Jo Seagar laments: Family holidays are not what they used to be

Family holidays at the beach used to be about the simple pleasures – swimming, stopping at rest areas for pre-made sandwiches, and spending all day in your togs.
Nostalgic Summer Picnic

There’s something magical about the nostalgia of childhood holidays.

Whatever your childhood memories are, I’m sure the holidays feature big-time. To me they were the trips that defined my youth.

We nearly always had Christmas at home but left for holiday on Boxing Day, probably with the rest of New Zealand all coming along for the ride.

I grew up in Hawke’s Bay, so heading to the beach – Waimarama, Clifton and Westshore – was our favourite; or going slightly further afield to Mahia and Gisborne.

We sometimes went to the lake and stayed in borrowed baches at Taupo or the Rotorua lakes. My parents knew lots of people who owned holiday houses. Dad always said we were so lucky to go to different places each holidays and it was great that he didn’t have two lots of lawn to mow.

Summers of the past were all about simple pleasures. Image:Getty Images

We often travelled in convoy with other families, with all the gear piled on the roof rack.

We never stopped at fast-food joints or tearooms – instead we’d have tomato sammies and slices of Christmas cake at a roadside rest area.

We had a great familiarity with all the rest areas in the country, knowing which had good swings or trees for climbing or a much needed loo. I still pass by them fondly today.

Disastrous events also seemed to be a theme of our family holidays.

Fortunately nothing too terrible – car breakdowns, the odd trip to an emergency department for broken arms or fish-hook injuries. I never remember wearing a sunhat but a few holiday snaps show us sporting zinc on our noses, and we had permanent togs, jandals and watch-strap tans.

One year, three families stayed in someone’s house at Taupo and all the kids except me (there were 11 of us under 10) caught a gastro bug. There was no washing machine, loads of bedding and laundry drying on the fence, children vomiting and only one vintage iron bathtub.

There were no photos of the dads this holiday. I think they’d all gone bush or fishing, leaving our dear mothers to cope, which of course they did.

It must have been a nightmare, but the stuff of family legends – and Mum did mention they went through quite a bit of gin!

I remember fondly the times we went on a plane to Christchurch to visit our grandparents. The excitement of flying and being asked to help hand out the sweets was phenomenal.

I’d give anything to be enthralled and charmed again by the quirky foibles of travelling.

Those ghastly plastic milk pottles they left in your bar fridge in motels, the dinky little jams and marmalades at breakfast, and sometimes even having a telly to watch while lying in your motel bed!

I have to remind myself of these simple pleasures when I travel now, when it’s matching luggage and the availability of good Wi-Fi that have my priority.

Image:Getty Images

The summer holidays were always about being outdoors and swimming.

My dad wasn’t much of a fisherman but someone’s always was. And another dad was legendary for setting up the cricket pitch and sorting us into roughly equal teams of pregnant mums, aunties and all the children.

Not playing family cricket was never an option and sometimes the games went on for days.

Meals were simple affairs and eaten when you got hungry – bacon and egg pie, leftover Christmas ham, corn on the cob, big doorstep sandwiches, barbecue sausages in bread and butter, and when the fishing was good we ate delicious fresh snapper or pipi fritters and plates of steamed mussels with garlic butter.

Watermelon and strawberries were our treats, with an occasional ice-block if someone could be conned into taking us to the shop.

I get a little bit sad when I hear conversations of parents desperate for the holidays to be over and complaints of how bored the kids get or how expensive it is to accommodate their every wish and demand.

To me it was always about a rest from the school term of clock watching, homework, and crack of dawn alarms. It was valued family time.

Childhood is so precious and important… and fleeting. We must treasure it.

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