There’s nothing quite like a vacation.
Especially if you take it 3000 miles away; it kind of discourages people from work calling to ask questions. Although my co-workers did manage to send a couple of text messages my way, it was nothing earth-shattering, nothing that couldn’t be handled through a quick text back.
Having the chance to travel back home, we hit upstate New York at the perfect time — getting in and out before the late July heat wave that scorched them. While we were there, everything was a lush green, without having to irrigate, the weather was uncharacteristically devoid of the summer humidity and the temperature hung right around 80 to 85 degrees nearly every day.
Except I often had to wear a sweater in the house because my mom had the air conditioning set at 76 degrees almost the whole time. She did shut it off and open the windows, maybe twice, which to me was perfect, the fresh air coming in was a welcome change from the Central Valley’s summer smog.
One lazy day — since I was on vacation and chose to not keep any type of schedule — my 15-year-old daughter and I went driving on a couple of back roads just to see where they would lead. Where I grew up, you could almost always get somewhere by three or four different routes and one road would inevitably lead you to another that went over the hill and around the corner, bringing you back to where you started, just on another road. Most are now paved, though a few remain just dirt back roads. One we took had a little bridge and a small stream; we parked the car and walked alongside the stream, which my daughter insists I called a ‘crick’ – upstate New York’s version of ‘creek’. But then, we also often refer to towns as ‘burgs’ and people that were born and raised in my home county are ‘sloughters’ so even though we don’t have the NYC accent, we do have some peculiarities. Anyway, we skipped a few rocks, watching them go to the other side. Some cows munched on grass lazily and mostly ignored us; one waded into the stream a few steps to take a look at us but never did come all the way across. I was able to share memories of my childhood, long summer days when my brother, cousins and assorted neighborhood kids would spend the whole day at the creek, heading out with just a bag lunch and an air of wonder about what we could accomplish in the hours that stretched ahead of us.
We made forts, we put together lean-to’s, we found a swimming hole and took advantage of the big tree on the bank to use a rope swing, we hiked and bird watched, collected fossils and enjoyed nature. No video games, no cell phones. We occasionally took our walkie-talkies so we could keep in touch along the stream but we never really were even out of shouting distance of each other.
Those days, your mom could feel okay about you taking off for the whole day. Just be back in time for supper.
My dad, the organic gardener, came in one morning to announce he needed help picking the potato bugs off the plants before they did too much damage to the crop. So out we went to help save the potatoes. After that, my daughter and I headed a short distance up the hill on my parent’s property and picked some fresh, stain-your-fingers black caps that would have been a perfect topping for a bowl of cereal … if they hadn’t all been eaten by the time we got back to the house.
It was definitely a slower pace, and my daughter noticed how friendly people were, how everyone said hello and cars actually stopped for pedestrians without hollering at them to move faster.
And even all this time later, having been in California for 18 years now, it seems I always run in to someone from long ago each trip home. And this time, it made me realize that you never really know how — or when — you can have an impact on someone’s life.
Out shopping for some touristy-type items to bring home, the woman at the shop looked familiar and she eyed me as well, finally asking if I was who she thought I was. When I confirmed her suspicions, she gave me her name and I remembered how we knew each other. She was the mom of two boys that played T-ball for me when I coached my nephew’s team some 20 years ago. She said they all loved that season and had great memories from their first experience with the game. Somewhere in the garage I have a ball signed by that whole team, scribbles by 5- and 6-year-olds that did their best to write their names legibly. Kids that would hit the ball off the ‘T’ and run to third because they didn’t realize which way they were supposed to go. Kids that did as much dandelion picking and bird watching in the outfield as fielding the baseball. Kids that would get a ‘home run’ by hitting the ball two feet in front of home plate because they just kept running. Kids that had fun.
It was great to catch up on what her T-ballers — married with kids of their own — are doing now.
We often make an impression even when we don’t know it … a good reminder and reason to put your best out there every day.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times and The Oakdale Leader and assistant editor for The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.