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MANDY FLYNN: Vacations are not what they used to be

FEATURES COLUMN: Childhood vacations always smelled like pecan logs

Mandy Flynn

Mandy Flynn

A friend and I discovered recently that we share a similar parenting tactic – one I used when our children were small and one she uses now since hers are little. We used to never tell our children we were going on a vacation until the day before or, in some cases, when we were actually in the car on the way.

It cut down on the questions.

“How many more days until we go?”

“Why can’t we leave yet?”

“Is it time to leave?”

“How many more minutes until we leave?”

I really want to go on vacation.

Vacations aren’t what they used to be, at least not how I remember.

When I think of summertime and going on vacation, I think of my little avocado green hard-shell suitcase with the two button locks on the outside that would pinch if you weren’t being careful. Inside it was lined with silky soft quilted fabric and there was a pocket for my toothbrush and brush on one side and on the top there was a mirror. It would never fail … I’d stuff it so full that I’d always have to sit on it to get it closed. And it better be good and closed, because there’s not much worse than having your suitcase explode open in the station wagon.

The station wagon was my favorite ride and about the only one I can remember when I was really little, aside from an old blue pickup truck and a dune buggy we once had. The station wagon seats were vinyl and got sticky when you sweat, even with the windows rolled all the way down. The 8-track radio played Ronnie Milsap and my older teenage sisters would draw imaginary lines on the car seat and dare anybody to cross them. I often wondered what would happen if I “accidentally” entered “their space” and touched them, and I probably did it more than once, but the consequences were so traumatic my mind has chosen to completely block it out.

I hated riding way in the back facing backwards because it made me sick. I remember at first no one believed me, no matter how many times I said I felt sick. They needed proof, I guess. They never made me ride in the back any more after that.

I always wanted to be a Weeki Wachi mermaid. I never actually saw a Weeki Wachi mermaid up close, but I always made a point to get one of the pamphlets at the Florida Visitor Center when we stopped. They looked so glamorous with their long flowing hair and beautiful colored mermaid tails swishing in the clear blue water surrounded by bubbles. And they were always smiling.

Along with my Weeki Wachi pamphlet, I wouldn’t leave the Florida Visitor Center without having my complimentary glass of orange juice in the little plastic orange shaped cup, which you could take with you as a souvenir. And for a few quarters I never left the building without one of my most anticipated keepsakes of the entire trip – a Mold-A-Rama dolphin or mermaid or turtle or seashell. I can still smell the melting plastic.

Ahhh, the smell of vacation.

Childhood vacation also smells like a Stuckey’s pecan log roll, Coppertone suntan lotion, a blow-up raft, Noxema after a sunburn, a new Archie comic book for the car ride, and the lightly musty smell of my avocado green hard-shell suitcase when I open it after it’s been shut up in the closet.

I wish I still had the t-shirt I got once on a trip to Florida. It said “Orange you glad you went to Florida?” and I thought it was the most wonderful souvenir in the entire world. I wonder if our granddaddy thought that when we brought him back an ashtray with an alligator smoking a cigarette on it. Who wouldn’t love that, right?

I think it’s time for a vacation. I won’t overstuff my suitcase, sit in the back and get sick, get in anybody’s personal space, or run off and become a Weeki Wachi mermaid. I just want to relax and drink some orange juice and smell the suntan lotion.

And maybe eat a pecan log.

I’ll bring you a t-shirt.

Email columnist Mandy Flynn at flyn1862@bellsouth.net.