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A few things have changed since those childhood vacations on the lake
Used to be when my parents’ children traveled together on summer vacation, Daddy was the driver. And he didn’t like to stop except in emergencies, like being nearly out of gas or someone being in severe pain because of a busted bladder.
Fortunately, we didn’t have far to go — just up and over a few mountains to Lake Rabun, Ga., a mere two counties away. I was in puberty before I knew that the Sunshine State to our south was a favorite destination for vacationers. I thought everybody went to the mountains.
Daddy liked the mountains because he could just be himself, be with his family and be away from the railroad, where he worked. His favorite cabin was Cuddle Cove, maybe because it was near there that he hooked the prettiest rock bass you’ve ever seen and, afraid it would shake the hook, ran up an embankment and into the road, hauling that fish all the way.
Daddy didn’t say much, and he didn’t expect us to say much either. He loosened up a little on vacation, though, partly because he forgot the pressures of work, partly because he recaptured simple pleasures: wearing his putter pants, fishing and playing setback, a card game that kept grownups at the kitchen table half the night.
Food tasted better in the mountains. We didn’t eat better; we just ate different. For dessert or snacks, Mother always packed a block of cream cheese and a couple of cans of date nut bread. Eating date nut bread any other time of the year was like eating oysters during a month without an r. It just wasn’t done.
Snacks could be eaten on your own, but if a full meal was on the table, our presence was more than requested — it was required. “Turn off that television and come and eat,” Daddy would bark at home, but not on our mountain vacation. We didn’t have a TV. We were roughing it.
But we had a lake, and we kids could swim and fish and skip rocks every day till dark, if we wanted to. And if Daddy had a few extra bucks, we all took a ride on one of those sleek Chris Craft speedboats with mahogany sides at Hall’s Boat House, where a sign warned everyone, “No Dancing on Sunday.”
That was a long time ago, those Lake Rabun vacations. It had been decades since the Hudgins kids vacationed together. But we did it again just a couple of weeks ago. Our older brother and his wife treated my little sister and me and our spouses to a week in the heart of Virginia. Unlike the early cabins on Lake Rabun, our Virginia house was air conditioned. And flat-screen televisions adorned the den and every bedroom. We did the touristy things in Charlottesville and Washington and sometimes just sat around. Everywhere we went, my brother drove—and actually stopped occasionally. Nothing was missing.
Nothing except our youth, our boundless energy, our mother and daddy and date nut bread.
Phil Hudgins’ column is published in many newspapers around the Southeast.