As a child, one of my fondest memories was our family’s summer vacation. Dad was a mechanic and insisted the car have a full checkup before taking it out on the road. We had a Buick Electra 225 (or “deuce and quarter” as it was called at the time). It was a monster car, which we needed for our family of six. Dad would change the oil, check the tires, change fuses, and so on to make sure the car was roadworthy.
While Dad was busy outside with the car, Mom would be inside frying up some chicken. Now, EVERYONE in my family knows that my maternal grandmother’s fried chicken could put KFC out of business, but my mom was a very close second (and she’d quickly agree and gladly take 2nd place to Grandma). She’d cover the chicken with foil, add some potato salad, sandwich bread (which we called “white bread”), Texas Pete, and canned sodas, and we were ready for the road!
Mind you, this was our BIG family vacation. No hotels or stayovers were ever involved (they were expensive and my dad was going to sleep in his own bed), no takeouts or restaurants, no big ticket items…at all. We’d start out in the morning, and Dad would surprise us with a day in Wilmington, or a trip to the Outer Banks, or a new museum in one of the small towns in Eastern NC.
One of the highlights of our vacation, was stopping at a roadside table to enjoy Mom’s lunch, stretch our legs, and take a little breather. Does anyone remember roadside tables?? At various points along a highway, just on the side of the road, there would be a small area with a picnic table and sometimes a small grill. On major roads, you could often find a roadside park, with walking trails and a covered picnic area. On interstate highways, you’d find the rest areas that many of us are familiar with–nice, air conditioned building with tourist info, water fountains, toilets, playground equipment, walking trails and so on. But for us, nothing was quite like the quaint little roadside tables to get a little respite on our day trip. My siblings and I would run around the woodsy area to burn off some energy. We’d chat and play for an hour or so, load up the car again and be on our way.
Today, vacations are so complicated. Lots of time and money are put into making lasting family memories, memories that for many children only last until they’re carted off to the next event or location. Also, it seems that today these small family outings are so commonplace, there’s less appreciation for the time that parents put into giving their children full, fun, educational and memorable times together.
Reflecting on this reminds me that sometimes memories are built on events and places, like roadside tables, amusement parks, beaches and the like. But more importantly, memories are created by people, for people. I don’t remember every place our dad took us on those summer day trips. I don’t remember much about the conversations we had while eating our lunch at the roadside table. What I do remember is how I felt–the love of family, the joy of being together, the anticipation of experiencing something new and different together.
Vacation, rest, family time, work, and food are all good gifts from the Lord, which He means for us to receive with thanksgiving, pursue with joy and to view as paltry when compared to the glory that awaits us in the world to come.
So I commend the enjoyment of life, because nothing is better for a man under the sun than to eat and drink and be glad. Then joy will accompany him in his work all the days of the life God has given him under the sun.
Commenting on this verse, Matthew Henry says we are “cheerfully to enjoy what God has given us in the world, to be content with it and make the best of it”.
So, enjoy your summer vacation!