Holiday Memories That Last a Lifetime

We had been on the road for 5 hours, and the kids were starting to lose it. It was the last day of a 7-day holiday around the North Island. We only had one more hour of driving to get home, but we decided to stop at a park and let them burn off some steam. 

My wife says, “Boys are like dogs. You’ve gotta keep them fed and run them twice a day.”

As we were walking over, I put my arm on my 6-year-old’s shoulder; I looked down and said, “Jacob, I love you so much,” He replied, “No, no, no, Dad, I love YOU soooo much,” as he flashed me the cutest grin and gave me a big hug. It was only 2 minutes of the entire day after plenty of moments of stress, but at that moment, nothing else in the world mattered. 

While the kids were playing, I was reminded of my childhood holidays. I thought about how I was once that little boy walking alongside my Dad. I wondered about what he was thinking at the time. I wondered if he knew those holiday moments with him would become lifetime memories. 

Dad often says he wishes we could have done more as a family or that he always felt stressed, but talking to my sisters, that’s not how we remember our family holidays. They were fun-filled adventures. The van packed to the brim with stuff, songs recorded on cassette tapes, the same rest stops stopped at every year, and fun adventures when we finally arrived at our destination. 

It made me think. 

  • The things we remember (or are consumed with) at the time and the things that last in your memory are totally different. 
  • The way you are experiencing an event and the way others (like your kids) are experiencing an event can be totally different. 
  • Most of all, I was reminded that the time I have with my boys is short.

So, I decided to share my childhood memories as a way of thanking my parents for our wonderful family holidays. 

Even though money was tight, my parents always made an effort to take my sisters and I away when we were growing up. Mum would put away $5 or $10 a week throughout the year to make it happen. Dad worked at NZ Post and had access to the holiday houses, so we would usually end up somewhere on the north island like Taupo, Napier, or Rotorua. Later on, we started going to a holiday camp in Matamata. 

I am sure there was plenty of stress on these holidays – times where Mum and Dad were just trying to make it through the day. I know they sometimes wished we could do more “activities” and tourist stuff. 

But when I talk with my sisters, the memories that stick out the most are not flashy and expensive but the things we did together. The things I remember the most include: 

  • Stopping at the train bridge for mum’s bacon and egg pie (The Mukohine Viaduct, just after Hunterville heading north),
  • Eating Minties or Fruit Bursts, Mum rationing out a bag with 1 every 30 mins,
  • Playing random games in the car to pass the time, 
  • Swimming in the hot pool at Taupo and Matamata,
  • And walking through Craters of the Moon, going to Huka Falls, and the Awatere Dam

I asked my sisters what they loved, Michelle said: 

  • Playing bingo in Waiterere and getting, like, 20c for a line and 50c for bingo and going to the dairy to spend it on candy,
  • Taking turns cooking tea at the holiday home in Rotorua so Mum got a break,
  • Driving to Matamata and taking turns listening to each person’s cassette tape of choice,
  • Swimming at the beach and body surfing with boogie boards,
  • Mums bacon and egg pies,
  • Traffic light popsicles, 
  • Always getting a bag of Macintosh or Fruit Bursts to share, particularly the time Josh got a 5kg bag and we split them into flavors, 
  • And piling bikes into the back of the Delica. 

Bex said:

  • Mum’s bacon and egg pie, 
  • Staying at Aunty Robyn’s on the NYE of the Millennium (Y2K anyone?),
  • The giant swing at Matamata, 
  • Breaking down on the desert road,
  • And, above all else, singing in the van, especially The Sound of Music’s “The Hills are Alive”  – probably our most sung song. 

And Mel said:

  • I have a very vivid memory of Josh falling asleep,waking with a start (from a falling dream), and slamming the window haha.
  • I remember the lilo at Matamata, the water slide, and bingo nights. 
  • I remember it was my birthday when we were there, and there was a cyclone.
  • But mainly my favorites are just driving in the van with all of us and the weird crazy things we would do to keep entertained. 

As I talk with my sisters, I feel like the key theme was that, as kids, we loved being together on these family holidays. 

As a parent, it’s easy to get caught up in the stress of “getting through” the experience. In the future, your child won’t remember the journey and stress, but the small moments of time you spent together. Stop and enjoy these. 

As mentioned before: 

  • The things we remember (or are consumed with) at the time and the things that last in your memory are totally different. 
    • What are you in the midst of right now that is stressing you out? Think about the last time you felt like this, and reflect on how you now feel about the situation. Reflect on the memories you’re left with. 
  • The way you are experiencing an event and the way others (like your kids) are experiencing an event can be totally different. 
    • Stop and think about the perspective of the people you’re with. What are they thinking, feeling, and remembering? 
  • And most of all, I am reminded that the time I have with my boys is short. 
    • In this post on the Wait But Why blog, he puts into a visual graphic how much time he has left doing his favorite things. Right at the end, he talks about how much time he has left with his parents compared to how much he has already spent. As a parent of 2 young boys, I can’t help but think about this in reverse. He also talks about how much time he now spends with his sisters vs how much he spent with them growing up. It’s a long post, but worth the read.

Maybe Jacob will remember the park or maybe not, but the 2-minute walk holding his hand made it all worth it. 

What fond, yet simple memories, do you have of a past experience with someone you love?

Comment below, and I encourage you to send them a text or email to say what you remember and how much you appreciate it. 

It might not look like it, but we really did love those family holidays in the good old van!