Age 7 – Nixon and Spain
Side Note: In some of my stories, you will notice that my mom was a little, let’s just say, quirky. I mean, didn’t YOU have a mom who sang with the R&B group, The Shangri-Las in the 1960’s? I actually believed that little tale, even though she couldn’t carry a single note. It was fun growing up in my household and it may have been a little unconventional, but please rest assured that although mom may have had a different child rearing style, she loved us unconditionally and deeply.
Does anyone remember what they were doing on the day President Nixon resigned from office? I know what I was doing – I was living in Germany and getting ready to leave for our family vacation to Spain. Actually, I didn’t realize then that Nixon resigned from office because I was only 7, I probably didn’t even know who the president was. But, the first day of our vacation was on August 8, 1974, the day he did indeed resign.
I was so excited because I couldn’t remember the last vacation we had…ever. We would take day trips to the beach when we lived in New Jersey, but that was about it. So, off we went, car packed to the gills with our luggage to spend a glorious week in Spain and we were thrilled beyond words.
Unfortunately, that thrill was very quickly crushed. When we reached the highway, we were immediately met with nothing but dead stop, bumper-to-bumper traffic that went as far as the eye could see. My dad, the ever clever man, tried to find ways around it. He took some back roads hoping that would put us back onto the parkway ahead of the “accident.” Back in the day before GPS, that was probably a time-consuming task. Needless to say, his back roads didn’t work. We were forced to return to the highway only to be in the same conundrum as before.
As we were sitting there, my mom suddenly realized something odd. People were picnicking on the side of the road, men were walking up and down selling newspapers and drinks, and women were lying on the roofs of their cars sunbathing without a care in the world. A quick inquiry to our new neighbor told us that the entire country closes down during the month of August and everyone goes on “holiday.” The trip to cross the border should have taken an hour, but took 12.
Once we finally arrived, I remember it being dark out. Because it was so late (or early, depending on how you look at it), the hotel manager had given our room away. The only rooms that were available were the kind that accommodated 2 people each. My mom was afraid of staying in a room by herself, so she stayed with my dad in one, while Eddie and I stayed in the other (my youngest brother was left behind in Germany with a sitter). Don’t say I didn’t warn you about my mom! I very vividly remember being a bit frightened because the room doors were made of that frosty glass and every time someone walked by, all we saw were shadows.
I know you’re all horrified, but don’t fret. We didn’t stay in that room for the remainder of the week. I recently asked my mom why and here’s the story I got: In the morning, the manager found out that an unmarried couple was staying in a larger room. He didn’t like the fact that they were “shacking up” in his hotel, so he made them exchange rooms with us. Can you imagine? I wonder if otherwise we would have been on our own. I suppose we would have survived. As my mom always says, this type of thing “builds character.”
Spain was nothing but hot, hot and hotter. I remember the sand burning my feet to a crisp and desperately trying to stay under an umbrella to avoid my skin suffering the same fate. The beaches were so crowded you could barely move. Along with water, sand poured out of the shower head in our hotel room. The “clean” complimentary towels were filled with sea salt. As if things weren’t bad enough, the beds were horribly saggy. Picture a window screen with a thin mattress on top. My dad had figured out a way to tighten them so they weren’t so slack, so at the very least we were able to get a good night’s sleep. During our stay, news got out quickly that dad was an expert “bed tightener” and was requested by the other guests to tighten their beds. You can’t make this stuff up. To add insult to injury, the hotel restaurant didn’t have chocolate milk!
On a good note, I do remember the cobblestone streets and sweet little villages. My parents still possess many of the relics of that trip and those relics always bring back the memories of one of the only vacations we ever took. Going to a wonderfully exotic place like Spain gets lost on a seven year old. Maybe one day, my husband and I will take our daughter there. Don’t worry; I won’t make her stay in her own room. A lot of apples may not have fallen too far from the tree, but fortunately for my daughter, that was one apple that did!