Growing up on that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo, my dad said continually, “For the first seven years of your life, we haven’t taken a vacation.” Then one day he never spoke those words again. From that summer forward, we always went on a family vacation each year.
It wasn’t until long after we moved that I found out why he made such a pivot. Dad enjoyed working and didn’t like taking time off, but he was up against a force he couldn’t resist.
He was up against the force of Mom.
By the middle of June, the year I turned seven, our mom had had enough. I know because she gave all of us kids a rare group shout, “I’ve had enough!” Then she stomped out of the living room.
Until that day, Mom had never stomped out of any room, so we knew one of us was in real big trouble. My three brothers, The Sister and I were still arguing about which of us had made Mom so mad when she returned with Dad and made her announcement. That was the day Mom’s foot came down.
“It’s been seven years. Too long to go without a vacation.” She looked at Dad, and he looked down, now very interested with something on the floor. “In the morning, we are going to the beach.” Turning to Dad, she added, “Right, Honey?”
As I think back, our dad was a dad of many words … except that day. That day he was a man of only two.
It was at that point we all realized it wasn’t any of us kids that were in trouble … it was Dad. On those two words he spoke, we all pinned our hopes.
That night we dreamed of the surf tugging at our feet, building sandcastles, and riding waves all the way in to shore until we crashed our floats onto the beach. When I woke in the middle of the night, it was to the feeling of my mattress actually riding a wave. Then suddenly, my mattress surfboard was plunging down the backside of a monster wave — almost toppling and throwing me into the dark sea!
Shaking the sleep and the surfing dream from my mind, I dared to open my eyes. But what I saw next made absolutely no sense, and I wanted to close them again.
My mattress was actually flying! How I had no idea. As disturbing as that was, my nose was now mere inches away from the raised garage door! With a huge bump and what sounded like Dad cussing, the garage door disappeared, and stars of the clear night sky appeared overhead, but only for a moment.
Finally, my mattress surfboard landed in the back of our avocado green station wagon with the faux wood panels where my brothers and The Sister already lay sleeping. The only explanation I could think of was that it had been a dream and I should just go back to sleep. At least that’s what my dad said to me as he started what would be the first of our annual nighttime drives to Florida.
Years later, Mom told us why she had put her foot down that day. “Life’s too short to work all the time. It’s easy to lose sight of what’s really important. You should never be too busy for a vacation with the family once a year.”
In my head, I still hear my parents’ voices throughout each day, speaking their wisdom. It’s a welcome sound, and as I get older, the wiser my parents become.
The voice of my mom spoke firmly last night when The Wife asked a question, “Are we going on vacation this year?” Thinking about all the home improvements I still had left to do and how busy she was at her work, I was about to answer that we just didn’t have the time.
Then I thought again, replying with only two words. Two words that echoed back from that old familiar street not so far away called Flamingo.
That night, we made reservations for a five-day family beach vacation on St. Simon’s Island.
[Rick Ryckeley has been writing stories since 2001.]