the Midwest. At least we had a van to protect us from the elements.

Courtesy of Tommy’s parents.

Like my parents, Tommy’s mom and dad were always patient and supportive, despite some of our unplanned adventures. Whether good or bad, our experiences as teenagers and young adults were all life lessons, even when we didn’t know they were.

Spring Break taught us to always be prepared.

I see Tommy raising his two kids the same. He takes the time to teach them about life and the world outside of their suburban Midwest neighborhood. Not all kids get to see beautiful places like the Grand Canyon, Mesa Verde and Monument Valley, but a family vacation can provide that opportunity. I know they can be prohibitively expensive, but family vacations are so important for bonding, whether it be for the parents with the kids or the siblings with each other. Our family vacations taught my brother and me to tolerate each other in confined spaces.

Just as long as he stayed on his side of the backseat, I was fine.

I certainly didn’t grow up with all the money in the world, but my parents made family vacations a priority. The memories I hold from the trips of my childhood to the Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee and the sandy beaches of Florida are to this day vivid in my mind. I remember begging my dad to carry me a lot, especially that time when I was 5 and we hiked up Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in Tennessee.

I’m sure that was fun for his back.

As kids, my brother and I learned about fish and aquatic wildlife at the many aquariums we visited with our parents. In another life, I’m sure my dad was a marine biologist. We went to museums, historical landmarks and theme parks.

Roller coasters were always high on the agenda.

We ate where Ernest Hemingway frequented down in Key West and learned about his six-toed cats. We floated on blow-up rafts in the Gulf of Mexico and conceptualized the importance of sunscreen and aloe vera gel. We learned that deep sea fishing and my propensity for motion sickness don’t really mesh.

Most of all, we learned we had fun together even if we weren’t riding rollercoasters.

All that mattered is that we were together as a family.

April E. Clark is ready to go back to Disney World. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.com.


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