Our Nancy and Walt were the right age when family "togetherness" was a popular thing. At first people said that television brought parents and children together for great companionship. We mothers viewed it as "apart-ness" instead. Chub and I liked touring and camping as a favorite way to get away from the tube, the telephone and other distractions and to explore new places together. When Nancy was 9 and Walt was 7, they were fascinated with mountains, so we headed west with tents, sleeping bags and lots of food from our garden and my dad’s garden. Dad proudly cut and handed us the first head of cabbage from his great plot.
Camping in the Rockies one day, a sudden rainstorm came when I was cooking our potatoes, onions and ashes. When rain turned to hail, Chub and the kids stuffed air mattresses and sleeping bags into the vehicle. I clamped the lid on the skillet and pulled it off the fire, then we all jumped into the station wagon to listen to marble-size hail bouncing off the windshield and roof. Walt said, "It’s raining hominy." There was almost no way to change positions in that vehicle because of the big bulky things we had added to what was already inside.
What to do? Hail changed to heavy rain coming straight down, and the "hominy" was still all over the ground. Chub said, "I remember a storm like this when I was a kid," and he began to tell about it. The kids begged him to go on with the story, things he had never told any of us before. He got tired and passed story-telling to me. We were cramped up in little space like that for about an hour. Then the rain was over, the sun came out, and we got out and stretched our legs. I got things from the food box to go with our fried potatoes, onions and ashes. Another favorite on that trip was boiled cabbage. Nancy and Walt had never tasted boiled cabbage, and I cooked their grandpa’s cabbage in a heavy aluminum kettle over a fire at another campground later and wood smoke-flavored it. We called it Grandpa’s Rocky Mountain Cabbage. I had forgotten how good this common food could be.
We toured for about 10 days - the Grand Tetons and the ferry crossing where the water current pushed the boat across a river and back; we watched people standing in moving water, catching trout. We did museum exhibits, took hikes with leaders who explained the geology and identified unusual wildflowers and fossil rocks.
At one campground, I made the mistake of leaving the car door open. Several people came whispering, "There’s a bear in your car." Then all at once they beat on the pans and other things to make a terrific racket; the bear slowly got out of our station wagon without doing any damage.
Then we turned back toward Missouri, and Nancy and Walt had long naps on the rear seat.
We stopped at Mitchell, S.D., to see the Corn Palace, and then came a long stretch of just highway driving. I turned around and said, "Kids, what one thing have we done on this trip that you’d most like to repeat someday?"
Almost with one voice they said, "The time when it rained hominy and we all got in the station wagon together and Daddy told about when he was a boy!"
Without speaking, Chub and I glanced at each other and hid our guilt: We made silent vows to spend more quality time with those two precious ones - at home and on vacations.