Ah, summer vacations.
Memories we never forget —
and I do mean “never.”
  Mine stretch back to the ’50s. That’s
when the Swanner family traveled
from Graham every summer to visit
relatives in Alabama — a 14-hour trip
on two-lane roads in a car with the
windows rolled down. The most
difficult part of the trip was from
Graham to Liberty on N.C. Highway
49, a stretch of road that at that time
rivaled San Francisco’s curvy Lombard
Street. In a nutshell, if we could get to
Liberty without being carsick, the next
13 hours were a snap.
  But the big family vacation was our
annual week at the beach, plus two
hours at White Lake in Bladen
County. Seem odd? How ’bout this?
Those two hours were spent on the
way to the beach! With the car packed
to the brim, food on ice, and sisters
already picking at each other in the
backseat, Daddy stopped at White
Lake. We were ready, having worn our
swimsuits from home. Two hours later,
we were eating peanut butter and jelly
sandwiches, made with sandy hands,
and sitting in wet swimsuits on towels
ready to make the rest of the trip. And
we did this every year.
  I recently asked my older sister,
“Why not straight to the beach?”
The answer was simple. We couldn’t
get in the rented beach house until 2
o’clock, and Mother and Daddy were
determined to get the most out of our
vacation week. To them, the week
started at daylight. My sister reminded
me that this ritual started the first time
we went to the beach. She also felt
compelled to mention that when I saw
White Lake on that first trip, with its
calm, crystal-clear water, she had told
me it was the ocean and pointed to the
bathhouse. “That’s where we’re
staying,” she had said. No shells. No
waves. No sand dunes. I started
sobbing.
  And she thought I had forgotten.
 

Humorist (and Miss North Carolina,
1964) Jeanne Swanner Robertson
travels far and wide putting a smile on
folks’ faces.