We didn’t do many vacations when I was growing up. I won’t share any hard-luck sob-stories about how my family wasn’t the best off, as I am damn aware that there are thousands of families in much worse situations than we ever were.

Vacations usually consisted of visiting relatives, or carefully planned budget excursions executed after weeks of strategic maneuvering designed to cram as many activities in as little space as possible. I still get twitchy when the subject of over-scheduling comes up.

But the over-scheduling came precisely because of the rarity of the vacations. Much more frequently, vacations were much more modest. When they included a long trip, they included books, at least for me (back then I could ride seven hours in the back of a station wagon and read without getting carsick–I still don’t know if it’s because Chevy Malibu wagons had an absurdly smooth ride, or I just had a cast-iron stomach back then). But while the rest of the family was enduring the car trip to get to the fun, I was already there.

I usually could be found in a windswept castle with an overblown heroine and a dark and dangerous hero who never did have a rock-solid alibi.

I never understood the appeal of “beach reads” – at the beach, you get sand in your book and you lose your place. Also, if the tide comes in at the wrong time, your book will float out to sea (or somewhere about eight feet out along the shoreline of Lake Erie). For me, it was, “why wait for the beach? I’m reading this puppy now, so I’ll have something to pretend-out when I’m swimming.”

Vacation was over when I ended up invariably finishing off the books I’d brought early. So the drive back became another holiday of its own–International Poking Your Little Brother Day.

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