From the time I was a young child, family vacations with my parents and grandparents were a summer ritual. I’ve continued the tradition with my own children and grandchildren. Another ritual of mine is writing vacation journals. I’ve been keeping journals since I was in high school. My maternal grandma, who traveled around the world several times, kept journals from all her trips. The summer I graduated from high school, she and I took a two-week train trip across the U.S. and I kept a journal of that adventure.
When my first granddaughter was born six years ago, my daughter—who also keeps journals—started a journal for visitors to write in when they came to her house. The only one to write in it more than once was me. And I’ve continued to write the stories of all our visits over the past six years. I’m now on the fifth volume and write about the “adventures” of both my granddaughters.
Whenever I visit, I wait until the girls go to bed, and then I write down the memorable moments of our day – the places we went, the funny conversations we had, the food we ate, the activities we shared. I leave a few spaces on some of the pages for my husband to draw a cartoon that illustrates a funny moment. Sometimes I paste in little souvenirs – cards from restaurants, drawings, pictures from programs and bits of maps.
If there were ever a fire in my house, I would grab these precious journals. These everyday experiences tell the stories of my two granddaughters’ lives. I know they will treasure them when they grow up. Most of the journals are 6 x 8 inches, either spiral or bound with unlined pages. When I’m too tired to write all my thoughts, I’ll make a few notes of the day’s high points to jog my memory when I pick it up again. I take the journal home with me after our visit so I can finish up the stories. Then I bring it back and read the pages to Juliet, 6. She mostly loves looking at her Zayde’s funny cartoons.
I had a lot of stories to write from our recent family vacation in Monterey, California. One of our most memorable days was spent at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. When I asked Juliet what her favorite things were, she said “holding the hermit crabs and watching the video of the Daddy seahorse giving birth to baby seahorse.” We spent 45 minutes with a volunteer in the Rocky Shore Touch Pool. She told us the names of every creature on display. We both enjoyed the tickling feeling of hermit crabs walking across our fingers and the color-coordinated purples of the coral, rocks, sea anemones, and starfish.
At the new Secret Lives of Seahorses exhibit, my favorites were the leafy sea dragons, which look just like pale green seaweed. I parked myself in front of the glass and was mesmerized by these beautiful creatures gently fanning their dorsal fins to glide through the water. The body of a sea dragon scarcely appears to move at all. All the steering and turning is through movement of tiny, translucent fins along the sides of the head. Their movement mimics the swaying movements of the seaweed and kelp.
Next summer, I’m going to help my granddaughters start their own vacation journal. There are many choices for vacation journals for kids with questions to answer at the end of the day: “What was my favorite thing about today?” or “What was something new I tried today?” or “The strangest thing that happened to me today was …”
With three generations of journal keepers in my family there’s a good chance the next generation will save some of their favorite vacation memories in their own journals.