When I was about 10 or 11, I dreamt of having an amazing summer vacation then sharing all the exciting details with my classmates on the first day of school.
“First, I went to Disney World, then I flew in a hot air balloon, and then went down the rapids in a canoe. And that was just the first week.”
My classmates would burst out in applause, chant my name, then hoist me up in the air and carry me out of the classroom in a victory celebration. Then they’d drop me on my head.
Unfortunately, I never was the show and tell hero for my summer vacation exploits. Not that we didn’t have fun family vacations, but I wasn’t exactly the most adventurous kid in the world. In fact, my summers were spent primarily watching TV and fighting with three older siblings. Sure, it was an exciting summer when my sister and I memorized every word of the Brady Bunch theme song and I mastered curse words that got my mouth washed out with soap. Regrettably, I couldn’t share my version of the bleeping Brady Bunch with my classmates otherwise, I‘m sure I would have had the best summer vacation story, if not the most colorful one.
There was also the summer in which my father and sister unsuccessfully boarded a canoe and went splashing head over heels into the water. I roared with laughter—from a safe distance—as my father displayed his mastery of curse words. Again, though, other kids went to Europe, built go karts and time machines, and trumped me in the best summer vacation story contest.
Finally, this summer, at age 40, it was going to happen. I was going to have the summer vacation that my grandkids would tell their grandkids was the best summer vacation ever. However, that’d be a lie. We did go away for a couple of great weekends and finally joined the community pool but there wasn’t a winning summer vacation story in the bunch. But some interesting things did happen this summer.
“Dad, what’s that?” My son pointed to a backyard filled with people–women in dresses, men sporting hats—playing ball.
“I think it’s an Amish family playing volleyball. Who knew?”
Hats and bonnets were askew as the competition appeared intense. As far as I could tell, even grandma had abandoned the apron and butter churn to throw down a few spikes.
Our trip to Lancaster, Pennsylvania also found CJ and me embarking on a horse and buggy ride. The ride through the countryside was scenic, fun, and as CJ pointed out, full of horse poop.
I rolled my eyes.
“Giant poop over there, Dad!”
After about 16 more poop sightings, I couldn’t wait to find another Amish family playing volleyball.
Soon, though, CJ became enthralled with the horses, Ike and Mike, and sat up front with the driver. The horse poop became a faint, but smelly memory.
A few days later, I was back working and it was as if we had never taken that trip to the country. In fact, things were so hectic at work, I found myself helping translate documents into Chinese, Bengali, and Urdu. I’m not sure where they speak Bengali or Urdu—much less that Urdu and Bengali are languages—but since I wrote the documents in English, I was the best (and only) candidate for the job. But it looks great on a resume.
In addition to buggy rides and me becoming multi-lingual, the summer was filled with other milestones, too. We took the kids peach and raspberry picking for the first time, CJ rode the subway for the first time, and I hurt my back while simply standing in place. Looking back, it was a pretty amazing summer. I’m ready for the show and tell contest at my fourth grade reunion. Now I just have to translate it into Bengali and Urdu.
Copyright © 2009, Brad Manzo