Growing up, we went on a family vacation every summer. My mother could not stand sand, so we were mountain people. Catskills, Poconos, Adirondacks.
For many years we stayed at a resort my parents had frequented with friends even before they were married. The owners knew us by name. There were cottages, but we stayed in the Main House where the rooms were large and airy.
Meals were served family style in the dining room. My sister and I planted ourselves outside it way before meal times, hoping to be delegated the all important task of ringing the bell.
The bell was heavy and golden. We took turns swinging it back and forth, clang-clanging it loudly in the open air as we skipped the paths, up by the cottages, then down past the Main House to the pool and around the huge old abandoned barn, summoning all the guests to come eat.
There was entertainment in the Clubhouse every night: live music, dancing, contests. One year my father judged the Costume Contest, and an older teen-aged girl trounced out the door in a huff when she was not chosen. She was, my parents informed us, a sore loser, something we were to avoid being at all costs.
We sipped cokes and watched our parents dance, then were pulled onto the dance floor with them to Alley Cat, Twist, and even, on occasion, to butcher the Tango.
When the band took a break we begged for quarters and met the other kids at the jukebox. It was the first place I heard "American Pie," which was so long it required two separate selections and additional change.
One year, primed for adventure, our gang of kids crossed the road and waded through the field of cows to the woods beyond, where we'd been told we'd find the remains of an old graveyard. The cows largely ignored us, but the bull, whom we'd been warned about, seemed intent on threatening us, and we wound up running for our lives (at least, that's how I very clearly remember it).
The gravestones were hidden under an overgrowth of vines and brush, but the ones we were able to uncover told stories of late 17th Century settlers with long Dutch surnames, who lost wives and children far too young, burying them in what must have once been a family plot, 300 years before we stood there.
The summer I was 12, the resort's owners divorced and closed the place down. There were other mountains, other family vacation spots, but none, alas, with hidden graveyards guarded by fierce bulls, or serenaded by the sweet peal of a dinner bell.
Even though she is headed for Chicago, Jen is still hosting the Spin Cycle over at Sprite's Keeper, so head on over there right now and check out some more vacation Spins.