I was seven. We had packed our old Toyota Landcruiser with blankets and pillows, suitcases and an old igloo filled with snacks. And we set off.
My parents were good at this. Adventure. My dad would shuttle us all into the car and we would end up at a river diving in with all of our clothes and shivering our way home as he cranked the heater up.
We were never prepared. Spontaneity is like that.
Sometimes they would wake us early, as the sun was rising, we would journey into the mountains to spend a day romping through wildflowers and catching bugs. Missing school.
Or we’d stuff the car with our camping gear on the first warm day in Spring and set out to the mountains only to find subzero temperatures at night.I remember lying awake at night in the back of our car as my brother and I huddled together to keep warm. We would turn on the heater every once in a while to keep from freezing. My parents braved it out in a tent. I will never forget that. And even though it was imperfect, it was one of the most memorable camping trips I’ve ever been on.
But this was a longer journey, we were going to California. As we left New Mexico the heat rose and our old car’s nonexistent air conditioning did nothing to cool our flushed faces and the damp hair sticking to our necks.
We stopped at a K-Mart and for the rest of the trip we sprayed water into the air from small squirt bottles, letting the mist land on us, evaporating in an instant. What could beat that?
I don’t remember every detail of that trip. Memory is funny that way, but I do remember the feeling of embarking on a mission.
Disneyland. The only time I’ve ever been. That was when Captain EO was the brand new attraction, yeah, it’s been awhile.
My father had a cd of African worship music. Jabulani Africa rose in chorus as we crossed the desert. This pilgrimage was about so much more than an amusement park or a family vacation.
We were making memories.
I think about this with my own children. We have never been to Disneyland. I often think of saving up to make it an experience. So we’ll have spending money, extra finances to take that time off work, and a nice place to stay, essentially the money to make the memories. But the delays always happen because in the planning, we neglect the impulse. That sometimes the imperfect is the very thing that makes the memory so special.
I’m not advocating total reckless abandon and following every whim, that would lead us into financial ruin but a relaxing of the ideal. A consolation that to be truly memorable, we don’t have to have every detail planned or every luxury afforded.
I have so many memories of imperfect and yet they are most cherished.
I think it’s time to make some new ones with my kids. Even if it’s just waking early to sit under the stars with cocoa and watch the sun rise.