There was a large old bottle on the floor of my parents’ closet. What it originally held -wine or whiskey, I don’t remember. The neck of the bottle was just big enough for a dime. Pennies and nickels didn’t fit. Just the dimes.
And when my Dad emptied his pockets at the end of the evening, if he had any dimes and he could spare them…which wasn’t all the time, they went in the bottle. Mom too, I think… once in a while a dime from her purse went in the bottle.
(Mom kept her quarters so we kids could go to the Saturday matinee movie – fifteen cents to get in and ten cents for snacks – and you got a double feature!)
But back to the bottle of dimes. We kids all knew where the bottle was, and during the course of the year, we’d watch the dimes start to grow. None of us would ever touch the bottle. I never once in all those years stole a dime.
Because I knew what it was for.
Yes… that was our spending money for vacation.
The factory where Dad worked would always have a shutdown in the summer – a week, sometimes two, and that is when all the employees planned their vacations. Families made their plans around the factory schedule.
And when the time came, my mother would pull out the (hopefully) heavy bottle of dimes and give us kids some coin wrappers and we’d count out the dimes. OMG, we were rich! Some years there were THREE HUNDRED dimes in there! THIRTY DOLLARS in there!
Of course, we could never go away for two whole weeks. One week was rare. A few times, my parents rented a little cottage on Highland Lake in Winsted, Connecticut – only about 25 miles from our home. And those were amazing vacations! A full week on the lake! Swimming right in the backyard! And company! Because it was so close to home, all the relatives would take at least one day and come up. That was the best part. (The worst part was rainy days. With no TV.)
More often, we would travel up to Vermont for just a few days. Staying in a motel instead of renting a cottage was a bit more expensive, so three days was about our limit.
But it was LUXURY!
A Motel With A Swimming Pool!
I did not want anything more.
We had no exotic vacations. We didn’t see the world. We didn’t get on an airplane – although once in a while we would drive to the airport on a Sunday and watch the planes take off. (I was 20 before I flew for the first time.) Trips to restaurants were scarce. The farthest I ever traveled as a kid was to Washington DC. We went by train to attend my father’s military reunion. It was like a dream come true.
But, OMG – A Motel With A Swimming Pool!
We’d go during the week – to avoid the higher weekend rates. Sometimes my parents’ best friends and their kids would come, and we’d play follow the leader in the two cars.
There was a racetrack near the motel. Green Mountain Race Track, near Bennington Vermont. Horseracing, which my parents loved. (I do too, even now.) My parents would go to the track one evening of our vacation – especially if their best friends had come along. Of course, kids were not allowed at the track. And although I love the horses, not being allowed was… Spectacular! Because: PIZZA! For us kids by ourselves at the motel! We were absolutely forbidden to swim at night, but who cares – we had pizza and TV and we were in a Motel!
We ate out for breakfast. We could have pancakes! OMG, pancakes in a restaurant tasted so good! The cream for the grownups’ coffee would come in a tiny glass bottle – like a miniature bottle that the milkman left in the aluminum box on our porch And my mother would let me keep the bottle!
Lunch was usually a cook-out by the side of the road. My father had a little hibachi in the trunk and charcoal, and we’d have hotdogs. Hotdogs were my favorite thing in the world. Besides pancakes. Lunch would take a really long time, because it took forever to get the coals going, and then another forever to cool off the grill enough to put it back in the trunk. Our day often consisted of breakfast in a diner, driving to a good spot for those take-forever hotdogs, and then back to the Motel With A Swimming Pool!
We did some sightseeing. A musuem or a monument. Vermont is not exactly the museum capital of the world. But we’d find something. And we could buy a souvenir! Oh those dimes! I liked little change purses with embossed leather. Or colored pencils. Or a miniature monument. My sister Claudia leaned toward tiny dolls made of brittle china dressed as Indians. Christine liked charms for her charm bracelet. I don’t remember what my little brother liked. Anything, I’d guess. He was always really easy to please – happy with anything he could hold in his hands.
We all liked this:
So did my parents, since at least one of us would be quiet in the car. I was not allowed to play with this in the car, though. If I looked at anything but the road, I threw up.
We sometimes went out to dinner. Usually it was a Howard Johnson’s, or any restaurant that was almost identical to Howard Johnson. I had a hotdog. But this was different than the hot dog I had for lunch. It had a grilled roll. And it came with french fries rather than the potato chips we had for lunch. And the best thing of all: we were On Vacation – in a Motel With A Swimming Pool – so I could have a hotdog for lunch and a hotdog for dinner if I wanted. Because: Vacation!
Sometimes other relatives came too – I remember my great-aunt and uncle, Catherine and Rocky, came once. We went, I think (I can check with my Mom, but I love remembering it in my eight-year-old mind, and so I don’t really want to be corrected), to see some property that my Uncle Rocky had bought or won, sight-unseen. We drove through wooded nothing for miles and miles until everyone had to pee so bad we had to stop the car and pee in the woods – which I had never done before and so was both mortified and enthralled. And when we got to this “resort” property there was nothing there. The swimming facilities that were promised in the brochure turned out to be a muddy hole dug in the dirt.
The grownups laughed themselves silly. Which was just wonderful. How I loved seeing adults laugh like that!
And, so that the trip was not a total waste, we went to a local ski resort that ran their ski lift in the summer for a ride up the mountain. A ski resort! I had never heard of such of thing, except in a Bing Crosby movie. The ride was amazing – better than any ferris wheel for a great high-up view and a cool breeze. My uncle Rocky was so scared, he would not get back on the lift for the ride down, and the operator had to go up in a golf cart and bring him down. It did not upset me to see a grownup so terrified – somehow, it felt reassuring – that it was okay for everyone to be afraid once in a while – even when you grow up.
My father had my brother with him in his chair lift, and my mother was on the chair behind them with me. And she hollered the whole time for my Dad to hold my little brother tight and not let him fall to his certain horrific death. Miraculously, Dad managed to keep my brother alive.
And my father had the opportunity to save my little brother’s life later too. Back at the Motel With A Swimming Pool, enjoying said pool, Tommy inadvertently waded to the drop-off at the deep end, and went under – and Daddy jumped into the water fully clothed and fished him out.
So sometimes grownups are afraid and sometimes grownups are heroes.
That’s what I learned on vacation.