Back when I was still called Donnie, by not only my parents but my teachers and friends alike, every summer was a new vacation. Since we moved around a lot during my grade school years, every place we moved to was new and different than the place we came from. One summer I lived in Upper Black Eddy, along the Delaware River, about which I have written. I lived in West Cleveland around the brick ovens and train tracks in Brooklyn, where we climbed (without parental consent, I’m sure) the cliffs along the railroad tracks suspended by rope down to the caves below. I lived on Presque Isle in Erie where I could walk to the beach, and for one entire summer I lived under the fourth turn of the roller coaster at Chippewa Lake Park. Each day was filled with swimming, boating, fishing and, of course, riding the roller coaster 37 consecutive times. If that was a record, I’m sure it will never be broken, since the coaster was abandoned many years ago. The only time my family took vacations was in the winter, mostly to Florida, but I was in school and couldn’t go. I stayed with relatives.
As my children were growing, they sometimes traveled with me to races across the country, especially my sons, until they realized that the inside of a race track looks pretty much the same no matter where you are. But we got to travel to Daytona Beach; Taladega, Ala.; Watkins Glen, N.Y.; Mosport and Spenard-David in Canada; Sebring, Fla.; and many, many more. We did turn some of them into family vacations, especially in the warm states, and got a glimpse of the continent one freeway at a time.
When I began traveling frequently for business and racing, I usually traveled alone. Not that much fun. There were times when Nancy went with me, and we had fun, but that opportunity didn’t offer itself very much.
Nancy and I realized one summer that we had not taken the kids anywhere all summer long. So the week before Labor Day, we reserved a hotel room at the local Knights Inn in Mentor, Ohio where we wanted to tour the grounds and library of President James Garfield, the president who
campaigned from his front porch. All that our kids remember now from this trip is that they all had to crowd into one room to sleep and hide in the shower when the motel people delivered a roll-away bed, because we had too many people in one room.
But this year summer was different, as we held a long-awaited all-family vacation in Myrtle Beach. We had been trying to set this reunion up for our 35th wedding anniversary. That didn’t work because we couldn’t get enough children and grandchildren to confirm by the cut-off date. For the 36th anniversary we had the same problem, so we focused our commitments for the following year. For the 37th anniversary, we reserved the suites at our Hilton Grand Vacations time-share for which we had been paying for several years. The only holdouts were grandson Zachary from Eugene, Ore., and granddaughter Lauren (pictured above), who was
busy giving birth to our second great granddaughter, Alice. In all, we hosted over 20 children and grandchildren in Myrtle Beach at the beginning of June this year. For a whole week in some of the best weather Myrtle Beach had seen in years (thanks to my son’s namesake, Hurricane Colin), we played golf almost every day, body board surfed in an Atlantic Ocean that churned up plenty of nice waves, shopped in the seemingly hundreds of gift shops and ate in seafood
restaurants up and down the strand. We also got in a mini-golf game and watched the first few games of the NBA Playoffs, the result of which you already know, and ended the week with a big dinner that included everyone at Crave Italian Restaurant in North Myrtle Beach. We had so much fun, without the usual inter-family squabbling from which many families suffer. My daughter, Melissa, and grandsons, Isaac and Noah, had to leave early the following day on a long flight to Eugene. She said she had so much fun that she wanted to do it again next year. I know from past experience that parents often hold one big family reunion at a big venue and then never hold anything again. I’m sorry for that, because I know how expensive these sorts of grand gestures can be, and I now know why they are few and far between.
We love to have Christmas at our house, for one because it is ideally suited for such big events. We also hold various birthday, holiday, and mid-summer get-togethers because we enjoy entertaining all of our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and friends. That’s how we’ll keep it for now. Maybe I should start saving up for the next big get together. Or maybe it’s somebody else’s turn now.