1. Past Lives
On a family vacation one summer, we crossed Wyoming and noted several historical points of interest. The children were especially interested because they enjoyed the computer game “Oregon Trail,” which gives players a taste of the hardships the pioneers endured. We stopped at the famous South Pass to look at the wagon tracks still visible in the dirt. Squinting out over the desolate, wind-swept landscape, my daughter nodded and said grimly, “This is where my oxen always die.”
— Quin Gilbert
2. Mr. Summertime
We all grew up in a town on the New Jersey shore and spent our summers at the beach, swimming, surfing, hanging out with friends. One of my friends loved the season so much, we began calling him Mr. Summertime. “What happens when summer is over?” someone asked.
I thought for a minute, then said, “In September he becomes the Fall Guy.”
— J. Cummings
3. Wishful Thinking
My two-year-old cousin scared us one summer by disappearing during our lakeside vacation. More than a dozen relatives searched the forest and shoreline, and everyone was relieved when we found Matthew playing calmly in the woods.
“Listen to me, Matthew,” his mother said sharply. “From now on when you want to go someplace, you tell Mommy first, okay?”
Matthew thought about that for a moment and said, “Okay. Disney World.”
— Leah Hallenbeck
4. Moving Forward
The summer after college graduation, I was living at home, fishing in the daytime, spending nights with my friends—generally just hanging out. One afternoon my grandfather, who never went to college, stopped by.
Concerned with how I was spending my time, he asked about my future plans. I told him I was in no hurry to tie myself down to a career.
“Well,” he replied, “you better start thinking about it. You’ll be thirty before you know it.”
“But I’m closer to twenty than to thirty,” I protested. “I won’t be thirty for eight more years.”
“I see,” he said, smiling. “And when will you be twenty again?”
— Marshall K. Essig
5. Sounding Off
I was with a friend in a café when a noisy car alarm interrupted our conversation. “What good are car alarms when no one pays any attention to them?” I wondered aloud.
“Some are quite effective,” my friend corrected me. “Last summer, my teenager spent a lot of time at the neighbors’. Whenever I wanted him home, I’d go out to our driveway and jostle his car.”
— Sheila Moore
6. A Perfect Fit
For her summer job, my 18-year-old daughter arranged interviews at several day-care centers. At one meeting, she sat down on one of the kiddie seats, no simple task for most people. The interview went well, and at the end, the day-care center director asked the standard question, “Can you give me one good reason we should hire you?”
“Because I fit in the chairs.” She got the job.
— Judith L. McKay
7. Tag Sale Special
I was getting ready for a tag sale one summer day. Since it was so humid out, I decided to stay inside my air-conditioned house and mark the special stickers I had bought for the sale. Then I slapped them on my blouse, ran outside, stuck them on the appropriate items and rushed back inside. I did this until every item was labeled. Later that day a UPS man came by the house with a delivery. I noticed that as I was signing for the package, he seemed ill at ease. It was only after he left that I noticed there was one sticker still attached to the front of my blouse. It read “Make me an offer.”
— Mary E. Koppelmann
8. Clowning Around
Before heading on vacation, I went to a tanning salon. I was under the lights so long the protective eye shades I wore left a big white circle around each eye. Gazing at myself in the mirror the next day, I thought, “Man, I look like a clown.” I had almost convinced myself I was overreacting — until I was in line at the grocery store. I felt a tug at my shirt and looked down to see a toddler staring up at me, “Are you giving out balloons?” he asked.
— Nina Secviar, Hammond, Ind.
9. Hotter Cooler
On a recent vacation at a resort with my in-laws, we planned to spend an afternoon at the pool with our kids. We wanted to bring our own drinks, but were unsure of the hotel’s policy. My brother-in-law called the front desk, and assuming everyone was familiar with the brand of ice chest he had, asked if it was all right if he brought a Playmate to the pool. After a pause the clerk asked, “Does she have her own towel?”
— Tina M. Digiovanna
Vacationing in Vermont, I picked up the local paper to check out the forecast. It read: Today: Sunny, 76. Tonight: Not so sunny, 55.
— Norrine Trono
11. Beach Date
Our first day at a resort my wife and I decided to hit the beach. When I went back to our room to get something to drink, one of the hotel maids was making our bed. I grabbed my cooler and was on my way out when I paused and asked, “Can we drink beer on the beach?”
“Sure,” she said, “but I have to finish the rest of the rooms first.”
— Louis Allard
12. Familiar Faces
Vacationing in Hawaii, two priests decide to wear casual clothes so they won’t be identified as clergy. They buy Hawaiian shirts and sandals, and soon hit the beach. They notice a gorgeous blonde in a tiny bikini. “Good afternoon, Fathers,” she says as she strolls by.
The men are stunned. How does she know they’re clergy? Later they buy even wilder attire: surfer shorts, tie-dyed T-shirts, and dark glasses. The next day, they return to the beach. The same fabulous blonde, now wearing a string bikini, passes by, nods politely at them, and says, “Good morning, Fathers.”
“Just a minute, young lady,” says one of the priests. “We are priests and proud of it, but how in the world did you know?”
“Don’t you recognize me? I’m Sister Kathryn from the convent.”
— Michael Rana
13. Noisy by Nature
Some people just aren’t happy unless they have something to complain about. I stayed in a beautiful hotel right on the beach in California — an idyllic spot, you would think. But while I was waiting to check out, I heard the manager ask another guest, “Did you enjoy your stay?”
“Not really,” the man said grimly.
“I’m sorry to hear that,” the manager apologized.
“What was the problem?”
“The surf was too loud.”
— Daniel Vargas
14. Something’s Fishy
While in the men’s room at a beach park in Florida, I noticed they had a plastic baby-changing table installed on the wall. Apparently, some sportsmen had co-opted this politically correct amenity for their own use. Above the table was a sign saying: “It is unlawful to clean fish on this table.”
— Cliff Revell
15. Out of Breath
While editing announcements for a newspaper, I came across an item promoting a camp for children with asthma. Aside from all the wonderful activities the kids could enjoy, such as canoeing, swimming, crafts and more, it promised that its lakefront property offered something the kids probably did not expect: “breathtaking views.”
— Christy Nichols
16. Young Man
Visiting his parents’ retirement village in Florida, my middle-aged friend, Tim, went for a swim in the community pool while his elderly father took a walk. Tim struck up a conversation with the only other person in the pool, a five-year-old boy. After a while, Tim’s father returned from his walk and called out, “I’m ready to leave.”
Tim then turned to his new friend and announced that he had to leave because his father was calling. Astonished, the wide-eyed little boy cried, “You’re a kid?”
— Janice Palko
17. Fast Swimmer
I was talking on the phone with my son, who was stationed in Hawaii with the Air Force. He was explaining how the troops were learning to scuba-dive. They used the buddy system, he said, and occasionally dived into shark-infested waters. Listening on the extension, my daughter asked, “What do you do when you see a shark?”
Said my son, “Swim faster than my buddy.”
— Joan Nozkowski