Although it may appear by the picture above that I summered in Africa, I actually spent every summer in Boca Raton Florida. Oh the life those summers presented to me! Let me explain how these vacations came about……
My dad had worked for Eastern Airlines for 24 years. When I was 6, Eastern was on its way out of the airline industry and my dad lost his job, and we in turn lost our house as my parents could no longer pay the mortgage. My very much older two brothers and sister were grown and out of the house. My mom had to get a job and fast to help with expenses and summers were a problem because there was no one to take care of me.
I’ve always said, my sister and I both married the two smartest individuals I’ve ever known. I truly believe this to be true. When I was 3, my sister married Scott. Scott is a very skilled engineer that worked at Walter Reed hospital in the sixties while in the army and then got a job with IBM as an engineer and manager in Boca Raton Florida. My sister is 17 years older than Me. I was 6 when she had Julie, her daughter and my niece. Julie and I are very close . Julie is the one on the lion in the above picture.
When my mom had to start working due to us needing the money, she was faced with the problem of not having anyone for me to stay with in the summers when school was out. My dad had begun to try and build a travel agency business in downtown Raleigh. So my sister offered that I could spend the summer with she and her husband. She and Scott lived in a neighborhood full of kids my age, but more importantly to me, I got to be with the sister I adored and swim in her pool EVERYDAY!! Down side at first was no air condition…. ugh in Florida. So here’s how our days went – breakfast. Always cinnamon toast or pop tart! ! Then by 10:00 my niece and nephew and I were in the pool, 12:00, judy (my sister) brought out our lunch pool side. 1:00 were naps for my niece and nephew . Then it was young and the Restless watching for my sister and I and folding clothes. Then back in the pool late afternoon and evenings were spent playing kick the can, red light green light, red rover or some other game with the neighborhood kids.
The best thing about these summers was the normalcy that it gave to me. Although HOT as a firecracker, we did have a pool in which to cool off, but some evenings Julie and I would lay in bed trying to get to sleep and not even an inkling of a breeze blew in those windows. For those two months I did not worry about life. A child should not have to worry about anything in the summer other than what colored pop sickle to get or which book to read. By the time I was 7, my brother that was mentally ill had moved into our apartment. It was nice that I could go to Florida while out on school break, However that will be a blog for the future. …
My sister, is and was an expert seamstress. The outfits that my niece and I are wearing in the pic above were our summer ensemble. My sister made us many many halter outfits and that’s what we wore when we were not in a bathing suit.
Around 50 minutes from Boca Raton is a town called Loxahatchee Florida. It is also home to lion country safari. My sister has always loved animals, she worked in a vet for a few years. After Born Free came on the big screen, she was enamored with lions and wild animals. Many times we went to lion country, where you could ride your car thru what looked like the African Congo and see giraffes, lions, tigers etc. you could also have your pic taken with a real stuffed lion. Interestingly enough, years later a housing development close to lion country was started called Fox Trails, where everyone bought tracts of five acres and most everyone had horses there. My sister raised paso fino horses and showed them. Her husband Scott built (by himself) a barn and house in this development and actually in the mornings you could hear the lions growling from afar.
For 6 summers I stayed in Florida. My mom missed me terribly. She and I had always spent so much time together. I was her late in life baby but she knew I was having a ball and was more than well taken care of. My sister and brother in law gave me the opportunity to go boating, fishing for grunts and Black Sea bass etc. go to the beach, she paid for swimming lessons, tennis lessons, she bought me craft sets, painting sets, we visited the library where I checked out tons of books and would sit for hours reading when her kids were sleeping. We listened to carol kings Tapestry 8 track over and over as we rode in her white Trans Am. The least practical mom car ever but it was cool as hell and I she and I knew every word to that album as we sang it while doing errands.
My parents did not have an extra penny. Seriously. My father had a rough time recovering from his business endeavors. There was no money for anything extra. My extra came in the summers. My sister taught me how to cook and clean, how to care for kids, how to enjoy being a child! When I was 12 my sister had to have a complete hysterectomy. So in 1975, she went into the hospital for a week and a half and I cared for my niece and nephew, cooked and cleaned, washed clothes and plated house. I along with her Betty Crocker cook book, prepared full dinners at night for my brother in law and all us kids. It to this day was the best lesson on homemaking I could have had.
Normally my parents would purchase a one way plane ticket for me back to Raleigh. My sister would put me on the plane, hugging me and crying and I would cling to her as well. The stewardess would check on me several times. I would arrive and my parents would be there to get me off the plane. I then went back to school usually a few days after arriving home. The Fall of my 7th grade year my dad took a job in Wisconsin. It allowed us to get a home and get back on our feet. We moved and it was a whole new freezing cold world up there. Far removed from Raleigh and way far removed from life in Boca. I went one last summer to stay with my sister. That summer I turned 13 on August 7 and teenager took hold. Summers for me were spent babysitting other kids in Wisconsin to get extra money. Then it became life as a teen. Boys, sports, high school etc.
I can never ever repay my brother-in-law and sister and their kids, Julie and Clint for letting me come every summer and stay with them. I was able to be a child for the summer because from the start when I was born there was 17 years between my sister and I and 13 and 15 years between my brothers and I. I was born into a teen-age world. I had many babysitters but like many children in troubled homes, they are not afforded an opportunity to safari with the lions and frolic carefree for a whole summer. I am blessed that we had a beach house for my children. They were young when we purchased it and I’m also blessed that I ever had to work in the summers and we four as a family or me and my two kids, made summertime the best time. Building card castles, playing gin rummy, swimming, digging holes on the beach etc. I was determined to let my kids and now my grandkids have the best summers when the livin is easy!