For a week over the Fourth of July holiday, our family traveled to Bald Mountain Lake, just north of Lake Lure, in the western part of the state.
Our children had a blast there swimming in the lake, playing in the creeks, canoeing, fishing, and playing with their cousins. We created lots of great memories, and I really wanted both of the children to have some sort of memento to help remind them of all the fun they had on their summer vacation.
While playing in a little mountain stream with the kids one afternoon, I was reminded of a camping trip I took in the mountains with friends almost 10 years ago. After what seemed like hours of hiking down a steep trail which was much more difficult than I anticipated, we came to the bottom, where flat land led over to a river.
I would later find out the trail we were on descends more than 2,000 feet in just over a mile. I was never so happy to be on flat ground as I was at that moment! Along the shore, I found a perfectly smooth river stone, and I slipped it into my backpack. Yes, it meant more weight to haul back up the steep mountainside to our campground, but I knew I’d have a great keepsake to remind me of my trip and the fact that I had accomplished something of which I wouldn’t have previously thought myself capable; all I had to do was make it back up the trail! And what amazing views there were along the way!!
When I arrived home from my camping trip -- amazingly unscathed -- I wrote the location of the trip and the date in permanent marker on the bottom of the rock. To this day, it sits on a shelf in our house and is a reminder to me of that trip. Occasionally I’ll pick it up and run my fingers over its smoothness, and the memories of that day come flooding back.
Standing there in the little creek in the North Carolina mountains watching my 2-year-old and 4-year-old arranging river rocks and sticks into little castles along the bank, and decorating them with fallen leaves, I knew this was another moment none of us would want to forget. I told the kids my story and then helped them to find their own perfect keepsake rocks.
Upon our arrival back at home, I wrote the location and date on their rocks, and they are proudly displayed on the kids’ dressers in their rooms. Maybe one day they’ll become part of a larger rock collection, or be used as a paperweight on their desk when they’re a little older. Perhaps the kids are too young to really remember all their rock is meant to remind them of, but it will remind me of our week, and I’ll happily tell them the stories of our fun there.
Choosing Your Vacation Keepsake:
If possible, try to find a natural reminder of your vacation — not only will it likely be free, but it may also have some educational value for your child in terms of science or geography, and will likely be more meaningful than a store-bought “tourist” item. You might find a seashell, a rock or stone, a piece of drift wood, a pine cone, a fossil, or collect a small jar of sand or soil. Write the location of the trip and the date on the item if possible, or try to use it in a display such as a decoration on a picture frame that features a photo from the trip. Note: Always be sure there aren’t rules or regulations against collecting first, and always ask before collecting on private property! It is illegal to collect rocks and other natural items in national and state parks.
Genny is a former Wake County Public School System elementary and reading teacher, who is now a stay-at-home mom of two preschoolers in Cary. Read more on her blog In Lieu of Preschool and Facebook page. Find her here a couple of times a month.