In the summer when I was a kid my parents would pack us into the Oldsmobile and we'd just drive, usually head west.

My father would begin his part of the preparation in the spring by asking, Where should we go this summer? He was hoping we'd say, Let's go west! We didn't disappoint.

Then he'd ask, Well, southwest or northwest or just west? and we'd say,

To the mountains! Where else? West!

My mother, a very well-organized sort, would pack us up efficiently so that we could stay overnight in a Best Western and they would only have to pull out one duffel from the trunk in case it was raining, the "overnight bag."

We all shared one hotel room, I had the cot, the brothers got one of the two double beds. As soon as the three of us kids hit the pillow, we slept like babies. I can still remember that sleep, the way nothing could have jolted me awake, nothing.

In the morning my mom would ask, Did you guys hear that TRAIN? Or, Did you hear all of that honking last night? I wonder if that was all she was wondering we'd heard.

We heard nothing.

In the car the next day I would sit in the front seat with my father and navigate, read the maps while my mother would sit in the back with my brothers and nap or read. My father would see a "scenic view" coming up. He'd announce it.

Does everyone want to stop and see the scenic view?

Of COURSE we want to see the scenic view, Dad, I'd say, thrilled to be seeing the scenic view.

The groan came as a chorus from the backseat. They were a little sick of scenic views. I couldn't understand it. But I think it had to do with the sheer height of the mountains out west. My mother's basically a Chicagoan and the mountains scared her, as much as she loved them. If you've ever pulled over to the side of a road on a mountain to see what's below, then you understand.

Back in the car it did get a little boring, especially in states like Iowa and Nebraska. Most of the time I was in the backseat and my mother would be saying things from the front seat.

Sid, I think we should stop now. You've been driving 4 hours. Let's get a root beer or find some ice cream.
. Okay.

Sid, do you know where you're going? I think you made a wrong turn. I know where I'm going.

We were lost.

Then he'd burst into song. He sang Summertime by Gershwin, and tell jokes and he'd laugh and ask, Do you get the joke?

My mother would groan, we'd all groan. We get it, Dad.

At dinnertime they would order a drink. A Manhatten. It was the only time I ever saw them drink, except maybe at a wedding. Dad would occasionally have a beer watching the ballgame in front of the television. He'd share it with me.

We didn't have digital photography in those days, and don't have very many pictures at all. My father's hardly in any of them, since he took the pictures. He taught me how to hold a camera steady. If it were up to him, of course, we wouldn't have a single family album. Mom took care of those things.

It's funny how you remember stuff from so far back.

When I woke up in the middle of the night, only a few hours ago, I had it in mind to write a post about alcoholic drinking in college. If you have read post below, The Commencement Speech You'll Never Hear, then you know that I'm more than a little down on under-aged drinking, and especially worried about alcohol related accidents.

It's horrible treating nineteen year old alcoholics. The stories can be pretty sad. I'm good with kids, but they break my heart.

When I did that rape research I learned that there's a correlation between alcohol and acquaintance rape. I was also working on a high school sexual assault prevention program and one of the people I met in the process had put together a video about the consequences of alcoholic drinking.

The video shows kids talking about getting drunk and vulnerable to sexual assault. They talk about losing friends to auto accidents or aspiration, basically choking to death on their own vomit. Nobody even finds a kid who aspirated until the next day. That happened to her son.

In that commencement speech I mention an alcohol-related snow-mobile accident on a campus that killed two kids this year, two beautiful kids. The tradition on that campus is bon-fires and snow-mobiling and alcohol abuse. Great tradition.

I don't know how many of you read the archives of this blog, but I'm pretty sure that I define alcoholism for some people developmentally.

I say that it's almost a rite of passage to drink alcoholically in college. Almost, because MANY kids never drink at all, certainly not to the detriment of their grades or social lives. If you drink and use drugs in college, I'm almost believing (again, almost) that it's virtually irresistible for you, there's so much social pressure, so great a need to self-medicate, so much glamorization of alcohol and drugs in our culture.

But when you leave school, in my world, you stop. If you squeak by those four years it's one thing, but if you don't stop after graduation, or at least after you're married (or in a committed relationship), or after you've finally landed a decent job, then your development is at risk.

The other kids will pass you by in law school, or engineering school. Your drinking will wreck your marriage (usually due to an affair) and may wreck your chances for promotion. Your kids will use your drinking as permission to drink at younger ages.

Maybe these things won't happen in your twenties, but surely heavy drinking will catch up to you.

I think of these things because in the summer, perhaps contrary to other professionals (except dermatologists) I'm swamped at work. The teachers all have a lot of free time (this is NOT a stress-free profession, teaching) and the kids are back from college or out of school. I could work from sun up to sun down, if I wanted, and it's my favorite time of year.

My point is that when you're cracking open that first beer on these hot summer days, think about it, okay? I personally suggest cranberry juice, mixed with a little apple juice on ice, and water. And maybe a slice of lime.

Copyright 2007, therapydoc


Anonymous said…
College -- what a wonderful place.
If your kid doesn't wind up sexually assaulted, or with an eating disorder, he or she may still wind up with a degree in drinking.

What a mine field for many to negotiate!

P.S. Loved your commencement speech, but was thinking it would go even better as the First Day of Orientation speech.
therapydoc said…
So maybe I should reprint the speech at the end of the summer, retitle it, What You Should Know Before You Go Away to College.

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