Summer Vacation Memories with My Venturesome Mom and our Vehicles

Débonnaire Mom

by Jarm Del Boccio

Every summer, since both my Mother and I followed the school holiday schedule (she was a school social worker), we took off in one of the four cardinal directions to visit family and friends. I remember a red Ford station wagon in the 1950s, a blue Rambler wagon in the 60s, and later, a white Rambler Marlin with red interior that Mom let me choose from the used car lot. We headed out west and camped along the way. Any other trip we would stay a night in a motel.

Me next to our red Ford Station Wagon

We stopped often to take a break, and ended up many times at Stuckey’s (we never did figure out if the u was short or long). There we enjoyed all things pecan; my favorite being pecan pie. There were pecan goodies, of course—pies, tarts, brittle, and candies. I remember a shop with all sorts of souvenirs: ash trays, toothpick holders, diaries . . . all stamped with the state we were traveling through.

Our trip from Chicago to Alaska one summer was memorable, not only because of distance, but because Mom, now in her late 50s, took a friend along to help with the driving (my dear dad died when I was four). Nothing unusual about that, except her friend Alvina, had a broken leg. Thankfully, it was her left, so, we were okay, but Mom still did most of the driving.

Mom and me with Uncle Sam in Alaska

For a while anyway, until the return trip. We headed down the AlCan Highway, which just happened to be under construction that summer. I don’t know if she wasn’t paying attention to the road, or lost control, but Alvina drove our red Ford station wagon over the boulders heaped in the median strip, ripping out the entire underside of the vehicle. Out of nowhere, our Heavenly Father brought a semi into view to rescue us.

What an adventure it was for me to sit in the upper bunk of the 18-wheeler as we drove to our lodgings for the night. A missionary family, the Crabbs, whom my mother had contacted in our plight, took us in for the night. We ended up staying with them while our car was repaired.

Every four years, we took a trip to a World’s Fair—first Seattle, then, New York, Montreal and finally, New Orleans, which are now spread throughout my childhood summers. Mom took reel after reel of Super 8 movies, but, unfortunately, she moved the camera so fast, we became car sick reviewing the film. Add to that her penchant for cutting heads off in the process and … you get the picture—not much quality footage, but an awful lot to laugh about!

One year we took the Santa Fe Railroad from Chicago to California, where we visited neighbors who had moved west a few years before. I vaguely remembered our trip, but did enjoy the challenge of walking from train to train, crossing the gap between cars. Here, too, Mom filmed the rolling countryside with her movie camera, scanning the scene instead of holding the camera steady. What resulted was enough to make one cross-eyed!

Mom loved to be on the go. She drove on the Interstate, down country roads, and through fog in the Rocky Mountains at night. One summer we drove through Yellowstone National Park, and, as a large black bear approached the car, I screamed, “Shut the window, shut the window!” She calmly passed it by and moved on. Mom was invincible.

Mom, me (on left) and NY family

In my early childhood, we had an ugly army green Hudson that crawled up the curb and hit a light post with myself and my cousins from New York crammed inside. It seemed Mom was distracted with something, and didn’t notice that one of us was sitting on the shift, which launched the car into the drive position. No injuries, just a bit shaken that’s all!

Since my mother traveled to Europe with her own mother, she thought it would be a good experience for me in my early teens. To her, it seemed like a rite of passage. For me, it was an unwanted journey.  I’d rather have stayed at home with my friends. Back then, I thought Paris was a city full of dirty buildings. Little did I know they were chock-full of history. Now, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. It turned out to be one of the most memorable trips of my life.

We visited family in Bratislava during the summer of 1968.  I remember feeling the tension in Czechoslovakia—something in the air. I was afraid for some reason that we would be stuck in the country. My worst fears were realized when, at the border on our way out, we were detained by Communist guards because we did not have the correct papers. I sat on the pavement and cried, “I told you so!” as Mom deftly but firmly negotiated with them. She had no fear and no foes—only the desire to turn wrongs to right.

Her Slovak cousin, a communist sympathizer (only to keep his job), vouched for us. Thankfully they let us go. A week later, sitting in a Wimpy’s restaurant somewhere in London, Mom opened the newspaper, only to discover that the Russians had invaded Czechoslovakia. We escaped none too soon!

Mom and me in the 90s … she lived almost to 100!

Needless to say, summers held an air of adventure for me, and I have my Mom to thank for it. Although we did not see eye to eye about many things, travel was the one thing that bonded us.

So naturally, my husband and I began that tradition with our two children as a part of our homeschool history curriculum. I even named the trips: “Footsteps of Paul,” “Into the Promised Land, “”Tale of Two Cities,” “The Russian Adventure,” and so on.

Travel expands our horizons and our minds. It prevents the Ugly American syndrome, too. For although people are much like ourselves in many ways, it’s the differences we can celebrate. And vive le différence!



3) Mom and me with Uncle Sam in Alaska

4) Mom, me (on left) and NY family

Jarm (sounds like “yarm”) Del Boccio finds her inspiration in everyday life, but in particular, when she travels the globe observing the quirky things that happen along the way. Focusing on the lives of characters from the past, Jarm’s passion is to make Scripture and history come alive for her readers. You can learn about those experiences in her blog, Making the Write Connections, or connect with her on her author’s website: Jarm is content with the journey God has placed her on, and lives with her husband and son and daughter (when they are not at college), and a Ragdoll cat in a tree-lined suburb of Chicago. She is a member of Word Weavers West Suburbs.


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