Monday Memories: Travels with Grandma (Disney World to Cocktails)

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Disney World with my Grandma, 1982

My grandmother passed away this past fall, at the age of 93. She was adventurous into her 90s, joining my mom on road trips to my Aunt and Uncle’s lake house or my home in Philadelphia. She embraced life and travel with an unassuming openness. Unfussy, patient, and easily wowed, she was the perfect travel companion.

My fondest memories of her are from my family vacations of childhood. She was always there with us, eager to ride the roller coasters at the amusement park or to ham it up poolside for a swimsuit glamour shot. Our trip to Disney World in 1982 (above) was just one of many adventures we shared. On that trip, I recall her excitedly eating in the resort restaurants. “Good food! And it’s all free!” My mother kept reminding her that we’d paid for an all-inclusive package and that exactly none of it was free, but my Grandma’s enthusiasm was undampened. Of course she was frugal enough to help polish off my little sister’s uneaten shrimp cocktail.

Grandma joined us in Washington D.C., Hershey, Myrtle Beach, Chicago, St. Petersburg, and other places. We all enjoyed her company, and I think my single mom was able to relax a little more with her there–another set of eyes and hands. Grandma was always with us, eager to join my sister and me for a swim or to slip us some cute money for tacky souvenirs. How rich our trips were for having her along.

Even as we got older, we were never too cool to be seen with our Grandma, on a brewery tour in Milwaukee or combing the galleries of the Smithsonian. As I moved into adulthood and she advanced into old age, she remained a good sport on our trips, bouncing around in my cousins’ speed boat and sipping on the Dirty Girl Scout martini I bought her at a cocktail bar in Harrisonburg, VA.

Now that I have a son, I include my mother on our family vacations. We just paid a deposit for a beach house rental in Lewes, Delaware, but not before clearing the week with her. She’s joined us there once before, and shared our week in Toronto last year. Each time I invite her, she seems so touched that I’ve done so. But it’s never occurred to me not to include her. As I flip through three decades of vacation photos with my Grandma, I realize it is simply what we do.

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