Doolin: Following ‘the bass avenger’
BY JOHN DOOLIN email@example.com July 27, 2012 4:56PM
or two weeks a year, John Doolin’s parents would pack up the family for Beechwood Resort, a time for fishing and relaxing.
Updated: July 29, 2012 1:41PM
Like many Southland families, mine is sorting out midsummer vacation plans.
I say “midsummer” even though it’s August, because the definition changes based on other commitments.
“We can’t leave until after June 17, when soccer is over.”
“We have to be back by Aug. 1 for the start of football.”
“By the way, high school soccer tryouts are Aug. 8, so I need to be home by the 5th so I can get new spikes and shin guards.” (Apparently there is a ban on selling those items between Aug. 6 and 7.)
Through the process, I began to reflect on vacations past that this generation of Doolins wouldn’t dream of. They’re busy with trivial thoughts such as “Where are we going?” “I’m not driving in a car with him.” “He smells like ketchup.” “What hotel are we staying at?” “I don’t want to be on the first floor.” “Does it have an indoor pool or outdoor pool?”
As I sat at my kitchen table and tuned that out, I was brought back to the summer of 1978.
I was 9, packing for the first two weeks of August at Beechwood Resort in Sisters Lakes, Mich.
Actually, “resort” is overstating the case. There were 100-year-old cottages, a row boat (with an anchor, if you were lucky), warped oars, a beat-up pier, a raft on barrels 40 yards offshore and a beach complete with rocks, weeds, seaweed and fish.
Inside, there were a stack of comic books, a deck of cards and a transistor radio that could only tune in one country station.
The night before leaving, my parents would pack everything but the kitchen sink into our light-blue Chevy conversion van with the vinyl yellow spare-wheel cover and the “duck” window screens. While doing so, they would listen and dance to Jay Ferguson’s “Thunder Island.” I never saw them happier.
Saturday morning, our family’s traveling partners, the Booths, would show up, and we were off.
Anticipating the weeks ahead, we said goodbye to our friends as if we were leaving the country.
With the dog boarded, car packed, coolers iced, everyone in their respective seats (girls in the front, three boys in the back), and with Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” playing on the 8-track, we headed out.
And so would begin the 113-mile trip that seemed to last a lifetime.
In reality, we were unpacked and settled into cottage living for the next 14 days by noon.
Whether there was rain, sun, hot or cold, it didn’t matter. For the next two weeks we were a family, together 24/7.
The quarters were tight. In the morning, it was one up, all up. The sunburn hurt.
With the fishing poles baited, there were good days, and there were bad days.
But all of that instilled memories that last a lifetime.
For two weeks, my dad was the guy we didn’t see the other 50 weeks of the year. He was the guy who let his guard down, was a little less stressed, had a lot more patience, tolerated a little more aggravation and didn’t much care what time we got up or what time we went to bed.
Driftwood, campfires, marshmallows, ice cream, hot dogs, sweet corn and pop were staples. Who needed “luxuries”? My Mom wasn’t as worried about dishes, vacuuming, laundry, wet towels, what was for dinner or what time it was being served.
In the end, it was exactly what they were looking for: a vacation.
At 9, I certainly didn’t appreciate the opportunity to get to know my parents better, the lessons that were taught or the memories and stories still recited today.
As an adult, I look back and think about how much those two weeks really meant — not to me or my siblings but to my parents. It was the two weeks out of the year they could let their hair down, leave the stresses of work and home behind, catch up with each other, get to know their kids better, discuss their dreams and fears, have a better understanding of where they were coming from ... and remind each other and all of us individually how important they were to our family and how much they were loved.
My only hope is I can plan the perfect getaway, capture the moments my parents did with my kids, and be half the bass avenger he was ...
Back to reality.
John Doolin is the South Division advertising director for Sun-Times Media.