When I flip through childhood photo albums, I can always find a section dedicated to our summer vacations. A few pages of us on the beach, at the pool, and at theme parks plainly stand out compared to those taken in our New England hometown. The photos bring a flood of memories to mind including the warm feeling of the sun and smell of the ocean air.
Starting a Tradition
We went on a weeklong vacation to South Florida annually. My parents bought a vacation timeshare the year I was born at Vacation Village at Weston and started an annual tradition. We would head to the familiar condominium for fun in the sun, sand, and water.
There are pictures of my aunt and uncle laying out by the resort’s pool. It’s clearly the 80’s based on my aunt’s fluorescent bathing suit as she watches me in the shallow children’s pool. They joined my parents when I was just a toddler and babysat me a few nights so mom and dad could have some long overdue date nights.
As a little girl, I would sit in front of a mirror with a frame made of hundreds to thousands of tiny seashells. I tried to count the shells each night while mom cooked dinner. I asked her if I could bring it home and she told me that’s where it was, in our vacation home, which is part of what made it special. Thirty years later, I still smile and point it out in the occasional photo.
Since I’m an only child, my parents started letting me bring friends with us on our annual trips to Florida. I remember my middle school best friend and I tried the resort’s hot tub like the adults did. After about five minutes of boredom in the steam, we ran out and jumped into the pool, the cool water refreshing us back into nine-year-old play mode.
Walt Disney World® was a short drive away and every few years we would visit “The Most Magical Place On Earth.” I pull out the pictures of me meeting Mickey Mouse at four, Pluto at six, Cinderella at eight, and Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum at 13. Not even a teenager can stay moody in a place with thrilling rides and excitement around every corner.
Family Customs That Grew With Time
Surprisingly, my mom took up fishing after a few years of seeing fishermen lining the bridges on the way to the resort. It became her holiday hobby, renting a rod and supplies to fish on the pier. Twice she signed up for deep-sea fishing with a local Florida charter company.
My parents moved from Connecticut to Tennessee in preparation for retirement life. Now, they drive to our vacation resort each year. The 12-hour drive is just as much part of the tradition as going itself.
They are also able to explore the area more by driving down. Although it’s a place they have visited for more than 30 years, they still find new establishments and activities to try. But, it’s the resort’s pool, hot tub, and beach proximity they love the most, especially after relocating to a land-locked state.
One year, my parents gifted their timeshare week at their resort to my cousin following his wedding. It was at the reception when they learned that the newlyweds were postponing their honeymoon for financial reasons. The reservation date for my parents’ Florida trip was the following month and they were happy to let the new couple start their marriage at a beautiful sunny Florida resort. Now, they, too, have happy memories at our vacation home.
I moved to South Florida for two years and happened to relocate to just two hours north of the resort. When my parents came down for their scheduled home week, I would drive down to meet them and we spent a couple of days together in our home away from home once again.
Reflection of Childhood Vacations
I see pictures of Christmases in New York, trips to visit family in Guatemala, and vacations to tourist locations as I flip through the family photo albums. My dad tells me stories of stunts I pulled as a kid and it’s the tales at our Florida resort, Vacation Village at Weston, that bring up the most nostalgia, like when I used a luggage cart as a skateboard and turned the Jacuzzi tub on with half a bottle of bubble bath.
I remember going to the local grocery store on the first day of every vacation stay, and my mom would pick up one of those assortment packs of mini cereals. When we got back to the condo, we would take turns picking our preferred choice and the sugary options were always the first chosen.
But that’s just one of the random memories I have of our vacation home. Memories from those vacations are more vivid than any other vacation we took. I can look at photos and smell the air, feel the pool water, and taste those sweet summers as if they were only yesterday.
I believe this is due to continual trips to the same location. Repetition helps us recall details clearer and more accurately. Traditions and memories also naturally shape who we are and how we identify ourselves. They create habits that influence the way we see the world. These trips played a part in who I am today.
In fact, I remember telling one of my first good stories at the nearby Fort Lauderdale beach. My friend had asked about where the seafoam came from and I made up a fantasized tale on the spot. I felt so happy to entertain my friend with my words, and it was a domino piece of how I became a writer.
I’m glad that my parents invested in a place that is filled with my childhood experiences and a place for us to still reconnect. I’ll always remember the sun setting and fun poolside activities I got to play in at the resort. Even without these photos.
By Rebecca Childs, long time owner of Vacation Village Resorts