JoMC 711 – Writing for Digital Media

September 17, 2006

The Family Vacation Revisited

Filed under: Uncategorized — by cinranker @ 10:46 pm

Roots, Realities and Remembrances of the Family Vacation 

It began at a family dinner several months ago.  As my sisters and I reminisced about the vacations we took as a family, each brought slightly different memories to the table.  Out of that conversation grew a plan to revisit some of those places.

The Trip Can be as Memorable as the Destination

Forty years ago when we left for vacation in the dark hours of the morning, my father said, “Here we go, off in a cloud of manure!”  Keeping in that tradition we uttered the phrase as we began our eight day trek.  And so, in early August my two sisters, my daughter and I packed up the rental car and left Baltimore behind. 

During the first two days of our journey we talked excitedly, sharing memories of the monotonous drive rather than the memories of our destination.  We recalled driving endlessly in a car without air conditioning or seat belts, on two-lane highways, fighting with one or the other sister at least half the time.

Revisiting My Mother’s Home

On the second day we arrived at our first destination: Columbia City, IN, our mother’s hometown.  We found her home without trouble and delighted in the fact that some things were the same:

  • the original red painted bricks
  • the front porch swing
  • ornately carved front door  

But some things were different

  • the paint was peeling
  • the stone front porch was a wooden deck
  • the wisteria vines by the side porch were gone 

The most startling thing of all, though, was the size of the house.  In our memories it had been a beautiful huge, plantation-like home but, in reality, it was quite small. 

Having satisfied our curiosity about the homestead, we spent the next day researching our roots.  We visited Eberhard Church, the country church that stands on land our great-grandfather donated.  After we recorded dates and names from tombstones in the cemetery, we explored records at both the local courthouse and the genealogy library in nearby Fort Wayne.  Although we found out a lot about the town and relatives we never knew, the one thing we could not find was the wedding date for my maternal grandmother.

Our disappointment at Lake Shafer

It was time to move on to our next destination, Lake Shafer.  All three of us remembered a massive lake, a huge cabin, and a wonderful bandstand area where we enthusiastically listened to rock and roll at night.There wasn’t much that resembled what we remembered.  The beach area was about the size of a tennis court.  The owners of this area had transformed the rest of the beach to accommodate every conceivable water and amusement ride they could fit into the allotted space. 

After much searching, we found the cabin of our childhood.  Once again, what we remembered as a fairly large, well-kept cabin was, in fact, tiny, dilapidated, and dwarfed by several other cabins.  Trash, junk and tree limbs littered the grounds.  We were ready to leave Lake Shafer because of our disappointment in how it had been neglected.

My Aunt Is Living History

Visiting our aunt in Chicago was the culmination and highlight of our trip.  Until Chicago our trip involved rediscovering places and things, but this stop gave us the opportunity to talk with the 84 year old matriarch of the family.  Facts on a page were no comparison to being able to interact with someone who knew the people we were researching.  She told us anecdotes about our grandmother and mother and corrected some misconceptions.  We spent two evenings together going over our long list of questions and our aunt willingly listened as we recalled our travels.  We left with a sense of satisfaction at reconnecting with such a vital part of our family.

Memories Rarely match Reality 

The ride home was much quieter than it had been on the way out.  We realized that our memories rarely matched reality.  We had accomplished our goal: to retrace our family vacation, but had not been prepared for the conflicting emotions experienced over the course of our trip: anticipation, disappointment, joy, sadness, and satisfaction.  Even though we couldn’t ignore the realities we encountered on this journey, our positive childhood memories remain intact.



  1. nice work revising, cindy. the writing is in good shape.

    i know you’re working with/wrestling HTML and Frontpage, so I’ll assume you’re aware of the formatting issues. We should shoot for the headline being largest, subheds second-largest, then the text or font size, then consistency in all three thorughout the blog, certainly throughout the piece.

    the small hed, then large, bold sentence to start the piece is a bit confusing visually, particularly the sentence: Nothing is as it is remembered …” I read this three times before locking in on what you are saying, so maybe it’s me, but it seemed a bit vague to start off with. Maybe it should go into the narrative. “A family vacation” too is a bit general or vague, so think about a more summative headline that cues exactly in tone and in content what your reader is about to (hopefully) read.

    i do like what is bolded in the body of the piece, however. these seem entirely appropriate, helping the reader.


    Comment by tarheelblue — September 24, 2006 @ 6:35 pm |Reply

  2. Hi Cindy,
    I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know that your blog post was featured on the 9th edition of the Carnival of Genealogy at! Thanks for sharing your vacation 🙂

    Comment by Jasia — October 3, 2006 @ 6:46 pm |Reply

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