On our vacations, we never stayed in hotels. Instead, when Dad got tired driving, he would simply pull over to the side of the road. Out came the sleeping bags. That was our cue to pile out of the car and get comfortable in our makeshift “natural” hotel under the stars.
Once in Utah, we had even fewer reasons to book a hotel. Although no relative could handle housing all of us at once, Mom and Dad had yet another vacation strategy: separate the children into small clusters—sending a couple kids here and a few more there—until we were divided up like foster kids, imposing on several aunts.
One problem of being one of the youngest of a Mom who was one of the youngest in her family is I had no cousins my age. This made for some boring if not awkward sleeping assignments. Once, for example, Bryan and I were assigned to stay with our Aunt Viola whose children were a full 20 years older than us. We were relegated to sleep on the floor in the basement, a feature in most Utah homes. There we didn’t bother anyone, but we also left on our own too much. Worst of all, we were starving! So, we kept stealing Twinkies from Aunt Vi’s freezer and trying in vain to hide the wrappers.
The two of us might not have been the easiest children to take on trips.
One summer Dad and Mom announced we would be making a departure from our standard California-to-Utah jaunt. Instead, that year we would swing by the Grand Canyon on our way to Utah, stretching out our usual week-long vacation to a full ten days. As on most trips, Bryan and I were smooshed in the back of the car, but that time we chose to take subtle revenge. For miles and miles, even day after day, we played the same silly hand game, repeating endlessly and loudly, “Peas porridge hot. Peas porridge cold. Peas porridge in the pot nine days old!” The more we were shushed, the louder we chanted.
I vaguely remember being taken by the grandeur and beauty of the Grand Canyon, which I wouldn’t see again for almost 30 years. However, more vivid is my memory of stopping at Four Corners where the borders of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah meet. Unlike most families who snapped pictures on vacations, we could not afford cameras or film as a general rule. However, I have a rare photo of being at this landmark, squatting to touch all four states at once.
Even without the photo, though, I would still remember being dwarfed by a statue of a humongous beef cow and eating one of the most delicious cheeseburgers I had ever had in my young life. I’m still not sure what made that burger so delicious: the novelty of the eating out or the rarity of not having to share food with a sibling. Normally, sharing food, sharing space, and sharing memories typified our family vacations.