Long before Disneyworld, Legoland, and Universal Studios, central Florida boasted Cypress Gardens, Silver Springs, and Gatorland. These roadside “Mom and Pop” tourist attractions provided hours of entertainment for locals and visitors alike, but the real Floridian attraction for my brother and me growing up in the Fifties was visiting our paternal grandparents in St. Petersburg.
Each summer, Mom and Dad would drive from Orlando to St. Pete to drop us off for a week-long visit with Pop and Corinne. Our grandparents were barrels of fun, and each summertime visit became a memorable adventure. Within minutes of waving goodbye to our parents, we’d jump into the front seat of Pop’s Buick RoadMaster and head to Webb City for a case of Frostie root beer.
It never occurred to us that Pop could have bought the root beer in advance of our visit and already had it chilled in the ice box. No, going to Webb City in Pop’s Buick was half the fun! Years before the days of seat belts, my brother and I would be slammed back into the seat or slide into the dashboard as Pop would “punch it out” at each acceleration or hit the brakes as he approached a stop sign. Pop would grin from ear to ear, and we’d squeal with delight!
Corinne would invite us to “water the grass” and her shrubbery which was really an excuse to allow us to have water fights with the garden hose in the hot Floridian sun. Her thick, St. Augustine grass provided a delightful cushion to our bare feet as we soaked each other (and the grass) with the icy cold water.
Summertime adventures, and memories of a lifetime… Just simple family fun really. If there was a “silver lining” to the pandemic, I think it was sheltering in place with family. Yes, remote learning was an enormous challenge, but the pace of life slowed significantly, and family members rediscovered fun activities of the past. Board games were pulled out of closets, jigsaw puzzles dusted off from the basement, and even that old deck of cards was rescued from the TV cabinet. Dad grilled hot dogs, hamburgers, and chicken, and Mom let the kids build indoor forts out of old blankets and bedspreads. Family time, creating memories of a lifetime.
Thankfully, the devastating impact of the pandemic is behind us, and we have adapted to numerous changes in our lives. But one constant that should remain is the investment of time spent with those we love and with those who love us most. Plan some family activities this year, whether it be a simple picnic at a local state park, a family reunion, or a fabulous week-long cruise. You never know which event or new family tradition will become the next memory of a lifetime for your loved ones until you’ve done it. And, as Pop was fond of saying, “No matter where your journey may take you, may you always enjoy the ride.”