We’ve entered the season of memory-making

Sisters disagree on vacation memories; but that’s not the point

It’s a story I love, especially this time of year – the memory-making vacation season.

“Come, hurry,” my then 10-year-old brother Forest said as he ran back from his walk on the beach. “I found something!”

Mom and Dad hopped up from their beach chairs while my sister, Rachel, and I abandoned our sandcastle to follow Forest.

Sticking out of the sand was a half-sunken steering wheel. We dashed back to the beach house to gather more shovels and hoes. After digging for hours, we uncovered a dashboard, two seats, and the revelation that we had found a Jeep.

Our imaginations kicked into high gear as my siblings and I envisioned driving home in a Jeep.

Then turf battles began. Whose Jeep was it? Finders-keepers, Forest proposed. Yet at age 12, I would get my license first, so maybe I should own it. I can’t recall what Rachel’s angle was, but as usual, she was the most vocal, even at age eight.

We dug and debated – but mostly had fun pondering the Jeep’s origins and its new place with our family in the future. The day ended with high hopes and determination to finish the job the next day.

Up at dawn and laden with shovels, the whole family raced to the beach to complete our archeological expedition.

But the Jeep had disappeared.

Overnight, the tide had come in and erased every trace of our Jeep, which we later learned had broken loose from a string of World War II abandoned military vehicles placed offshore years ago to prevent beach erosion.

We were devastated.

Through the years, though, our family discovered that the true value of that experience was and is still with us. Even now, 45 years later, the words, “Remember Forest’s Jeep?” time-warps me back to that special place, that special time, that special family feeling – before we lost Forest in a water-skiing accident at age 17. Before we lost Dad. And then Mom.

The snapshot vignette still warms my heart – the excitement, the debate, and the disappointment that somehow bonded us to the moment.

I decided to call Rachel to reminisce.

“Sure, I remember that Jeep,” she said.

“What kind of memories, Sissy?” I asked with imaginary Hallmark music playing in my mind.

“Well, about how stupid we were to think we could dig up a Jeep and drive it home the next day,” she shot back.

Stunned and speechless, with that hallmark record permanently scratched in my mind, my mouth dropped open. Then the laughter set in. I could barely get my breath.

“What?” she said between my belly laughs. “What’s so funny?”

“Oh Sissy,” I said when I finally could get a breath. “That’s it? No warm and fuzzy nostalgia?”

She paused for a minute. “Nope, that’s all I’ve got.”

We each had memories all right. How could the same experience evoke such different feelings?

Then it dawned on me. Isn’t that what makes family life so rich? Multi-faceted memories rooted in the same experience?

Family. Vacation.

Let the memory-making season begin!

This column was co-authored and edited by Rebecca Faye Smith Galli, daughter of the late Dr. R.F. Smith Jr., a long-time columnist for The Herald-Dispatch.

Published June 21, 2015 by The Herald-Dispatch


  1. Cindy Herman says

    Thank you so much for sharing your memories with me. Dale and I were the ones that rented the beautiful home in Baton. After reading your dad’s book while living there, I feel as if I am a part of your family. In my mines eye I can see the story you just told. Again thank you for sharing.

    • Rebecca Faye Smith Galli says

      You are so welcome, Cindy! So honored to hear from you and glad you feel a part of the family. More adventures ahead so stay tuned! xoxo

  2. What an amazing story. At first, my mind didn’t want to accept that you could really find an actual full-size jeep buried. What a magical moment. Your interpretation is what makes you a writer and your sis, bless her heart, not.

    • Rebecca Faye Smith Galli says

      Yes, it seems so unlikely now, but it was true. I’m glad Dad asked “the natives” about it to get the history. And yes, my Sissy, bless her heart. But it just goes to prove what we learn over and over–not everyone remembers the same things!