Six years ago, my immediate family decided to embark on a series of annual family vacations. It was a spectacular plan. Each year, for one week, we would gather in a different location. A location that was relatively kinda central to where everyone was living. The first year, we rented a cabin in the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It was magical.
The experience was, in fact, so magical, so wonderful, so, so, so something that we postponed the second of our annual family vacations until last week. That’s right. Six years after our initial annual family vacation, we took Annual Family Vacation #2. To a cabin in the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tennessee, no less.
We arrived from all over. Ohio. Indiana. Texas. Ontario. Just when we thought we could drive no more, we drove more, winding our way—quite literally—up the side of a mountain. To a different cabin that was just as magical as the one we remembered.
But with more bears. We stayed in a cabin aptly named “Very Beary.” The stuffed and porcelain bears were so numerous we thought it would be fun to have a “Guess the Number of Bears” contest. You know, a little fun to get the festivities going. The prize? A Mason jar (on steroids) of peanut M&Ms courtesy of Dad. Unfortunately, by the time the grandkids had canvassed two bedrooms on the first floor, the jar of M&Ms was empty. Gone. Finished. Eaten.
Our best guess for the number of bears? 37, 859. Interestingly, I think that may also be the number of peanut M&Ms we devoured.
The week was filled with all sorts of good times. Hiking. Food. Lounging. Food. Billiards. Food. Shopping. Food. Billiards. Reading. Hiking. Food. Swimming. Food. More reading. Food. More shopping. And, food.
We spent time in downtown Gatlinburg, raising an eyebrow or two at the cheesiness of the touristy shops. We hiked our way up Chimney Top, wondering how we had ever made our way to the top with two 3-year-olds and a 5-year-old all those years before, and rejoicing that we left the kids behind this time (supervised, of course). We strolled about the outlet malls of Pigeon Forge, looking for great deals. We waited very, very patiently in traffic. We cooked family-style dinners. We marveled at the black bear that was brazen enough to amble up our front steps and check out the garbage bins on the balcony.
Mostly, we enjoyed gathering as a family. Because, quite frankly, it’s something we don’t get to do very often.
For one week, we were together. We laughed. We told stories. We reminisced about that one time on that one vacation when Dad carried me, the picnic basket, the cooler and the camera bag up a mountain both ways. And that other time when we seriously carried three small children up a mountainside and then back down. We laughed some more. And, we made more memories.
Memories we can reminisce about six years from now, in 2015, when we take Annual Family Vacation #3. Because Annual Family Vacation #2 is over. Here and gone. Sadly.
Looks like I can retard my enthusiasm for a few more years. And live off the memories of vacations prior.