A Heat Wave of Memories in Gnashville

It is around 110 degrees today in Nashville.

My brain is not working well in this heat, but my mind keeps taking me to the beach.

A cold beach, with cold drinks, a good book and a big umbrella.

The Gulf of Mexico is only a day’s drive from Nashville. My dad’s family is from that area and we’ve spent many vacations frolicking in the waters there.

I was only three, but I remember the first time I saw the ocean. My brothers and Dad took turns tossing me in the air and catching me as the waves came in around us. I clung to their necks and everyone laughed.

Well, Mom didn’t laugh so much. She was bobbing around in the water and fussing at the boys to stop playing “football” with me.

Vacations should be all about laughter and fun.

And respite.

Vacation- a time of respite

Respite- a short period of rest or relief

In the summer of 1968, things were crazy in America with rioting and protesting, the war in Vietnam and a general feeling of unrest.

Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy had been assassinated that spring.

While I was living my little kid life, my brothers were teenagers and I could sense their anger and confusion. It was a dark cloud that hung not only over our household, but over our country.

My parents decided we needed respite.

They packed up the old station wagon and we drove 65 miles south to Henry Horton State Park where we spent one of the last vacations we took as a family of five. We stayed in a cabin and shared a full week of time together. We had no phone, no TV and no air conditioning.

John and Libby Lu – sib’s

We fished, explored the park on foot, sketched pictures, read books and just sat around and did a lot of nothing.

Underwood Deviled Ham, peanut butter, and bologna salad sandwiches were the meals of choice that week. For a treat, Mom had packed Devil’s Food Squares, Oreos and Fig Newtons.

My Dad loves Fig Newtons.

We drank Nehi Grape Soda and, much to my mother’s dismay, my brothers had extreme belching contests. (Gary was usually the champ.)

Every night after dinner we played Yahtzee or Hollywood Rummy at the kitchen table as we passed around the popcorn bowl.

What a simple reprieve in the middle of a tumultuous era. For seven days we forgot the world.

That was forty-four years ago, but that vacation is etched so deeply in my memory.

 It is mind-boggling to think of what has gone on in the years since. I could go off on the serious stuff; the friends my brother’s lost in the war, the drug era, the broken lives, but I will not.

Instead, I’m going to stick with vacations.

Respite is the key. Everyone needs a break every now and then, even if it’s just for a day.

This week I took a vacation day while our friends, Dana and Frank were visiting from Texas. I refer to them as Alli’s Texas parents now.

Dana and I go way back, although we have never really spent much time together. I’ll fill you in…

Her parents and my Dad lived in the same boarding house together. It was named A Happy Home so it would have first listing in the yellow pages under the A’s. My dad was in photography school, and one of his boarding house friends introduced him to Mom, whom he married five months later. Anyway, all of these couples hung out together in the early days of their marriages and remained friends over the years.

So, on my day off we got to know Dana and Frank better.

We attended the Sophie Shines Benefit Concert where they got to meet some of our other fun-loving, crazy friends and hear some great music. The highlight was having Sophie sitting right next to our table. Her energy is strong, her smile is radiant, and the love in that room was huge.  (See A Cold Call While Waiting – March 8, 2012) It is clear that Sophie’s life changing stroke and recovery has been life changing for all of us. She was rightly referred to by her father as Nashville’s Daughter. Very true.

Larry, Frank, Dana, Libby Lu and Alli at the benefit concert

We explored our great city with our friends, laughed nonstop and shared lots of stories. Most of them were funny, of course.

What a great mini-vacation.

Between this horrendous heat wave and having a day off, I just keep having flash backs of grand vacations and of stories about other’s vacations.

Before I was born, my parents and some of these same friends from Texas went to the lake for a weekend. On the way, my brother proceeded to stick a potato stick up his nose.

On the way to the emergency room back the other way, miles and miles around country roads, John sneezed. The potato stick was an instant projectile, and the rest is history.

Welcome, The Potato Stick Story to the Leverett Family Archives.

One vacation story my parents love to tell on me is from when I was twelve years old. We were traveling to Mexico via Texas, visiting all the families mentioned above. At every restaurant along the way I ordered the same thing; tacos and a chocolate malt milkshake.

Mom and Dad kept telling me I was going to make myself sick.


It happened in the middle of a very crowded restaurant.

There was no time to run.

I barely got, “I think I’m going to be sick.” out of my mouth before I tossed a week’s worth of groceries in my plate.

Yes, in my plate.

I can still see the faces of those sitting around us. Forks stopped in mid-bite. People put down their utensils and soon, the area was clear.

Mom was laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes.

Dad looked humiliated.

He left an extra-large tip.

It was the end of my taco and malt phase.

Well friends, I’m going to leave you with one of my favorite vacation photos from our wee family’s vacation to Yosemite (We call it Yo-sa-mighty!) in California.

One of the best days, ever. Larry and Alli when we biked through Yosemite

Time for me to go imagine I’m at that cold beach.

Have a great week, and as we wrote in everyone’s yearbook in 1978, Stay Cool!


Libby Lu


2 thoughts on “A Heat Wave of Memories in Gnashville

  1. We call it ”Yoze-might.” The belching contest I remember from childhood was hiking Mt. Pisgah. I was the winner over my sister, brother and two step-brothers. Once during my cousin\’s potty-training phase, our families met at a cabin in North Carolina. When he dragged his junior toilet into the living room after a poop, my brothers (ages around 9, 11 and 12) were far less impressed and excited than his parents were. What your post and the memories it provoked for me makes clear is that it isn\’t the extravagance of the vacations, but the moments.

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