From the archives.
This was originally published on June 27, 2013.
(just yesterday here in Kentucky)
Family picnics: these words may bring various visions to our minds depending on our families. For my family these words bring visions of fried chicken, potato salad, baked beans, mac & cheese, pickles, olives, deviled eggs....mmmmmm Yes, as long as I can remember this has been my mom's standard picnic fare.
We ate A LOT of picnics when I was growing up. My family owned a camper and traveled quite extensively when I was very young. We hit every state park and national park that we could find for picnics. And my mom would even whip up the a fore mentioned menu in our camper--amazing!
I've been hungry for one of those picnics recently and just yesterday my mom was gracious enough to make it happen (see top photo!). She fried up the chicken and made her world's-best-potato-salad, I baked some beans and made the deviled eggs and we all packed up and headed to a local park. The summer weather even cooperated and we had a nice cool breeze and some shade! It was a perfect picnic day!
Which made me and my family begin to reminisce about other picnics we'd been on through the years--some not so perfect, but oh-so-memorable!
There was the summer we were in South Africa. I was sixteen and fell in love with that beautiful country. We made some wonderful friends there, too, and one day they took us on a beach picnic. That was my first time to picnic on the beach (that I can remember) and it was amazing! The men in our group all headed out to the large rocks on the beach's edge with their fishing poles while the ladies continued preparing the side dishes for our meal. Eventually the men came back with loads of fish, which we promptly cooked over coals and proceeded to dig into one of my most memorable meals.
It was delicious: fresh fish and Indian food on the beach! I don't even really remember exactly what I ate (besides the fresh fish), but the experience is etched into my memory forever. It was a wonderful day.
Then there was the summer immediately following my high school graduation when my parents took my sister (pictured above) and me on our first trip out West. Even though we were no longer traveling with a camper, we still packed our cooler full of picnic supplies (sandwiches this time around) and looked for those state parks or roadside parks (in a pinch) where we could stretch our road-trippin' legs and have some lunch.
This particular day we had stopped at a rest area. There were lots of other travelers picnicking there, too, and we were enjoying our meal on that lovely day ...when all of a sudden we noticed a state trooper pull in and begin stopping at each picnickers' table. And each time he drove away from a table, they immediately packed up and began to get in their car to leave. Strange...we wondered. Then he came to our table, with the news that there was an armed and dangerous escaped convict on the loose in that area and we should get in our car and leave. Which we did. Immediately. We weren't into any hostage situations that day.
Since then we have laughed about how quickly we all packed up and left because in retrospect, apparently, escaped convicts crashing your picnic is so funny. And, of course, it's one of our most memorable picnics to this day.
A couple of summers later we were taking another trip out West and had lots of picnics along the way. It was so lovely picnicking in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains or under towering Sequoia trees.
Just a couple of more years later we had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii, where we rented a car and bought a disposable cooler for those inevitable picnics. This has become such a tradition with my family (and has saved us much money in the long run: picnicking once a day, eating out once).
You might remember that I mentioned the word 'windy' in the title of this post. Well, that was especially for this picnic (above) in Washington state. We affectionately refer to this picnic in our family as THE picnic. As you can see in the above photo there are no smiles that day. This place, chosen by my father, was so ridiculously windy that a picnic was completely out of the question. But we tried it anyway. It ended in a huge family argument and disaster. But we will definitely never forget it! haha
Within a few more years, I had gotten married. But that didn't mean our family vacations and family picnics were over. No, a whole new round of memories were just beginning. We picnicked in the West, the East, the mountains, the beach ...making even more memories.
Finally our littles came along and we had a new generation to introduce to family picnics. They didn't care if there was fried chicken or not, but any kind of yummy snack would do. And at that time in life I sure didn't have time to make one of those huge picnic meals. Thankfully picnics can also consist of box lunches from Heavenly Ham or takeout from Subway, even whatever you can throw together from your kitchen pantry.
It's really about just making it happen, getting outside, going exploring, finding a new park, and spending time with your family where there aren't ever any good cell phone signals.
Family picnics have always been a fun and special time for me. They can even be healing. One of the first things that my husband and I did one year after going through a particularly traumatizing event in our lives was to visit my parents and sister and go on a full-fledged-fried-chicken-kind-of-picnic. It was a very hard time in our lives, but spending time with family, eating soul-comforting foods in the fresh outdoors was soothing to my soul. I'll never forget that picnic either.
So as I looked back through my photo albums (and scanned in all of these old pictures to share with you), I've realized what a lovely heritage my parents have given me in the ability to appreciate the simple things in life. Family picnics may not sounds like a big deal or even fun to you (they can be a lot of work), but they are a special family tradition with us and I hold them dear to my heart. When we sit around telling funny family stories, it's amazing to me how many of those revolve around a time at a picnic table at some park somewhere.
So grab yourself a plastic tablecloth, some Cokes, and some takeout sandwiches (or, by all means, do the whole fried chicken menu--it's the best!), jump in your car and head to your local park to create some special family memories this summer! I highly recommend it!
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